That indescribable sparkle, that light which shines through in an abundance of colours, that beautiful piece of jewellery which incorporates the gemstone ... Diamonds have been enchanting many enthusiasts of everything that’s beautiful in life for centuries. But it’s not always a diamond which shines. After all, for as long as people have been charmed by gemstones, you will have found counterfeit versions too. Distinguishing these from the real thing is becoming increasingly more difficult. But there are still a number of important differences with the 100% natural diamonds, which makes buying these always the best choice.
- Most counterfeit diamonds have a completely different chemical composition and entirely different physical characteristics.
- Frequently used materials include: Cubic Zirconia, Gadolinium Gallium Garnet (GGG), colourless sapphire, synthetic moissanite, synthetic rutile and Yttrium-Aluminium-Garnet (YAG).
- The imitated versions are less strong and will therefore suffer damage more quickly. They also don’t have the same rich history and value as natural diamonds, or their great symbolism.
What are the imitations made from?
It’s certainly no new phenomenon. Gemstones have been imitated with both natural and man-made materials, which are all very similar, for hundreds of years.
Natural raw materials like glass, colourless quartz, topaz and a number of others which we will look at in more detail soon, are used to copy diamonds. These days most copied gemstones come from the lab. Various powders are melted and subsequently cooled until they solidify.
What is the difference with synthetically developed diamonds?
Important to know: we are not referring to the synthetic variants when we talk about copies. These are also produced in a laboratory. But they have the same chemical, physical and optical characteristics as the natural diamonds. They are simply created differently.
Natural diamonds are usually formed 150 to 250 km below the earth’s surface. The high pressure and temperature there meant carbon has replaced minerals with diamonds. The process has taken millennia. The gemstone took on its shape and colour as a result of extreme pressure and extraordinarily high temperatures, up to 1200 degrees Celsius.
Synthetically developed diamonds come from the lab. The geological circumstances within which natural diamonds are created are still often copied when making these synthetic diamonds. Carbon is exposed to enormous pressure, at 1500 degrees Celsius. The diamond is made in a high temperature vacuum chamber during the CVD method (Chemical Vapour Deposition), which contains hydrocarbon gas and hydrogen. The latter changes into atomic hydrogen, which in turn leads to diamond formation.
However, most copies have a very different chemical composition and completely different physical characteristics compared to natural or synthetically developed diamonds.
Which materials are generally used?
Let’s dig a little deeper and find out about a number of commonly used materials for copies. We will also provide details of their hardness, in accordance with the Mohs scale. This runs from 1 to 10. The highest value stands for the greatest hardness, namely that of the diamond.
- Cubic Zirconia (CZ): this material, with a cubic crystalline form, is made in the laboratory. The optical characteristics are very close to the diamond’s. The material almost shines as brightly. It’s also very hard (8½ on the Mohs scale). But Zirconia will show scratches much quicker.
- Gadolinium Gallium Garnet (GGG): this crystalline material also comes from laboratories. It shows a similar ‘fire’ as the diamond. But GGG is much less hard (6½ on the Mohs scale). This makes it fairly easy to scratch and the facet connections are often rounded off.
- Colourless sapphire: sapphires will probably instantly put you in mind of the blue gemstone, but the mineral also exists in a (virtually) colourless variant or in one or several different shades. These are either created naturally or in a lab. Admittedly, it’s a very hard and strong stone (9 on the Mohs scale) and therefore quite durable, for example when used as a central stone in a ring. But sapphires aren’t as clear or fiery as diamonds.
- Synthetic moissanite: in nature this rare mineral was first found in a meteorite in Arizona. It looks very much like a diamond: the discoverer Henry Moissan had initially even labelled it as such. Two years earlier it had also been produced in the lab. The synthetic version has more fire than a diamond and even approaches its hardness (9¼ on the Mohs scale). Moissanite from the lab used to be somewhat yellow or green. Nowadays the material doesn’t show any colour, but it could still look a little cloudy when looking at it from certain angles. It’s like you’re seeing the back facets twice.
- Synthetic rutile: this mineral shines reasonably brightly and shows plenty of ‘fire’. But it’s not particularly hard (6 to 6½ on the Mohs scale). That’s why it’s also easy to scratch and often displays rounded off facet connections. It can look a little cloudy too, as the back facets, as is the case with the moissanite, can be seen twice. The colour is also often somewhat yellow.
- Yttrium-Aluminium-Garnet (YAG): this material comes from the lab. It’s very hard (8-8¼ on the Mohs scale), but the extraordinary ‘fire’ and unique shine of a diamond are missing.
It goes without saying imitations have an audience …
The smaller price tag will certainly draw in consumers with a more limited budget, that has been the case since time immemorial. However, at BAUNAT we like to prove that buying natural diamonds doesn’t need to be unaffordable. Our smart approach means you won’t be able to buy sharper priced diamonds anywhere else, with the same quality as the other major brands.
Someone can also wear simulated diamonds whilst waiting for a more valuable stone. Or for safety reasons. There are naturally very understandable arguments.
But there are quite a few buts …
As we already mentioned, imitations aren’t as strong. So they will suffer damage more quickly. However, a real diamond is the hardest material in the world. The simulated diamonds, just like the synthetic ones, don’t share their natural counterpart’s rich history and value. Surely no one is ever going to pass down an imitation as a family heirloom? The number of engagement rings with a natural diamond which are passed down from generation to generation really can’t be counted.
Buying natural diamonds is also something people do because of the symbolism it represents. The gemstone isn’t the result of mass production, but of a very slow underground process. It’s the product of thousands of years of geological forces. This has turned it into something rare and therefore extraordinarily valuable. The diamonds’ hardness also symbolises eternity. All these meanings have turned the buying and gifting of natural diamonds into a special act, one which can’t be surpassed.
But which diamond is real and which one isn’t?
So how do you know whether you’re dealing with a diamonds created in the lab or underground? The internet is bursting with so-called tips for being able to make this distinction yourself. For example, only natural diamonds are supposed to contain inclusions. That’s not right: these ‘birthmarks’ are created during the growth process of every gemstone. Even glass contains gas bubbles which look just like this.
Another myth: only natural diamonds are supposed to have sharp edges. This is once again not correct: you will also find these with synthetically developed diamonds or other gemstones. And we could quite happily continue on debunking myths like this for some time. However, the bottom line is …
Count on the expertise of top laboratories
The only specialists who will be able to tell you with certainty whether a diamond is natural, synthetic or an imitation are gemstone laboratories. And you would be best off only relying on the judgement of the three top institutes from the diamond world: the High Council for Diamonds or HRD, the Gemological Institute of America or GIA and the International Gemological Institute or IGI.
Why you can blindly put your trust in these institutions was already discussed in our blog post about certificates. But we can very easily summarise their assets: their analyses are incredibly consistent and totally independent. They have all the required expertise and technology to give you a definite answer.
Buying diamonds with absolute certainty: trust BAUNAT
You can naturally ask your local jeweller to send a diamond onto the HRD, GIA or IGI, with the request to check its authenticity. The jeweller should know exactly how the gemstone should be sent, including optimal insurance. But buying diamonds with confidence doesn’t need to be that difficult: simply purchase them from BAUNAT.
We arrange for every diamond to be certified by one of the three major institutes, in order to check the quality via the 4 C’s and to verify the fact we’re dealing with a 100% natural version. Even though we were already incredibly sure about the latter, as we only buy the gemstones from reputable diamond traders.
We will always provide you with this certificate, making sure you have absolute certainty of the fact you have purchased a natural diamond. A document you certainly won’t receive from all major brands.
Convinced why you should opt for 100% natural?
Then make sure you discover our online collection today, contact our experts or make an appointment to visit our showroom. For a piece of jewellery full of symbolism, with a natural and top quality diamond, at the sharpest possible price.