Friday, October 15, 2021

Diamond Imposters

All That Glitters

Submitted Photo

I’m often asked, “Why are diamonds so expensive?” The simple answer… because they are, and always have been! It happens often, the shocked reaction when a naïve shopper is quoted the approximate cost of say a two-carat plus sized diamond, and I see the reaction on their face that’s hard to hide. Immediately I sense the negative vibe and before they turn tail and run out of my showroom door I suggest “alterative choices,” and it does not have to be a two carat cubic zirconia (zirconium dioxide, aka the CZ).

In Richie’s modern world there are sensible alternatives, even present time cubic zirconia is “diamond like” and most importantly for the thrifty, dirt cheap, they still scratch easily and if worn 24/7 on the fingers or wrist they will show wear and tear and lose their brilliance after only several months. Years before the increase in precious metals, in the 1990s if I remember correctly, there were several shops in Naples and countrywide that sold tons of solid gold jewelry and sterling silver studded with cubic zirconia, and many women wore it in volume. We in the industry nicknamed them “Cubic Queens.” Even then, as today, there is still a large part of the population that would not be caught dead wearing cubic Z.

Another popular diamond simulant is the Moissanite, it’s harder to scratch, bright, flawless and looks fantastic, but the cost is considerably more than CZ. An alternative” fake diamond” (I may sell a few a year), they are not in great demand. And let’s not forget the white sapphire that you see on late night TV jewelry shopping channels. A poor substitute for a diamond in my opinion.

By far my most popular alternative is in fact a mined diamond that has been “enhanced” by man and current technology. Clarity enhancement involves lasers and other means to improve the quality of a diamond with a natural imperfection or inclusion. Don’t freak out now, a huge percentage of the world’s diamonds (including that ring you are now wearing, unless it’s certified flawless) will have flaws or inclusions. The clarity enhanced diamond has had many or even one flaw rendered nearly undetectable. I choose and examine closely the ones I sell to my customers, always the highest white and colorful diamond with the very minimum of the process. So what’s the advantage to choosing a clarity diamond? What it always comes down to is THE MONEY! It is a considerable amount of money saved by choosing a whiter and brighter clarity enhanced diamond.

The HPHT (high pressure high temperature) treated diamond involves a fairly new process that is used to improve the color of an undesirable but near flawless diamond (the clarity enhanced diamond process improves the clarity or cleanliness of a diamond). The HPHT process is spectacular and difficult to detect without the proper equipment, it cost more than a clarity enhanced diamond but much less than a nice clean high color traditional diamond.

And just in case you are not totally confused by now, only recently they have been advertising “lab created diamonds.” These are generally hawked big time on online websites as the diamonds of the future. Regardless of what fancy name they give these things, they are totally manmade diamonds with or without flaws, created or grown in a laboratory, pretty to look at and pretty to wear, but not exactly cheap ($3,000 or so for a one-carat size). Besides not being a “natural diamond” like the CEs or the HPHTs, as far as I know they have no resale or trade-in value whatsoever. Next to impossible to detect without sophisticated equipment, not good in my book. I consider them a glorified and expensive substitute that I am forced to ask myself, “Why would anyone pay good money for one of these?” I refuse to sell created diamonds due to lack of interest on the island. Besides, my life is confusing enough.

Life was easy in my business years before all this diamond-like drama started. It was either a diamond or a piece of white glass, a white zircon or a rhinestone or maybe a YAG (yttrium aluminum garnet). All of them were very easy to identify, I could tell that what I was looking at was not a diamond with a 10 power loupe. To the unprofessional eye, a nearly impossible task. So as you can see, I can be a wealth of information or not. If you ever have any intelligent questions about the wonderful world of diamonds (or not) feel free to email me.

Richard Alan is a designer/master goldsmith and is the proprietor of The Harbor Goldsmith on Marco Island since 1994. He welcomes your questions about “all that glitters.” Email him at Website:

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