Proper descriptions and discretion

I wanted to bring up a subject that MUST be discussed by all in the jewelry business, and that is how critical it is to use accurate terms and discretion when advising a client on the matter of synthetic versus natural gemstones and diamonds. If we are to maintain the trust of the general public, we are required to inform and educate them accordingly.
I had to terminate an employee this morning because she used the term “FAKE” to describe a synthetic diamond. This was the final incident in a multitude of “loose cannon” type behavior and I had no option but to let her go. I am relaying this because I feel it is important.
A synthetic diamond is a REAL diamond. It is NOT an imitation, simulant, or other material meant to appear as a diamond. No, a synthetic diamond is chemically pure carbon with a hardness of ten on the MOHS scale. It crystalizes in the cubic crystal system. A synthetic diamond also has the same refractive Index and specific gravity as its natural counterpart. In short, the difference between natural versus synthetic is in the origin of the two stones.
When I met with my staff regarding the matter I went over the issue and explained why vocabulary and verbiage are non negotiable. In other words, if someone has just been given a beautiful, synthetic diamond engagement ring and they are told it is fake or overhear it described as fake, a jeweler is in major trouble and could very well lose their business.
Every day we have the opportunity to earn the business of gem and jewelry buying public who trust us with their most important memory making events. They are giving us the opportunity to share in these moments and build relationships. It is critical to give them the courtesy, respect, and guidance that we owe them. Referring to something as fake, or describing an item in the wrong way is not to be tolerated and must never happen.

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synthetic or lab grown gems have to be labeled as such… if not, at least at the retail level, it would constitute fraud to label it as natural… the use of “genuine” was discussed in another post about rubies… the buyer was misled by “genuine”… half of the lot were lab created. lab created stones are “genuine” in that they are genuine stones, the physical and chemical properties are nearly identical to natural.
Terminology becomes critical, if stones don’t come with certificates…
The GIA has done a lot of work on vapor deposition and press created diamonds, with presses, an iron diffuser/catalyst leaves iron inclusions that are identifiable by microscopy. vapor deposition ones have curved growth lines. Press made lab diamonds are grown in 3 months as compared to a billion to 100 billion years for a natural… the commercial presses uses pressures of 5 gPa, and a temperature of 1.100 C… the iron hastens crystallization. What is still nearly impossible to distinguish are diamonds created in presses at 7gPa and 1200 C… these take 3 or more years to grow from a seed. I am not aware of any commercial press operation that uses this amount of time, pressure and temperature to grow a synthetic. Diamonds are grown as quickly as possible for profit. 90% + are industrial grade. Same goes for natural stones. Most of the lab diamonds have come down in price… mass production for the insatiable industrial demand is driving more lab created diamonds.


I have to mentioned that the high pressure presses do not use iron. just pure graphite and a seed. No iron means no iron inclusions. When I said “genuine”, these are genuine stones in that they are mineralogically identical to natural, with the same physicochemical properties as natural. However, inclusions still give them away as synthetics, with characteristic inclusions depending of whether they are grown hydrothermally or by flux fusion methods, With corundum, the oldest technique, the Verneuille is inferior to both flux fusion and hydrothermal… if grown too quickly, colorants fail to disperse evenly. Also, crystallization is incomplete with alumina glass being present. The Czochralski method was adopted from zone refining of pure silicon crystals for semiconductors. It too is more like Verneuille than the other techniques…

Tautology is defined as saying the same thing twice over in different words. However, in the case of selling synthetic diamond versus natural diamond the two diamonds are definitely not the same legally even if they are both comprised of the same element, carbon. A jeweller sells precious stones not chemicals. Historically, natural ie untreated stones have always been distinguished in the market place from natural untreated ones, and traditionally have sold for a higher price. The rise of heat treatments has seen corruption of the market place where heat treatment no longer needs to be disclosed to the buyer. Consumer law however requires synthetic stones to be marketed and designated : thus, synthetic diamonds need to be labelled “synthetic” or “lab grown” or words to that effect. The fact that diamond is carbon is not relevant since graphite is also carbon but is not a gemstone sold by jewellers. The central issue is consumer trust. It would appear that the quickest way for jewellers to kill their lucrative diamond market is to claim synthetic stones have the same value as natural stones.

Oops! In my comment above I meant “natural treated ones” rather than “natural untreated ones”. Please forgive my typo!

heat treatment is so commonplace as to be an accepted practice with sapphires. Natural high quality ones are labeled as not heat treated… everything else is and isn’t labeled.
General Electric discovered how to mimic deep earth conditions to create diamonds. They are reputed to have made diamonds from any carbonaceous material including peanut butter!. graphite is of course the material of choice, since it is pure carbon. Iron diffusers introduce iron inclusions. The GIA has kept up with potential mislabeling and fraud… the Chinese were selling lab created stones as natural. They were even laser cutting “deBeers” on the girdle but the GIA was able to find methods to discriminate lab created from natural. You would think that it’s impossible. lab grown diamonds have identical physical and chemical properties and are indeed diamonds. Short of destructive techniques, which the GIA did use, keeping natural and lab created stones separate from unscrupulous dealers has been a problem… DeBeers has also provided mine to retail certificates. The current market is indeed cheaper for lab created versus real and getting cheaper… lab created is being made in industrial quantities not for gems but industry… lab created does service an important purpose… someone who want to own a diamond but can’t afford the price of natural, can turn to synthetics and still claim they have a “real diamond.” The same happened with black diamonds… there’s still demand for them but no where as much as when they were a fad just a few years ago…no one to my knowledge is synthesizing black diamonds… The price doesn’t justify the cost of synthesis. If I’m wrong about this, please correct me. Thanks…

What we see happening is Gresham’s Law as applied to precious stones, eg. diamond in the present case. Gresham’s Law states that “bad money drives out good”. If there are two currencies of the same value in circulation and one is debased ie is worth less than the other, then eventually you are left with the debased currency. This can be seen easily in an international internet site that facilitates selling gems and jewellery but without responsibility for authenticity. There the major “natural zircon” is actually cubic zirconia (CZ aka zirconium oxide) selling for much less than authentic natural zircon. The clues to informed buyers are the very low prices of the “natural” material, the unabashed Indian sellers, and the unnatural perfection and match of the stones themselves. However, the eventual consequence is a debasement of the market. Don’t get me wrong though. Science should make it easy for every person to look like a gem-encrusted person if they want to be, and at low cost, but without deception and dishonesty. Also, if people want natural gems and can pay for them to justify a greater cost of extraction versus synthesis then good.

I’m not against against synthetics in and of themselves. The less wealthy deserve to have a chance to wear pretty jewelry as do the extremely wealthy… as long as no one tries to pass it off as the real thing it’s fine…I’ve made “costume” jewelry using colored Cz myself… it’s sparkly and pretty but I would never consider passing a $1/ct stone as the real thing…so far as black diamonds are concerned, whether natural or synthetic, I really don’t like them… I think they’re ugly and should be made into abrasives, but unto each their own… if someone want to own a real diamond, a natural black or point natural white diamond, otherwise, just to say it’s a natural diamond, they are welcome to… but they can’t sell it as natural unless natural… the secondary market with people buying and selling to friends and family will cause those who sell as natural at a high price, to lose their friends and alienate their family members if they don’t tell the truth. Having stones that are unset detract from their beauty and value. Setting them into jewelry is where the stones belong.
The value of jewelry stems for factors beyond the stones themselves… design and exquisite craftsmanship play an equal if not a greater role… I had the opportunity last summer to walk thru the museum of decorative arts in Paris… some of Lalique’s creations were on display… the use of precious stones, mixed with glass, enamel, and semiprecious, with the metal work being open and airy was stunning to see in person… these masterpieces were made with blowpipes and other 19th century technology yet the results were better than today’s fine jewelry, all of which is pretty but with the same commercial appearance. The commercial fine jewelry pieces are made to show off precious stones… My own handmade jewelry come nowhere to the perfection of fine commercial… but each piece was fabricated and not cast… leaves, wires and shot were appliqued on to the shanks of rings surrounding the stones and extending around the shanks…I worked in mixed base and precious metals…the results were unique and each piece took more than 12 man hours to finish, often 24…everything done was using only very basic equipment. The value lies in the beauty and handmade quality of the pieces… I used only semi precious stones with the exception of point natural diamond highlights. The most expensive stones that were precious were set in fine jewelry settings, one was a 1ct. padparadscha, with diamond highlights. I was able to size the stones to the commercial fine jewelry blanks and set them…I had to give up jewelry making as a hobby due to musculoskeletal problems and age related eyesight decline… now my problem is to downsize and get rid of stuff, including unset stones that were purchased a few decades ago… I’m on this website to get an idea of valuation… however, I know that each stone has to be examined for quality… the finest ones and best pieces of jewelry will need to be formally appraised. I don’t intend to be buried with them nor do I want them passed on to heirs as it will become their problem to value and dispose of.
Because I bought stones 2 to 3 decades ago, the value overall even for semiprecious has gone up tenfold… however, the value of the dollar has also eroded to the same order of magnitude. The same goes for precious metals… I don’t expect to make money selling wholesale on retail purchases accounting for inflation. the prices of quartz stones hasn’t gone up… the abundance of them prevents that. but the quality of online stones for sale has deteriorated over the years…most of what I see in cheap semi precious now is junk. I may hold on to them longer once I get some idea of how much they are worth… precious stones and precious metals are an inflation hedge… but what I have constitutes only a very small fraction of my net worth… the conundrum is not getting rid of all of it but when.

re Cz: should not be too difficult to spot…it’s too sparkly… Dispersion is higher than diamond giving it’s excessive sparkly appearance. Fine jewelry store lighting makes everything look more sparkly…multidirecional high intensity artificial lighting makes it impossible to see things in a case to judge color and clarity and dispersion…

I did visit a small Cartier outlet in a Waikiki hotel just a couple of weeks ago… was staying with relatives and not a hotel but went there for dessert and coffee…the sales woman was bored out of her skull and let me look at some of the stuff outside the cases… . there was one 5.89 ct. emerald cut fancy yellow diamond that was VS1. The color was good with medium saturation… it came with a GIA certificate… I was surprised that the ring was selling for 186K… thought it would be at least 250K or more… the markup would have been very high just for the Cartier name, excluding very high carrying costs due to slow turnover and high rent and insurance, security and other costs… I estimated that retail has a markup between 100 and 200% over wholesale unset stones… I’m asking your take on the retail diamond market. It seems like prices have come down, even for fine stones…I know that synthetics have dropped a lot…one ct. to 2ct. natural white seems to have held up more due to affordability even at 5K to 10K than very high end stones… what’s your take on that?

Hi Steven. I know very little about the diamond market except that it has been puffed up for ages. I don’t need diamonds because I have been digging up natural zircon that sparkles as much as excellent grade diamond. It’s all about getting rough accurately cut perpendicular to the table facet ie along the C axis so you don’t get the fuzziness people generally see in poorly cut natural zircon. Like diamond, you also need to cut eye clear otherwise you get a less valuable stone. Also, I like natural color in stones and many diamonds these days are treated to create color and it is expensive to test for this.

I haven’t looked at diamonds for ages… Synthetics were a problem back then… now the GIA has developed techniques to detect synthetics and treatments although green diamonds are still a problem.

From my reading, diamond prices have dropped due to the abundance of synthetics. I can’t see natural fancies dropping that much… I just had a question.

I didn’t buy much in the way of precious stones for making jewelry. almost all were semiprecious and cheap… but they were attractive. Good quality zircons are attractive stones, If you are finding them on your own, mining them on an artisanal scale, the more power to you… I wonder if you have ever been approached by any geoscientists about your stones. Zircons are a time capsule that take geologists very far back in time… detrital zircons have dated the oldest rocks on the planet in Australia… the earth’s crust formed 500 million years earlier than was previously thought. the evidence came from zircons… they trap uranium and are stable for billions of years.

The zircons I dig up are relatively old at 731 million years, thus hard to find uncracked. Fortunately, they are the lowest U containing gem zircons in the world at 10 - 100ppm U and thus non-metamict despite their age. The color being due to electron displacement means they decolorise on heating and exposure to sunlight like natural amethyst. I’m not sure that is a good selling point when someone buys a purple stone and it eventually becomes colorless like a diamond! Anyhow I have already trademarked my zircons and will be selling them to defray my research costs once I finish my research paper on their petrogenesis. I have already had a paper on my zircon rough published in the The Mineralogical Record Nov-Dec 2019 issue.

please send me the DOI number for your papers. I’d love to read the abstracts… I think that what you are investigating is quite fascinating. You were able to determine the date… did you use Ur/Pb ratios obtained thru mass spect? You mentioned very low Ur, non metamict, so fission track counting wouldn’t have been fruitful. If you don’t mind, please let me know a little about how you dated them and send me a reprint of your papers. Thanks…

I am HIGHLY PISSED and at the same time in tears. I only have one diamond in my personal collection. But I have a large number of Rubies and Sapphires. I am just a novice Gemstone collector, without the resources to have EVERY stone authenticated and certified. Is my collection worth $100,000.00 or $100.00? I have only been able to afford to have 13 of over 500+ stones certified. I am scared to try and sell ANYTHING. I don’t want to sell a REAL Ruby or Sapphire as lab-created, and take a massive loss. But then I sure as hell don’t want to sell a Lab-created Ruby or Sapphire as a natural stone !!! I CAN NOT STAND A LAIR. AND DON’T WANT TO BE LABELED AS ONE. I wanted to go into business buying and selling gemstones as a retirement income stream. But now, with ALL the fakes and lab-created stones in and on the market, I am left NOT KNOWING just what I have is worth. SO I am left with looking for an H O N E S T coach in NE. Florida to help me make sure that what I am leaving my daughter is worth something.
contact info is. L.W.McQueary / /

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The Mud Tank zircons were firstly dated in 1978 and have been dated many times by LA-ICPMS (with essentially the same result) and because of their use as a laboratory working reference material at Macquarie University in Sydney. I was lucky in that staff there helped me greatly with data on these zircons. I reciprocated by providing samples and information on the specific whereabouts of the differing Mud Tank zircon types they had in their laboratory. Unfortunately, the university has since closed down that unit. The reference to the Macquarie work is in the Mineralogical Record paper I noted earlier. I only have proof copies of the latter paper so rather than burden you with typos etc. I ask your patience to wait for my next research paper which I hope to make open source, and which greatly enlarges on this unusual zircon.

Thanks for the response. I would appreciate greatly being notified of your upcoming paper. I looked at the location and found references to a carbonatite pipe complex in the area. I also saw that there was some preliminary rare earth exploration going on. Extreme composition alkalic igneous rocks are of special interest to me. I would very much appreciate a reference to your final paper, once it’s published. I find the petrogenesis of carbonatites diffuclt to understand and that there’s still some controvery about the origin… That complex as dated by your zircons is not that old compared to a lot of other carbonatities and allied kimberlites… are your zircons genetically related to the emplacment of the carbonatities?
My location is next to the Black Hills of South Dakota. The area was intriuded by alkalic igneous rock during the Eocene. There is a large carbonatite body in adjcent Wyoming. It is currently under preliminary development fot the extraction of REE. The area is not zircon bearing but does contain minor amounts of turquoise of non gem grade…

I have retired and started buying and selling stones. I was like you about not quite knowing what stone was synthetic, heat treated or diffusion treated. I decided to go back to school at the age of 60. I decided to take the home course and I have learned quite a bit about the new treatments they have today and it has helped my small business so much. It was a small investment in money and it has given me so much to do now that I’m retired. The investment in buying good stones has been great for me to pass to the grand kids. I have bought some synthetic stones just to have on hand to make comparisons with. A good microscope is your friend. You can purchase the tools at a fairly decent price, used.
Take the course and have fun playing with stones! I have bought so many NICE diamonds at yard sales because people do not know what they have. My great grand daughter will be covered in fine diamonds when she gets older. I have some stones that I know are untreated and will have them certified along with the diamonds. This is the best thing I can pass to my children.
All the best in your endeavor,


also realized why the uranium content is so low. Ur is not found in carbonatities in more than very small amounts… thorium is the most abundant radioactive element.

go the the GIA website and find out about lab created and natural corundum stones. A 40X stereomicroscope would be more than adequate. You should be able to begin separating out lab created from natural. the price of natural stones can vary widely with quality. A microscope will be able to help judge quality… GIA instruction videos are very helpful. GIS videos are also at your disposal. You can also search online sales to get a price estimate for the quality and size of your stone… it’s being sold at retail so realize that there is a markup… I am having the same problem with valuation.

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Less than 1% of the world’s carbonatites contain large >5 cm zircon and fewer have gem zircon. The Mud Tank carbonatite’s zircons are unusually large but only yield 0.1% gem material. The Th/U ratio in most carbonatitic zircon is very high and skewed by hydrothermal alteration and recrystallization eg. the Russian Kola non-gem zircons, whereas the ratio in Mud Tank zircon is very low by comparison. My forthcoming paper deals with this difference.
Some Tanzanian (aka Malalia or Malaya) zircon is interesting as it may come from carbonatites but the geological information is scanty. I only have one sample and the analysis suggests a low Th carbonatitic origin.

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