De Beers fights fakes with technology as China’s lab-grown diamonds threaten viability of the real gems – by Celine Ge (South China Morning Post – March 5, 2017)

The spread of synthetic diamonds in China, originally designed for industrial purposes such as oil drilling, is posing such a threat to the global diamond market that it has forced dominant player De Beers to invest tens of millions of dollars on methods to identify the man-made stones that look exactly like the real thing.

A team of scientists at the mining giant are dedicated to fundamental research into the difference between synthetic and natural diamonds, while others work around the clock developing high-tech machines capable of screening out these tiny, “fake” gemstones, a popular investment among jewellery makers, particularly for those in China and India.

“They want to be confident in the diamonds they are buying for their business or selling to jewellery retailers,” Jonathan Kendall, president of De Beers’ International Institute of Diamond Grading and Research, told the South China Morning Post in an interview. For years, Kendall has led a team of researchers in London in the fight against synthetic diamonds being sold as real ones.

Indeed, even the most experienced diamantaire’s in the world can’t tell the fakes from those extracted from mines when using their naked eye, which is where technology comes in. More affordable prices, which are only seen dropping further over time, have already prompted budget shoppers to gravitate towards the man-made gems.

“The arrival of lab-grown diamonds has challenged the widely-held assumption that diamond prices could only increase because supply in natural diamonds has peaked and due to strong Asian demand,” said Georgette Boele, a coordinator of precious metals strategy at Dutch bank ABN Amro.

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