The Imposters

The Simulants and Synthetics

For the last six months I’ve been slowly and methodically collecting data on a group of gemstones I like to call the “Imposters”. An “Imposter” is any gem that claims to be as good or better than, just like, as hard, more beautiful than, but cheaper than a diamond. The “Imposters” come in two groups, the simulants and the synthetics. Let’s take one at a time.

The SimulantsA simulant is something that looks similar to a diamond but does not have the same properties (weight, specific gravity, refractive index, hardness, etc.). These would include c.z.’s, glass, white corundum, Y.A.G. (Yttrium Aluminum Garnet), Graffs simulant, The Asha, Diamonelle and Zirconite to name a few. Many of these companies (I won’t mention them by name, you know who you are) make some pretty outrageous claims. Some say they have created a super simulant that will sparkle and last forever. Well, I guess that’s true but for it to be true you cannot wear it.

It’s like those abdominizers that claim you can get rock hard abs while using their machine. That’s technically true but only if you diet and exercise and use the machine! Most, if not all of these companies will give you a ton of technical data meant to impress us. For example, they will tell us how brilliant and sparkly their fakes are and back them up with Sarin reports, megascope reports, brilliance scope measurements and on and on. Look, nobody’s disputing that a lot of these simulants are pretty (with the exception of moissanite) the problem is their hardness.

Vendors brag about how hard their stones are and how they put diamond-like coatings on their rocks to keep them looking beautiful till the end of time. Then, they say, if we’re wrong we will give you a new one. So what!! If they’re wrong why would you want a new one? If a particular brand VCR broke every six months would you be satisfied getting the same product again and again and again. One of the fakes I tested came with a guarantee that actually said and I quote, “Should your gem ever become chipped, scratched, lose its optical characteristics, or otherwise become damaged as a result of normal daily wear, please contact us to arrange the return of your gem and the defective gem(s) will be promptly replaced. The warranty does not cover damages by another jeweler’s work (Example: During setting of the gem, or during repair of jewelry that the gem is mounted in) or damage due to wear during unusual activity such as rock climbing, construction or other occurrences where common-sense would indicate jewelry is likely to be damaged.”

Can you believe this?!! For starters, whose in charge of deciding what normal daily wear is and second, where’s the common sense committee that decides when it is dangerous or not dangerous to wear your sparkly new “Imposter”? But you want to know the craziest part? It’s the fact that your typical c.z. runs just dollars a carat and some companies are selling their super rocks for up to $400.00 a carat!! P.T. Barnum was right, there is a sucker born every second and two to take his place.

Most of the prettiest simulants I examined were hand cut c.z.’s versus machine manufactured ones. And yes there are companies selling them for a fair price ($5 to $10 a carat wholesale; $20 to $30 retail). Ziamond, CZ Jewelry and Zirconite are companies that sell their product at a fair price.

Moissanite is another popular “Imposter” running as high as $500.00 a carat. They are more durable than hand cut c.z.’s but still no match for the hardness of a diamond. They are made by synthesizing carbon, hence making them doubly refractive. The biggest down side to these is their inability to obtain nice colors. All the moissanite I’ve seen has a grayish dull overtone.

The Synthetics

A synthetic is a man-made diamond that has all the properties of a natural diamond (weight, specific gravity, refractive index, hardness, etc.) The only company making real man-made diamonds (yellow ones for the market) is Gemesis in Florida. They say synthetic whites will hit the market in eighteen months. Note: GE has been making industrial diamonds for years.

Crossing the Line

At this point it is impossible to grow or replicate a real natural diamond of any impressive size with a high clarity or color grade. Yet if you surf the web there are over a dozen companies claiming they are selling lab created diamonds; synthetic diamonds. Pure fiction.

by Fred Cuellar, author of the best-selling book “How to Buy a Diamond.”

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