Enhanced vs Natural Diamonds

Purchasing loose diamonds can be an investment for the future, so it’s best to choose diamonds that will hold their value in the long term. Although you may not be concerned about the resale value of your diamond at the time of purchase, you may be interested in selling your diamond or trading it in for an upgrade later. When buying a diamond, it is best to know what contributes to its quality and value to ensure that you make a sound purchase. An important factor to consider is whether to buy a natural diamond or a treated or enhanced diamond.

Buying Enhanced and  Treated Diamonds

The subject of clarity enhanced , laser drilled and fracture filled diamonds (detailed below) is very controversial in the jewellery trade, especially for First Class or Master Jewellers. The term “enhanced” may sound like a positive feature, however, any diamond that has been enhanced has been treated and altered from its natural condition to artificially improve its appearance. If you decide to purchase an “enhanced” diamond, find out what kind of treatments have been used and how they might affect the value and care of the diamond.

Diamonds can be easily damaged because of this treatment both in manufacturing  and repair. It is vital that you, the customer, inform us when you have a treated diamond when it comes in for repair. If it is not a diamond supplied by us and it is treated, special care must be taken or it will break.

When buying these diamonds, you should know that enhanced diamonds are of average colour and very low quality, such as an I1,I2 or I3 diamond. It is important to understand the class of your diamond. If an I1, I2 or I3 diamond has been clarity enhanced to and classed as a VS diamond, the certificate must indicate this so the customer pays the appropriate price. An I2 diamond with a certificate stating it a clarity enhanced VS diamond is still an I2 diamond – you cannot buy a VS diamond for I2 prices. Likewise, you should not pay VS prices for an enhanced I2 diamond.

Most reputable or high class manufacturing and retail jewellers stay away from these diamonds as they are more trouble than they are worth. It is usually the cowboys, fly-by-nighters and internet sellers in the industry  that sell clarity enhanced  diamonds.

Diamonds, like gold, are the same price all around the world. It is only the markup of the jeweller and taxes in each different country the give them a price difference. The old saying is: If seems too good to be true, it is – particularly with diamonds. You only get what you pay for, and you should always look at the diamond before you purchase it. Most importantly, look at the quality of work a diamond seller is producing to see if you can trust them. Many of my customers have purchased a ring from these cowboys only to find the ring is poorly made and end up paying an added cost of having it properly remade. Take the time, get to know your jeweller and you’ll end up enjoying your jewellery for years to come.

Natural Diamonds

Made from carbon, diamonds are the hardest known substance to man and are both a naturally occurring and manufactured abrasive. Natural diamonds form at high pressure and temperature conditions existing between 85 to 125 miles in the earth’s mantle. It takes a diamond 1 to 3 billion years to form beneath the earth. Once formed, a diamond travels to the earth’s surface via streams of molten rock. Throughout this process, natural diamonds acquire inclusions and flaws within them that give them their own unique “fingerprint”.

Diamonds can be purchased in various sizes (carats), shapes, colours, and clarities. Natural diamonds are preferred over enhanced or treated diamonds because of their rarity and individual fingerprint. No two natural diamonds in the world are identical; each one is unique whether by colour, clarity or both combined.

Enhanced or Treated Diamonds

Enhanced diamonds are natural diamonds that have had very specific treatments done to them to improve their characteristics, or their natural “flaws”. One type of treatment is laser drilling, which is a process that removes minor inclusions in a diamond to produce a clarity enhanced diamond. This process will typically create lines that resemble tiny trails, which are visible under side-view magnification. The laser may dissipate the imperfection, or chemicals may be injected into the resulting tunnel to bleach away the colour. This is a more permanent process than fracture filling. However, it is highly debated whether or not this process damages the integrity of the diamonds, thereby decreasing the value of clarity enhanced diamonds in the long term.

Fracture filling is a treatment that adds a glass-like resin material to a natural diamond to close small cracks. Since the filling has the same optical illusion and refraction index as a natural diamond, it’s nearly impossible to detect the “repair” to the flaws, so you must inform your jeweller of the enhancement when you bring your item in for cleaning or repairs. Fracture filling is not a permanent treatment as heat from future repairs, cleanings, and even sunlight can erode the filler or possibly darken its colour, making the diamond less valuable as time goes on.

One other type of enhancement treatment is called HPHT (High-Pressure High-Temperature). HPHT is a treatment process that General Electric developed to permanently change the colour of a diamond. First used to turn yellowish diamonds into “fancy” coloured diamonds, this process is commonly used to turn yellow or brown diamonds into colourless diamonds to be sold at a significantly higher prices. HPHT involves putting a diamond into a pressure chamber and squeezing it at high pressure and high temperature for a short amount of time. Although some feel that this treatment should be considered a standard technique and claim that this process is just finishing the job that nature started, the Federal Trade Commission feels that it is an artificial process and requires that HPHT be disclosed. It is also extremely important that jewellers know about this enhancement when working on an item with such a diamond. When HPHT treatment is detected in a diamond, the Gemological Institute of American (GIA) notes it on their reports as “HPHT Annealed” or “Artificially Irradiated” and insists that such diamonds be laser-inscribed with the same designation. A diamond that has been enhanced by General Electric will be inscribed with the symbol “GE POL”.

When considering the purchase of an enhanced or treated diamond, you should also be considering the long-term care and appearance these enhancement treatments may have on the diamond. Enhancements sometimes result in discolouration or cracks in the diamond which can result in breakage if a jeweller is reworking the diamond without knowledge of the treatment.

Take your time and consider carefully. Learn about the seller and their reputation, and upon purchase, be sure to collect the right documents and know just what kind of diamond you are purchasing. Above all, remember to tell your jeweller if your diamonds have had treatments.