Here’s something that most people don’t know…
GIA (The Gemological Institute of America) does not grade every diamond sent to them.
Sure jewelers can try. They can send them a bunch of stones… But if these diamonds are “temporarily enhanced“, GIA will NOT grade them!
What is enhancement?
Enhanced diamonds are diamonds that are changed to look better than Mother Nature intended. Meaning, man has stepped in and manipulated the diamond in such a way, that the color or clarity look betters, sell betters, but makes them more money (and if you didn’t know it was “enhanced“, it could be misleading or fraud). Enhancement MUST be disclosed at the time of the sale!
So jewelers can take an ugly diamond with very visible black spots, send it in to companies that do this kind of alteration, and have them adjusted (enhanced) until they look pleasing to the eye. Those black spots can be removed, made invisible, so no one would know the difference.
How are they enhanced?
There are a couple of ways that diamonds get enhanced…
- Laser Drilling
- Fracture Filling
- Color Enhancement
Let’s break it down…
Boiling is done to some diamonds that have a dark inclusion on the surface of the stone. The diamond is dunked into a special acid that dissolves the flaw. It’s a permanent process that removes a blemish off the stone… But this boiling only works if the imperfection is on the surface (outside) of the stone. If it’s inside the stone, buried deep, it can’t be boiled. It will have to be drilled…
2) Laser Drilling
Some inclusions reside deep within the stone, and if the flaws are sightly enough, they can actually be drilled out (this can take an I2 clarity diamond all the way up to an SI1 diamond, or better).
A laser drill burns a small hole or tube into the diamond (usually from the bottom, through the pavilion), and once that tube reaches the flaw, the imperfection can be either burned out, or boiled out with acid. These holes are permanent and won’t affect the diamond much (won’t be easily noticed). But if there are a lot of these, it could weaken the integrity of the diamond (make it not as strong).
3) Fracture Filling
This is a process that takes laser drilling one step further.
Once the flaw has been burned out, a void is left behind; a cavity in the stone (along with the hole). So fracture filling is literally filling that hole back up. It’s inserting a special clear compound that fills the cavity (like filling a chip in a windshield), so it blends in and pretty much disappears with the rest of the diamond.
This process makes it very difficult to detect that any enhancement was ever done… Which is why it’s frowned upon in the jewelry industry.
4) Color Enhancement
Diamonds dug from the Earth are naturally white, whitish, yellow, or brown. These are the most common colors found in nature. Most people desire the white diamonds, meaning all the other colors are hard to sell and pretty useless.
Soooo, jewelers take these off-color stones and send them in to get them heat treated, or color enhanced. Adding intense heat to these stones can alter the original color and make them look different, better. It can change a brown diamond into a beautiful bright blue diamond. It can turn a dingy yellow stone into a stunning pink or green stone. It’s actually amazing…
But they’re also not permanent!
Colored diamonds (found in large quantities in mall stores), are not true colored diamonds. True colors, made by nature, are called “fancy” diamonds (fancies, as seen here at James Allen). Those colors are permanent, and also quite expensive!
Stores enhanced these low-color yellow and brown stones and have ultimately created a booming business from them. The stones look brilliant and vibrant, but they won’t last forever! Reheating these stones, or adding torch heat (like a jeweler’s torch working on prongs), can make those altered colors fade and dim. It can make them appear dull once more.
So as you can see…
Some of these processes are permanent, and some are not.
So which diamonds won’t GIA grade?
The diamonds that are not permanent, GIA will NOT grade (give out a diamond report). These stones are refused and sent back, because the diamonds could, and would, change over time.
So GIA WILL grade these enhanced diamonds:
- Laser Drilled
Because these procedures are permanent and the diamonds will not change.
GIA will NOT grade these enhanced diamonds:
- Fracture Filled
- Color Enhanced
Both fracture filling and color enhancing are not permanent. If heat is applied to the stones (and it will be over the course of a lifetime), the filling could boil, bubble, dissolve out, or even break the stone; and that pretty enhanced color would fade and look poor again.
It’s just not worth it!
It’s wise when you’re buying diamonds to only buy diamonds graded with a GIA diamond report (aka certificate).
And just as a side note, AGS will not grade fracture filled or non-permanent enhanced diamonds either (EGL WILL – Don’t buy their stones!)
Personally, I would stray away from buying any altered diamonds all together; boiled or drilled. I like my diamonds made by nature, not sugar coated by man. But hey, that’s my honest opinion and I’m sticking to it. :)
See GIA certified diamonds here at James Allen (James Allen has the BEST prices anywhere)!