What is a “diamond”? It would seem to be a pretty straightforward question, but not necessarily so.
From the scientist’s perspective, a diamond is a “metastable allotrope of carbon,” which in more simple terms is a mineral comprised almost entirely of carbon atoms, arranged in a cubic crystal structure. But is the diamond that was formed in nature, millions of years ago deep below the earth’s surface, the same as that of a stone with similar chemical composition, which was created in a matter hours or days in a factory or laboratory?
For the jewelry consumer the fact that the both the gems formed in nature and the stone synthesized in a factory are referred to as diamonds is not only confusing, but also financially risky, in that they are products with different monetary values. Consequently, nine of the world’s leading diamond and jewelry industry organizations have released a jointly developed Diamond Terminology Guideline, which they say is designed “to encourage full, fair and effective use of a clear and accessible terminology for diamonds and synthetics diamonds by all sector bodies, organisations, traders and retailers.” The organizations are the Antwerp World Diamond Center (AWDC), CIBJO – the World Jewelry Confederation, the Diamond Producers Association (DPA), India’s Gem & Jewelry Export Promotion Council (GJEPC), the Israel Diamond Institute (IDI), the International Diamond Manufacturers Association (IDMA), the U.S. Jewelry Council (USJC), the World Diamond Council (WDC), and the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB), which represents all recognized diamond exchanges.
While not legally binding, the Diamond Terminology Guideline is meant to serve as the reference document when referring to or describing diamonds, synthetic diamonds and imitations of diamonds. It is built on two internationally accepted standards: ISO 18323 Standard, which was ratified in 2015 by the International Standard Organizations he International Standard Organization, and the CIBJO Diamond Blue Book.
According to the document, a diamond is a mineral created by nature, where part of its intrinsic value is associated with the fact that there is a finite number available, providing an element of rarity. A synthetic diamond, on the other hand, “is an artificial product that has essentially the same physical characteristics as a diamond,” but can be mass produced ad infinitum.
If a stone is referred to simply as “a diamond,” says the Diamond Terminology Guideline, a buyer should be able to fairly assume that it was formed in nature, and not have been subject to any human intervention, other than what would be considered standard manufacturing or maintenance, like cutting and polishing.
Synthetic diamonds must be described using one of three authorised qualifiers: “synthetic,” “laboratory-grown” or “laboratory-created.” Diamonds formed in nature that have been subject to human intervention other than standard manufacturing or maintenance must be described as “treated diamonds,” and the exact nature of the treatment must be described.
If a synthetic diamond or treated diamond is described to the buyer simply as “a diamond,” without any qualifying adjective, the Diamond Terminology Guideline suggests that the buyer can claim to have been deceived. The guideline also cautions against the use of words like “real”, “genuine”, “precious”, “authentic” and “natural” for synthetic or treated stones, as these “apply exclusively to natural minerals and gemstones.”