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How do Jewelers Rate Diamonds?

Aug 17, 2007
We began our search by entering "diamond ratings" into the search box. The results led us to online gift retailers, where we quickly found a useful page on on the "4 C's" of diamond evaluation: color, clarity, cut, and carat.

From that document, we got the sense that the most reputable ratings are performed by independent laboratories such as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and the European Gemological Laboratory (EGL). We returned to search engines and searched on the names of these groups. We found both listed under the Gemology - Organizations category.

A visit to the Gemological Institute of America site left us a little disappointed. They seemed to offer a great deal of information on their course offerings, but little in the way of reference material.

The EGL site was also underwhelming. Still, if you find yourself coming across EGL or GIA reports in the course of your diamond hunting, it's probably a good idea to familiarize yourself with these organizations.

Ultimately unsatified with the results of our search, we decided to browse more. Happily, before long we found a nice site that offers information on the 5 C's (they added "cost"), diamond shapes, "How to Buy a Diamond," and "How to Read a Diamond Certificate."

The only people who can authenticate a real diamond are certified gemologists specializing in jewelry. However, if you are browsing rings at a flea market and want to quickly assess whether a clear stone is probably glass, cubic zirconium, quartz, or leaded crystal, there are a few easy tests you can apply without any special equipment. These tests at least rule out recognizable imposters because they rely on the way a real diamond stone refracts light, conducts heat, and looks up-close.

If the gem in question is loose and unmounted, try placing it over printing. Diamonds refract so much light that they will not work as a magnifying glass and you would see no lines, circles, or letters through them. Other clear stones like glass or crystal will reveal the print clearly. A similar test uses a small light, such as the one that comes with your key ring. If you shine the light through the stone and cannot see it on the other side, but only a bright halo around the rim, it is more likely to be a true diamond.

Diamonds are also very good at conducting heat. Breathe on the surface of the stone and immediately check to see if it has fogged up. Again, quartz, glass, and cubic zirconium will stay hazy for a moment before the condensation dissipates, but you shouldn't be able to see any moisture on a true diamond. However, one rock, called moissanite, will also pass this test, so the best way is to get a complete thermal conductivity evaluation performed by a jeweler.

Looking closely at the specks, ridges, and facets can also give you a clue into the identity of your gem. Diamonds do have inclusions, tiny bits of other minerals that got crushed into the diamond while it formed deep under the earth. However, if the facets have worn or rounded edges, bubbles, or if the gem looks rippled or pitted, it is probably glass. Those gems that are perfectly clear, with absolutely no inclusions, are probably quartz.

Finally, some common sense measures can prevent you from getting pressured to purchase a gem that turns out to be something other than a diamond. It shouldn't be ridiculously inexpensive, or you'll get what you pay for. It also will usually be mounted in an "open back" setting, which means that you can see around the rear of the gem and the back surface isn't coated with any silvery substance. Although it's true that diamonds are the hardest organic substance on earth, the infamous test of scratching diamonds across glass or metal might just give you a damaged diamond.

Even many gemologists cannot distinguish "real" diamonds from cultured diamonds. Cultured diamonds have been artificially manmade in a laboratory, not mined from mountains, yet they are chemically identical to those diamonds. Some companies are developing new kinds of identification methods for those who would like to purchase a mined diamond or for those that prefer a cultured one.
About the Author
Victor Epand is the owner of JewerlyGift.biz, a huge online jewelry retailer featuring the largest and best selection of jewelry including personalizable items...
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