Touch of brilliance creates new culture

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 December, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 December, 2004, 12:00am


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Laboratories can mimic the conditions for creating diamonds to produce affordable replicas that look like the real thing

SYNTHETIC diamonds have made their debut in Hong Kong. These laboratory-created diamonds can be produced in a matter of days and have the same physical and optical properties as a natural diamond.

Lane Crawford recently began selling jewellery set with fancy-coloured yellow, pink and blue Gemesis Cultured Diamonds at its new store in Central, at prices starting from $25,000.

'It's a new technology and we think it offers a different price point for customers,' said Jan Kong, the store's general manager of jewellery.

The cost of a synthetic diamond is about 5 per cent to 25 per cent that of a comparable natural diamond.

United States-based Gemesis produces diamonds using a high-pressure, high-temperature method that mimics the conditions for natural diamond formation. About 30 retail outlets in the US sell its products.

Since these are diamonds and not simulants, they cannot be detected by the eye or by using a jeweller's loupe. An accurate determination can only be made by carrying out tests using specialised equipment.

However, major international laboratories do not offer grading reports for synthetic diamonds and much of the jewellery trade appears not to welcome them.

'The general consensus of most jewellers in Hong Kong is that they will not carry synthetic diamonds because they would cause a lot of confusion for customers and affect their confidence,' said Winston Chow, deputy general manager of Chow Sang Sang Jewellery.

Gemesis has steered clear of white diamonds and produces only coloured stones, which represent a tiny fraction of the diamond market.

'We don't want to fool anybody. It's not in anyone's interest to collapse diamond prices,' said Scott Thompson, Asia-Pacific managing director for Gemesis Asia.

The company laser inscribes each diamond above 25 points with a serial number, and discloses on invoices to customers that its products are synthetic.

Another product available in Hong Kong from a US-based company, called a Hydiamond (for hybrid diamond) is made by adding a thin coating of synthetic diamond to a non-diamond gemstone core said Paul Yuen, marketing director for distributor Diamax Holdings.

As with synthetic diamonds, instrument tests are necessary for identification.

A full range of white and fancy yellow stones are being sold through Diamax's showroom in Central.

A typical ring with a one-carat Hydiamond costs $8,800. Some customers bought the stones to make replicas of their real diamond jewellery for security purposes, Mr Yuen said.

The stones are described in the company brochure as 'super diamond simulants'.

'We make no pretence about what we sell. We don't tell people it's a diamond,' he added.

But the Gemological Association of Hong Kong objects to the terms 'Hydiamond' and 'cultured diamond', contending both are misleading.

'Instead of 'cultured diamond', we would prefer that they use 'synthetic diamond',' said Dominic Yim, spokesman for the non-profit group.

In Germany and the US, according to Mr Thompson, the company altered its name to Gemesis Created Diamonds because of industry pressure. Australia was likely to follow, he added.

Mr Yim said that since the Hydiamond process used a thin layer of diamond, the name could confuse people into thinking the stone was actually a diamond.

He added that the association was working with the Diamond Federation of Hong Kong to define the terms used for these products so that consumers could be better informed.