What’s the deal with clarity enhanced diamonds and why is it important for you to know about such treatments? Before we answer this question, let’s talk about the value of diamonds which is measured by four characteristics.
Carat only represents the weight of the stone; cut is mainly influenced by the performance of the cutter. The remaining two C’s, color and clarity, are a little different: these represent the material properties of the diamond.
The clarity grade of a diamond represents the material imperfections found on the external surface or the interior of a diamond. The former are also called blemishes. To name a few, these could be scratches on the surface, naturals left behind during the cutting process or hazy looking burn marks that could reduce the light-reflecting capacity of the stone.
The other type of imperfections found inside a diamond are called inclusions. These are could be tiny “specks” of foreign material that obstruct light rays traversing through the diamond or could be huge unsightly splotches like clouds, feathers or cavities that can be observed by the naked eye.
When man is faced with certain problems, the genius in him will spark creative solutions to resolve issues posed by Mother Nature. Lasers were invented in the 1960’s and it proved to be a wonderful engineering tool for many industries. With the ability to be manipulated with pinpoint accuracy, lasers soon found their applications in the jewelry trade as both cutting and enhancement tools.
Laser drilling is a method used in removing inclusions inside the body of a gemstone. A tiny tunnel is drilled into the surface using a laser beam. Through that tunnel, chemical solutions are forced into the opening to dissolve and bleach out the inclusions. Typically, a mixture of concentrated hydrofluoric acid (HF) and sulphuric acid (H2So4) is used.
Profile view of laser drilled tunnel to reach the inclusion – GIA
Generally speaking, laser drilling will not weaken the structural integrity of the diamond to a serious extent. It doesn’t leave any foreign material inside the diamond after the process is performed. When proper drilling techniques are applied, the only observable sign of laser drilling is a microscopical tunnel that reaches the inclusion from the surface.
Besides using lasers to create surface reaching tunnels, new methods of internal drilling had also been researched and used in recent years. Why would people want to use internal laser drilling instead of the traditional laser tunneling? Well, the real reason behind using internal drilling involves a malicious intent to deceive consumers as this treatment is often undisclosed.
You see, internal drilling creates many small cleavages with seemingly non-discernible patterns. These “tunnels” serve the purpose of bridging the inclusion to the surface without the use of a direct laser tunnel. The problem with these irregular and worm-like looking channels is that they are purposely made to resemble feathers and passed off as being “natural” flaws.
Artificial treatment that resembles natural inclusions
For this treatment, diamonds with dark inclusions near their surfaces are good candidates for enhancement. After the worm-like channels are drilled, the diamond is subjected to a series bleaching solutions to dissolve the unsightly inclusions.
Black coloration is significantly reduced after treatment
Both dark crystal and feather are no longer that obvious after drilling
Source: A New Lasering Technique For Diamond (GIA)
Important note: always ask for a GIA or AGS certificate when buying a diamond. If the jeweler refuses to show you one or tries to promote some other un-heard of reports, it immediately subjects the diamond to suspicion and exercise extreme caution. Besides grade bumping or clarity enhancements issues, the jeweler could be trying to hide some other major issues from you.
Although cavities and surface reaching feathers can be removed through polishing, there is a method which does not lead to significant carat weight loss. Fracture filling is the process of inserting glass or liquid glass-like filler material into surface scratches and cracks. Since the filler possesses similar optical properties (refraction) as that of a diamond, the flaws get covered up nicely after the liquid filler is solidified.
Yehuda Diamond Company is the current industry leader who also pioneered fracture filling. Their business model and goal of enabling consumers to purchase larger diamonds at affordable prices has seen tremendous success. Since then, many other companies had tried to emulate their success and started developing their own proprietary method for fracture filling.
Fracture filling can greatly enhance the appearances of feathers and open cleavages – GIA
Now, the problem with fracture filling is that it results in a stone which is no longer made of a uniform material. Despite advances in material science, the filling substance still has vastly different material properties compared to the host diamond. What looks almost perfect after the treatment process might fade with the passing of time. Or worse still, the filling might even fall out in extreme cases.
Typically, when the fillings are exposed to harsh temperatures or strong chemicals like concentrated acids or alkali, the filling would start to degrade or fail. Because of its non-permanent nature, most companies offer lifetime “repairs” for fracture filled diamonds to keep customers happy.
That said, the problem with reworks and a second filling is that it isn’t going to be as good as the first. Also, another limitation of this technique is that once a diamond is filled with a resin, it is impossible to reverse the process.
Do note that GIA (Gemological Institute of America) does not grade fracture filled diamonds because they don’t change the appearance of the diamond permanently. C.E. diamonds are usually separately appraised and graded by other labs as they represent a totally different category.
There’s actually no wrong or right answer to this question as it depends on the needs and the type of situation you are in.
For other people who are on a strict budget and yet, would like to purchase a bigger diamond, treated diamonds offer an alternative method to do that without breaking the bank.
For the jewelers, clarity enhancements improve the prospects of selling a severely flawed diamond as the stone now has a better visual appeal. From a business perspective, getting a severely included diamond treated and selling it at a lower cost makes more sense than having it remain stagnant in the inventory.
If you are kept up to date with the latest jewelry industry news, you will realize that clarity enhanced diamonds had received a lot of negative attention recently.
The main reason behind the negativity largely stems from people who found out they had been duped into buying an enhanced diamond at the point of sale. Even though jewelers are required by law to fully disclose any clarity enhancements to the consumer, there are many rogue jewelers who intentionally hide these details in order to make a sale. That’s why you have to be extremely careful and knowledgeable when buying such diamonds.
Ultimately, you have to make the decision for yourself. If you are buying a diamond for practical purposes and don’t have a huge budget to work with, a clarity enhanced diamond might be a viable option for consideration. However, if it comes to buying diamonds as a form of investment, untouched natural stones are still the best choice.