By Ashley Bailey
, Wednesday, August 02, 2006 12:00 AM
Some makers and sellers of treated natural and manmade diamonds don't want you to know the exact nature of what you're buying. So they use ambiguous or confusing terminology.
For instance, one maker of synthetic diamonds call its stones "cultured."
But the term "cultured" is specifically forbidden by the Federal Trade Commission for use with any gem but pearls. Previous attempts to market manmade gems as "cultured" were disallowed by the Commission.
It is very important that gem sellers use lawful language to describe their products. That language has evolved over decades and even generations. Here is a rundown of permissible descriptions of diamonds.
NATURAL: If a gem's origin is a land or water-based deposit, and the polished stone has been enhanced in no way other than cutting, it is natural.
ENHANCED: If a natural gemstone has been subjected to color and clarity alteration using heat applied in a furnace or oven, and the end result is stable and permanent under normal conditions, it is considered enhanced. There is a lot of controversy about the use of the word "enhanced" with irradiated and fracture-filled diamonds. Although, technically speaking, these processes produce permanent results, stigmatization of irradiation makes the trade reluctant to consider irradiated diamonds as enhanced. There is also considerable resistance to the term "clarity-enhanced" for diamonds with fractures filled with glass-based compounds that hide these imperfections. Instead, such stones are usually labeled as "treated." Usually, however, the terms are used interchangeably.
SYNTHETIC: If a man-made gem possesses all the same physical, optical and chemical properties of its natural counterpart, it is called "synthetic."
However, because the term is a very negative one, the FTC permits makers and sellers of such stone the use of two synonyms: "created" and "lab-grown."
IMITATION: Man-made gems that look like other gems but have an entirely different chemical composition are called "imitation." Cubic zirconia is the world's most popular diamond simulant. But you may be offered others like YAG.
Occasionally, sellers will offer faceted natural stones such as crystal quartz and white sapphire as diamond simulants. Whether manmade or natural, however, a stone sold as a diamond look-alike or substitute is an imitation.
For more specific questions ask our experts