The issue of man-made, lab-grown, or synthetic diamonds is continuing to gather pace. Production capacity is continuously expanding, the volume of such stones is growing every year – and is now estimated at 2-3 percent of global output with several million carats being sold – and the quality and size of the stones is rising.
Frankly, no-one really knows the full extent of production because many lab-grown manufacturers often want to hide their output. Anecdotes abound that significant amounts of jewelry made in India are exported set with factory-made diamonds.
“The feeling is that nobody is going to check the very small stones used in pave settings,” said a leading diamond industry source with widespread connections with the Indian industry. “Those stones can be made cheaply and have a much better sparkle and higher brilliance than natural diamonds of the same cost so it makes sense for the manufacturers to operate this way.”
One issue that is rarely examined, however, is if there is legislation to regulate the lab-made diamonds, such as mandatory information for consumers about such jewelry and the procedures for its separate sale. Are there authorities which are controlling these issues and what kind of action is taken in case of violations, or is it all being driven by diamond industry bodies?
In terms of trading at bourses, there are just two exchanges that have taken a lead: the Bharat Diamond Bourse in Mumbai and the Israel Diamond Exchange. Conscious of the eyes of the diamond world being on the country due to the reports of undisclosed mixing of lab-grown diamonds with natural, mined stones, the Indian bourse ordered a ban on trading in synthetics throughout the exchange. Meanwhile, the Israeli bourse decided that while trading could take place in its members’ private offices, such activity would not be allowed on its trading floor.
The International Diamond Council (IDC) was established in 1975 to provide its founders – the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB) and the International Diamond Manufacturers Association (IDMA) – with a set of universally accepted standards of nomenclature for polished diamonds within the international diamond trade.
The IDC is very clear in its definitions and rules, saying synthetic stones must be disclosed as a ‘Synthetic diamond‘. “Labs will have the choice whether or not to issue a grading report/certificate for synthetic diamonds. In case one is issued, only a full grading report may be delivered. If they do not issue grading reports, a short statement with weight, shape and nature of the diamond must be available. The term ‘Synthetic Diamond Examination Document/Report’ or ‘Synthetic Diamond Assurance Document/Report’ is suggested for this limited document. Only the terms ‘Laboratory-created’/ ‘Laboratory-grown’/'Synthetic‘ diamond may be used.“
Then, there are the ISO (International Standards Organization) guides. ISO International Standard 18323: Jewellery – Consumer confidence in the diamond industry provides a series of definitions which aim to provide further clarity for traders and to maintain consumer confidence in the diamond industry as a whole. ISO 18323 says the following terms are acceptable: synthetic diamond, laboratory-grown diamond, laboratory-created diamond are all artificial products that essentially have the same chemical composition, crystal structure and physical (including optical) properties as a diamond.