Laser Drilled Enhanced Diamonds
100%, perfect, fault free and unblemished diamonds are a great rarity, so much so that they can demand prices in the tens of thousands of dollars per carat and hundreds of thousands of dollars for a cut and polished diamond.
Note: The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has developed a clarity grading system for diamonds that is the accepted standards across the world. This includes six categories with 11 separate grading levels from FL (flawless) to Included (severe flaws that can damage the diamonds structural integrity).
Having said that, such perfect diamonds are a rarity and most of the jewelry grade diamonds available on the market exhibit internal flaws (known professionally as inclusions) caused by minute deposits of graphite, sulfur, iron and other materials trapped inside the stone’s matrix during the tens of thousands of years that it took to create the raw diamond. These deposits, also called carbon deposits, because the appearance of small black discoloring’s inside the diamond and close to its surface.
Note: Though known as black, in fact these color blemishes aren’t an actual deposit of black material but rather the result of an optical illusion caused by lower refractive index caused by the inclusion.
A relatively new technique for eliminating these inclusions involves the use of a very fine laser beam. This technique was first developed in 1962 by General Electric who used a medical quality infra-red laser to remove inclusions from industrial grade diamonds. One year later, in 1963, New York diamond dealer, Lois Pearlman, along with leading defense contractor Raytheon, developed a similar technique to remove discolorations from gem quality diamonds.
Diamonds that have undergone the laser treatment to remove internal flaws can usually have their clarity rating raised by a factor of at least two. So, if the original clarity rating was, for example SI2 (slightly included), laser drilling could improve this rating to VS2 (very slightly included).
Note: The term ‘inclusion’ refers to any internal characteristics of the diamonds structure. These are results of the diamond crystal’s growth and are unique to every diamond. These are just some of the characteristics included in a GIA gemological certificate that identify each, specific diamond.
These naturally occurring inclusions include, apart from the color flaws we spoke about here and include structures known professionally as; clouds, feathers, knots, cavities, internal graining, bearding and pinpoints.
A surgical grade laser is used to bore a microscopic channel (0.2 millimeters or less in diameter) from the diamond’s surface to the inclusion. Now there are one of two possibilities available to the diamond technician.
If possible, the laser beam can be used to “burn out” the flaw. If this isn’t possible, then the diamond can be placed in an acid solution. The acid accesses the inclusion via the channel and dissolves it. A faint white discoloration may be visible at the channels point of origin but this does not affect the diamonds sparkle or brilliance.
Note: The acid process can also be used without laser drilling when a natural channel exists from the diamonds surface to the inclusion.
Since its initial development in the 1960’s, laser drilling has been one of the major tools used by expert gemologists to remove flaws and enhance otherwise excellent, gem quality diamonds.
As with any technique, scientists and professionals have been seeking ways to improve the process and a number of new techniques are now in use today that make it possible to take advantage of existing fractures inside the stone. These fractures (totally internal and that don’t reach the stone’s surface) can be treated with a technique developed in Israel known a KM laser drilling. Using special lasers and innovative techniques, drilling takes place inside the stone making the intervention all but impossible to detect, even under a 10X magnification jewelers loupe.
Yet another treatment uses an even narrower laser beam to access and remove the inclusion. This technique also doesn’t leave the fain white marking associated with regular laser drilling techniques.
Note: US Federal Law requires that the buyer be informed of all enhancement procedures carried out on a stone prior to final purchase.
Note: The Gemological Institute of America (GIA and the world leader in setting internationally accepted standards for diamond classification) does not grade clarity enhanced diamonds but will grade laser drilled diamonds as the alteration to the diamonds are considered to be permanent.
Today, levels of precision are so high that detecting the microscopic channels left by the laser drilling technique can be difficult, even for experienced, professional jewelers. This makes it even more important to be sure of what you are buying and who you’re buying it from.
So to sum up:
Laser drilling removes minor discolorations (inclusions) from a diamonds interior.
Clarity Enhanved diamonds are natural diamonds.
The technique is invisible to the naked eye.
The results are permanent.
The procedure does not affect the diamonds structure or stability.
Clarity rating can be improved by a factor of 2 or more but the retail price will be based on the original, lower, clarity grading.
Bottom line: buying a laser drilled, clarity enhanced diamond lets you buy a diamond with a greater clarity for the same price, or a bigger, laser enhanced diamond, of the same clarity rating. Any way you want to looks at it – it’s a situation you can’t lose.
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