Distinguishing between a natural diamond and a lab-created (or synthetic) diamond can be challenging, as they are chemically and physically identical. Lab-created diamonds have the same carbon atom structure as natural diamonds, making traditional home tests (like fog and water tests) ineffective for this purpose. However, there are specialized methods and tools used by professionals to differentiate between the two:
Professional Assessment Tools:
- Magnification: Under high magnification and with expertise, a jeweler might find tiny inclusions in natural diamonds that are different from those in lab-created diamonds. Synthetic diamonds may also have tell-tale signs of their manufacturing process.
- Spectroscopy: Instruments like a spectrometer can analyze the light absorption patterns in the diamond, which can vary between natural and synthetic.
- Infrared and Ultraviolet Testing: Different types of lab-created diamonds may exhibit distinctive fluorescence patterns under UV light compared to natural diamonds.
- Diamond Type Classification: Diamonds are categorized into types (Ia, Ib, IIa, IIb) based on the presence of nitrogen and boron. The distribution of these elements can give clues about the diamond’s origin.
- GIA Certification: The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and other reputable gemological laboratories issue certificates that state whether a diamond is natural or synthetic. Always ask for a diamond certification when purchasing.
Visual and Physical Characteristics (Require Expertise):
- Inclusions: The type and pattern of inclusions (internal imperfections) can offer clues. For example, metallic inclusions might suggest a synthetic origin.
- Growth Patterns: Using specialized equipment, experts can sometimes observe differences in growth patterns between natural and synthetic diamonds.
Home Tests (Limited Effectiveness):
- While traditional home tests (like fog, water, heat) won’t distinguish between natural and synthetic diamonds, observing a diamond’s response to UV light might provide a hint. Some lab diamonds may show stronger fluorescence, but this isn’t a definitive test.
Ethical and Pricing Considerations:
- Disclosure: Ethical jewelers should disclose whether a diamond is natural or lab-created.
- Price: Lab-created diamonds are typically 20-40% less expensive than natural diamonds of similar size and quality.
For a consumer, it’s virtually impossible to distinguish between a lab-created diamond and a natural one without professional help. The best approach is to purchase from reputable sellers who provide a certification for the diamond. If you already own a diamond and want to determine its origin, consulting with a certified gemologist or sending the diamond to a gemological lab like the GIA is the most reliable method.
Fake diamonds / Diamond simulants
Fake diamonds, also known as diamond simulants, are stones that resemble real diamonds but have different chemical and physical properties. They are often used in jewelry as a more affordable alternative to genuine diamonds. Here are some key points about fake diamonds:
Types of Fake Diamonds
- Cubic Zirconia (CZ): The most common and inexpensive simulant. CZ is a synthetic crystalline substance used for fashion jewelry and good imitations.
- Moissanite: Nearly as hard as diamond and even more brilliant (sparklier). Moissanite is a popular high-quality alternative.
- White Sapphire: Less brilliant and sparkly than diamond, but a hard natural stone that’s a cheaper alternative.
- Glass or Crystal: Often used in costume jewelry. Easily distinguishable from diamond due to its lower hardness and brilliance.
- Lab-Created Diamonds: Technically real diamonds but made in a lab. They have the same physical and chemical properties as natural diamonds.
Characteristics of Fake Diamonds
- Brilliance and Sparkle: Many fake diamonds can be more brilliant (reflect more white light) than real diamonds, but often they have different types of sparkle. For example, moissanite can emit a fiery, rainbow-colored sparkle.
- Hardness: Diamonds are the hardest known mineral. Simulants like CZ and white sapphire are softer and can scratch more easily.
- Price: Fake diamonds are typically much more affordable than real diamonds.
- Density: Most diamond simulants have different densities, which can be noticeable in larger stones.
- Fog Test: Breath on the stone. A real diamond clears up quickly, while fake ones stay foggy for a few seconds due to their heat retention.
- Water Test: Drop the stone in a glass of water. Real diamonds have high density and will sink, while many fakes will float.
- Heat Test: Diamonds are excellent heat conductors, so they can withstand higher temperatures compared to many simulants.
- Professional Testing: Tools like a diamond tester can measure heat and electricity conductivity, or a jeweler can use a microscope to look for inclusions and other characteristics.
Considerations When Buying
- Purpose: Fake diamonds are a great choice for fashion jewelry or pieces you don’t plan to wear every day.
- Disclosure: Ethical sellers should disclose if a diamond is real or a simulant.
- Longevity: Some simulants, like CZ, can become cloudy over time, while others, like moissanite, are more durable.
Fake diamonds offer an affordable alternative to real diamonds and can be ideal for certain types of jewelry. However, it’s important to understand the differences and purchase from reputable sources to ensure you know exactly what you’re getting. For those who value the properties of a diamond but are on a budget or have ethical concerns about mining, lab-created diamonds or high-quality simulants like moissanite can be excellent options.