The diamond industry took another blow with the release of GIA’s Laboratory Alert concerning close to 500 diamonds recently submitted with an undisclosed, temporary treatment that improves the colour by as much as 3 grades. Four companies have been blocked from further submissions pending research and investigation. The troubling part is the fact that the treatments went undetected and GIA admits they still have not identified the treatment process. Apparently, the treatment was only discovered when the diamonds later changed colour to lower grades.
This raises several questions in my mind. First and foremost: are there other unknown treatments that have slipped past the GIA screening process? Could there be treatments that have not been detected? So far this news seems to have only been released to the trade. What will happen when the public becomes aware of this? Recent news stories about over grading by EGL International and other labs have already shaken consumer confidence in the diamond grading process. Now we have a treatment that even has GIA stumped. If those of us in the trade can’t trust GIA to deliver consistent, accurate reports will consumers be able to trust any lab?
New techniques are being developed all the time. Labs can only play catch-up to advancing technology. The profit motive for keeping new treatments secret will insure that the labs will be the last to know. In the current case, if the treatment was permanent we might never know of its existence. A few tweaks to that unknown process could make that a reality. By the time the labs discover the treatments and find a way to detect them, the treaters will be moving on to the next process. They will always be one step ahead. This is a problem that will never go away and will, in fact, get much worse. Technology keeps moving and accelerating. New treatments will come more often and be harder to detect.
There is nothing wrong with embracing and using treatments as long as they are properly disclosed. But there is a disturbing trend of dealers attempting to pass off treated stones as natural or mixing lab-grown stones in parcels of mined diamonds. This lack of ethics only seems to occur within in the natural diamond supply stream while the producers of lab-grown stones disclose their goods with pride. This lack of ethics will only serve to further erode the already dwindling trust consumers have for the mined diamond industry.
I’ve said for several years there will be a time where treatments and lab grown diamonds will be undetectable from natural, untreated stones. It appears we are approaching that point sooner rather than later. The future has arrived and we will need to learn how to deal with it.