SYNTHETIC DIAMOND began appearing in the gem diamond market about a decade ago. The process involves introducing a gas, such as methane, into a vacuum chamber, then activating and breaking down the molecules of the gas with microwaves. This causes the carbon atoms to accumulate on a substrate (a small platform containing a flat diamond seed crystal, usually an HPHT synthetic), similar to the way snowflakes accumulate in a snowfall.
The SYNTHETIC method is much less costly because it works at moderate temperatures and low pressure, which requires smaller and less expensive equipment. Since the vacuum chamber contains just carbon and some hydrogen, colorless crystals can be developed If nitrogen or boron is introduced into the chamber, yellow or blue SYNTHETIC DIAMOND crystals can be produced.
SYNTHETIC DIAMOND Treatment:
In the past decade, SYNTHETIC producers have found that changing the gases in the development chamber and utilizing a purer Type II synthetic diamond as a seed crystal can enhance the shade of the finished synthetic diamond and speed the development rates. Since many early SYNTHETIC had a brownish color, producers also found that treating the material at high temperatures and pressures can remove the brown coloration to make the crystals colorless. This treatment step masked some of the signature features, which resulted in the identification of these synthetic diamonds becoming more difficult.
At first, the creators of these SYNTHETIC DIAMOND thought they would be able to produce diamonds quickly and cheaply. However, because the quality was inconsistent and the typical brown colors were less than desirable, those expectations were not met.
The Gemesis Corporation of Sarasota, Florida, which produced its earlier SYNTHETIC diamonds with the HPHT-process, began to market colorless SYNTHETIC DIAMOND in March 2012. There are several other companies which also sell SYNTHETIC.
GIA researchers purchased 16 SYNTHETIC DIAMOND from Gemesis, 15 of them cut into round brilliants, ranging from 0.24 carats to 0.86 carats. The majority had very high colors, ranging F-G on the GIA 4Cs scale. Three were I-J. The largest, at 0.90 carats, was a rectangle cut graded L, since it showed a slight yellowish cast.
The GIA tests found that the quality of colorless to near-colorless SYNTHETIC DIAMOND has improved significantly in the decade since they were introduced. In the past, SYNTHETIC DIAMOND displayed graining patterns not found in natural diamonds, as well as distinctive fluorescence reactions. These samples showed that separating such stones from natural diamonds requires the use of advanced spectroscopic techniques. In addition, it was apparent that the SYNTHETIC DIAMOND were treated under high heat to remove or obscure some of their telltale features, such as graining which, after treatment, is very difficult to see.
The researchers, led by Dr. Wuyi Wang, GIA’s director of research and development, subjected these SYNTHETIC DIAMOND to an extensive battery of tests. The tests included several sophisticated types of spectral analysis to obtain a telltale “signature” of samples created by the SYNTHETIC DIAMOND process. By using advanced instrumentation, scientists can read the diamonds’ spectral signature to determine their composition, or whether they originated in nature or a laboratory. The GIA researchers also conducted standard gemological tests, including checking for features known to be diagnostic for other SYNTHETIC DIAMOND, such as graining patterns and ultraviolet fluorescence reactions. Diamonds have a grain, like wood, that is a result of the way they crystallize, but because they grow differently in nature than in a lab, the grain patterns of SYNTHETIC DIAMOND are different.
Despite the difficulty in spotting these stones by conventional means, GIA researchers did find unique spectroscopic signatures. They did so by subjecting photoluminescence and ultraviolet fluorescence reactions to the Diamond View, a sophisticated instrument used by gemological labs to detect SYNTHETIC DIAMOND