Beware of Clarity Enhanced Diamonds

This diamond has been fractured filled to make it more attractive. Photo: Shane F. McClure/GIA.

When Diamonds Aren’t  Forever

We’ve all heard the adage, “you get what you pay for,” but technology has created a new diamond treatment that turns this normally negative figure of speech into something we can only hope is true.

“Clarity Enhanced Diamonds”  (or “CE” diamonds as they are sometimes vaguely described) are genuine diamonds that come from the earth riddled with fractures, chips, and internal inclusions.  Historically these diamonds have been used for industrial purposes, having not made the grade of “Gem Quality.” However, today’s technology has provided for a treatment that makes these diamonds appear very clear even upon inspection under 10X magnification.

How does such a significant transformation take place?  The fractures and chips in these low quality diamonds are filled with lead glass, a clear substance that is drawn into fractures, feathers, pits, and chips using high temperatures and negative pressures.  Additionally, black and white opaque inclusions deep within a diamond can be reached via a laser drill hole and removed.  The resulting drill line and cavity are then filled with the same lead glass making them virtually disappear. The dramatic results can make diamonds with clarity grades as low as I3 look like diamonds with clarity grades as high as VS1 to the naked eye.

In a market where fine diamonds are constantly increasing in value and demand, this treatment was originally promoted as a means for a couple to afford a large diamond engagement ring without having to make the required investment.   Marketed as such, it seems like a perfect solution for the couple just starting out.  There is, however, a high price to be paid in these couples’ near future.

Often undisclosed by CE Diamond retailers, the treated stones (also referred to as “Yehuda Diamonds,” “Fracture-Filled Diamonds,” and “Laser Drilled Diamonds”) are unstable.  This means that the glass that is used to fill these diamonds isn’t “forever.” Unfortunately, this is usually realized when a treated diamond goes to a jewelry repair shop.  Jewelers know that a natural untreated diamond can endure the pressure required to bend gold prongs over a diamond to set it into a ring.  It is also known that a diamond can turn orange from extreme heat and still cool to its previous perfection.  This is not true for enhanced diamonds.  The heat required to size a gold ring is enough to ruin the enhancement, leaving the diamond in it’s natural unsightly state and a bride in tears; especially if she was not aware of the treatment in the first place. The image to the right shows a clarity enhanced diamond before and after enhancement. The "before" picture is what a CE diamond will look like if it is unknowingly heated by a jeweler.

Additionally, Clarity Enhanced Diamonds can be easily chipped if the diamond is filled in an area that is likely to take a lot of day-to-day wear.  Though it is possible to chip a natural untreated diamond, it is a very rare and unlikely occurrence.  In the case of enhanced diamonds, it is simply par for the course.

So, before you buy a diamond, make sure to ask the right questions and be sure to buy from a reputable firm. 

Any jewelry store owner with a GIA Graduate Gemologist on staff will be able to identify such treatments and can easily spot a diamond being misrepresented at the wholesale level.  Further protecting consumers, reliable diamond firms will inform consumers if the diamond they are selling is enhanced. In fact, most fine jewelers won’t sell these “CE diamonds” at all.  If enhanced diamonds are offered, a reputable jeweler will offer them at a price that is at most 1/3 of the price of the natural counterpart.

Since “CE Diamonds” do not appreciate in value like a natural diamond and are clearly not “forever”, the diamond consumer must  be aware that even at the reduced price,  he may not be getting what he thinks he is paying for and his initial savings may not be worth the future cost.