“Diamonds are forever” is a phrase that adequately captures the strength and resilience of the hardest crystal on earth. Hence, it is no surprise that the industry of true love picked this isotope of carbon as its symbol, representing boundless, never-ending love.
However, the utility of diamonds extends beyond this narrow use case. Diamonds are one of the most admired and sought after naturally-occurring stones on the planet, and they often feature in different types of luxury adornments.
In the middle ages, diamonds were so rare and valuable that monarchs almost exclusively owned them all. Buttressing this fact is 13th-century legislation by Louis IX of France reserving all diamonds’ ownership for the Crown.
Furthermore, in addition to their use in other forms of fine jewelry like earrings, pendants, and more recently, teeth grills, diamonds also appear in different manufacturing processes.
Due to their intense toughness, diamonds often appear in many industrial applications that include drilling through, polishing, or cutting resilient materials.
The unique properties of diamonds also create some specific use cases in sound production and medicine that require a high level of precision.
For a material that packs this unique mix of beauty, utility, and high demand, it is no surprise that the diamond market has to deal with considerable amounts of subpar offerings, counterfeit items, cheap imitations, and other forms of potentially misleading products.
While searching for diamond items, you will also find an abundance of natural and synthetic gems that bear a keen resemblance to diamonds that charlatans can sell to unsuspecting customers who do not double-check. Some of these gems include materials like white topaz, white zircon, moissanite, and white sapphire.
While some of these diamond substitutes have some value (typically considerably lower than their real diamond counterpart) in their own right, many others are virtually worthless.
How can you confirm that a piece of diamond is real and avoid being stuck with a dud?
Diamonds pack several distinctive qualities that set them apart and that makers of imitations can’t fake.
The Best Way to Tell if Your Diamond is Real
Yes, there is an abundance of advice on the internet on hacks and techniques to verify your diamonds’ authenticity. However, your best bet is always to visit a trained gemologist or an independent gemological laboratory.
There are two main reasons you should consider this option instead of testing your diamond yourself.
First, many of the tools you can access and the testing methods you can try out at home will be considerably more unreliable than the specialty equipment you will find in a gemologist’s laboratory.
When you factor in the potential errors that may stem from the undependable equipment or tests, relying on home testing can be risky, especially when the item in question is potentially worth a lot.
On the other hand, irrespective of the tools or method you use to verify a diamond piece’s authenticity, a trained and practicing gemologist will always have the advantage of knowledge and experience over you.
Even with a specialty tool like a loupe, customers with an untrained eye (most people) will have trouble correctly spotting inclusions and deciphering the differences in reflection profiles and interpreting them.
Given the same set of tools, a qualified practitioner is far more likely to achieve higher accuracy levels with his checks.
Hence, if the diamond in question is of any consequence, the most worthwhile option available to you is to seek the services of a qualified gemologist.
Finding a Gemologist
In most urban areas, the chances are that you can find a dedicated gemology laboratory around you. A simple local Google search should get you to some of the options closest to you.
However, during your search, the option you should be looking for is an independent gemologist that does not have ties to a particular store or the diamond industry in general. The more independent your gemologist is, the higher the chance he is using sound science and giving you the most accurate, unbiased analysis of your stone.
Nevertheless, you want to opt for a reputable diamond appraiser near you in the absence of an independent gemologist. Many diamond retailers have in-house appraisers and gemologists that can verify your piece’s authenticity and give you an estimated price.
However, make sure to steer clear of mall stores and other small commercial jewelry stores, as these rarely have qualified gemologists. What you will find here instead are salespeople who are more invested in mass appeal and trendiness.
Some of the right spots to seek help include niche diamond jewelers, specialty stores, diamond repair shops, stores with a manufacturing unit, and antique gem shops.
Alternatively, you can also send out your piece to a certifying organization like the Gemological Institute of America for analysis and appraisal. However, the downside is that unlike with shops and laboratories where tests happen in your presence, here, the diamond has to leave your sight for several days.
Other Details to Consider
Most gemologists and appraisers can provide way more information on your diamond than an authenticity check. Ask the right questions, and you will often get a significantly more in-depth report on your piece that can come in handy in other situations.
Information on the authenticity, makeup, history, and potential pricing of the diamond can be especially useful when testing inherited items or recent purchases, as this crucial data can help protect you from ripoffs.
Details you should consider gleaning from your gem tester include:
- The authenticity of the piece
- Whether the diamond is natural or man-made
- Information on any history of color alteration or treatment
- Grading information
- Potential pricing
- Certificate of appraisal
Diamond Authenticity Tests You Can Run at Home
In some cases, a simple test you can run at home can come in handy. You may not have immediate access to a gemologist or diamond appraiser. Also, the item in question may not warrant the elaborateness of full-scale expert testing.
The good news is that several different home tests can help inform you of your piece’s authenticity, albeit with a lower level of certainty than dedicated expert analysis.
You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out if you have an actual item or dud. With some easy to follow techniques and a few household items, you should be able to verify the authenticity of your jewel to a surprising level of accuracy.
However, home tests are not foolproof. It would be best if you considered combining several of these tests or visiting an expert before claiming 100% certainty.
Tip: Mounted vs. Loose Diamonds
Loose diamonds are significantly more straightforward to test for authenticity than mounted pieces as the gem’s mounting set can often affect how it responds to several of these tests. The mountings can also influence how the diamond reflects light and can also hide cracks, chips, and other imperfections.
These factors can make diamond testing significantly more challenging, especially for the uninitiated. Hence, with mounted diamonds, you are better off sticking to an expert tester or getting a jeweler to remove the stone from the mount before you test it.
While these tests will work with both mounted and loose diamonds, making the right inference will be considerably more manageable with a loose stone.
Some of the best diamond authenticity tests you can run at home include:
The Water Test
This one of the quickest and simplest tests you can run on your stone at home. However, this test only works with loose diamonds.
To test diamonds using the water test:
- Fill a glass with water three-fourths of the way up.
- Carefully drop the stone into the glass and see if it sinks.
If the gem floats, what you have on your hands is a dud. Due to the high density of diamond, there is almost no chance that a real stone will float in water.
If the gem sinks, you are one step closer to figuring out if your diamond is real.
The Fog Test
The fog test is another famous quick test for checking the authenticity of your diamond piece at home. This test plays on the high conductivity of diamonds compared to other common imitations.
To run this test, hold the stone in front of your mouth with two fingers, then breath out onto it a few times to fog it up.
With real diamonds, any fog that forms on the crystals’ surface will dissipate in an instant due to its high conductivity. However, with any other counterfeit materials, the condensation will likely stick to the gem for a few seconds.
The fog test is one of the few tests that work with both mounted and loose diamonds.
The U.V. Light Test
If you have a blacklight at home, you can use it to run a quick test on your gem to verify its realness. To test a rock with a blacklight, place it under the U.V. light beam and notice how it reacts to the light.
Many types of diamonds will emit a blue fluorescence under a blacklight. Hence, if your stone shows blue fluorescence, it is almost certainly a real diamond. Most other similar looking crystals will reveal a different color like orange, gray, yellow, or green.
However, the U.V. light test is not a conclusive test for all diamonds. Some diamonds will not fluoresce under blacklight. Hence, even if the stone does not produce any visible radiation under the light, it could still be a diamond, and you should consider running other tests.
The Heat Test
Diamonds are highly unresponsive to heat. In regular room temperature air, diamonds will not burn until the flame is 1,652° Fahrenheit hot. Diamonds are also the best natural heat conductors on the planet, and they can perform up to three times better than silver and copper.
So, your diamond is impervious to basically any standard flame you have at home.
You can use this property of the material as a way to test for real diamonds. To run this test, you need a glass of cold water, fireproof safety gloves, and a set of pliers.
Most diamond replicas feature materials like zirconium and glass that have significantly lower reactive temperature and respond quickly to heat.
To test a stone, pick it up with the pliers and hold it up to a flame for around 50 seconds, then drop the stone into the glass of cold water. A real diamond will be unaffected by this test, but most other weaker materials will shatter from the rapid temperature change.
The Refractivity Test
You can use another feature of diamonds, the sparkling surface, as a metric to test unverified stones.
The reason diamonds sparkle and shine so brightly is because of the high refractivity index (that is high ability to refract and bend light.) Different diamonds will have varying refraction levels, and this is often used as a metric to judge diamonds known as brilliance.
However, imitation stones like those made from cubic zirconia will have significantly poorer refractive ability than most diamonds.
You can test a stone’s refractivity using a newspaper page.
Place the gem flat side down on a newspaper page and read the letters underneath the stone. Due to the high refractive ability diamonds have, they will sufficiently scatter the light enough to blur out the letters underneath. Imitation diamonds will have a more challenging time replicating this effect.
Alternatively, if you do not have access to a newspaper page, you can substitute this with a piece of blank white paper. Draw a dot on the paper and place the gemstone directly on it and see if you can view the dot from above.
Check the Mount and Setting
If you have a mounted gemstone, one easy way to check if it’s a real diamond is to check the mount and set’s quality.
Real diamonds typically attract a hefty price tag, and as such, you will seldom find one set in a subpar material. Natural diamonds often come with mounts that feature high-end materials like yellow gold, platinum, and white gold, and use high-file setting rings like side-stone, halo, and pave.
You can quickly figure out the materials used in the mount and setting by checking the ring’s inside for markings that denote the make. You will find markings like “10K” or “18K” that signifies types of gold, a “P.L.,” “PLAT” or “P.T.,” stamp for platinum, or a three-digit number like “925” that correlates to silvers of different purity levels.
If your gemstone is set in silver, the chances are that it is not a real diamond but an imitation gem such as cubic zirconia. Silver is an incredibly soft metal that often does feature in diamond mounts.
Also, watch out for stamps like “C.Z.” which is short for cubic zirconia.
In addition to their experience and training in the field, another factor that sets a gemologist’s test apart is their equipment. Expert testers will use specialized equipment like:
Loupe: A small magnification gadget used to view the tiny details of the stone up close and check the diamonds for authenticity, class, and clarity.
Microscope: a microscope is a loupe on steroids, often with up to a 1200x magnification power. This device can help the gemologist view even tinier details and scrutinize the gem better.
Diamond Tester: a diamond tester is a thermal conductivity probe that measures how well the gem conducts heat.
High Profile Scale: a high precision scale that measures microscopic differences in weight. Experts can tell real diamonds by comparing the stones’ weight with what a real diamond of that size is expected to weigh.
The chances are that you do not have any of these devices at home. However, if you are geeked out enough about verifying your diamonds yourself, you can always pick up any of this gear on Amazon.
FAQs (Lab-grown diamonds, diamonds, and white sapphires)
Are Lab Grown Diamonds Real Diamonds?
Synthetic diamonds are becoming more and more popular, but are they real diamonds? Yes, but not really.
Unlike natural diamonds that are naturally-occurring and take millions of years to form, synthetic diamonds are created in a lab using techniques like High-Pressure Crystal Formation (HPHT) and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD.) These diamonds typically take around three months to grow in the lab fully.
Synthetic diamonds are structurally real diamonds. They have similar molecular makeup to naturally-occurring diamonds, and it is almost impossible to tell the difference between them with the naked eye.
However, under high magnification and with the eyes of an experienced professional, the differences appear. Due to their synthetic origin, lab-grown diamonds are flawless and do not feature any imperfections.
On the other hand, a natural diamond is almost sure to contain some irregularities in shape and color that are part of the natural formation process. While flawless natural diamonds do exist, they are extremely rare and proportionately expensive.
Synthetic diamonds are significantly cheaper than their natural counterparts.