Fake diamonds are not always easy to spot, so how can you tell if something is amiss with the stone in your engagement ring? A random jewellery remodelling enquiry for an old engagement ring resulted in some unwanted news about the diamond for one potential client...
This is every woman’s nightmare, but keep calm gentle reader, it does not happen that often. I’ve written this blog for anyone who is worried that they might have a fake diamond, or would like to know what could help them spot it is not their stone that has come back from the workshop.
I recently met a lovely lady who had a non-Heirloom London engagement ring, and the engagement did not work out (there is no correlation with the choice of ring supplier!). She was looking to trade in what on paper, sounded like a nice diamond. Rather than jewellery remodelling, she was keen see if she could use the proceeds of her stone to choose a special eternity ring. Which is good thinking, as smaller diamonds cost less per carat, but create a lovely sparkle.
When we met to take the ring in, I did what I always do, inspected the setting and the stone. And at this point alarm bells started ringing;
- The stone had a number of chips on the surface and edges.
- The girdle on the stone was thick and quite smooth.
- There was very little sparkle showing in the stone, unless you looked straight down the top.
- There was a very large inclusion in the base of the stone (which was not documented on the original valuation).
- The stone was meant to be GIA, but I couldn’t see a report number on the girdle.
- The setting itself was very lightweight.
This did not mean that at this point I was sure it wasn’t a diamond. With the exception of number 2, diamonds can have any of the other characteristics. But I did note this with the client (which was depressing for us both) and said that I’d have a proper appraisal once the stone had been looked at by professionals. I had already advised the client that the perceived value of her stone was going to be significantly less than expected.
The next day I cleaned up the stone. If possible it almost looked worse, I had assumed that more light and life was being masked by dirt. It turned out to be that the dirt was masking some of the flaws! I sent a few images to my client, and then the ring went off for inspection.
There was no doubt, the precious stone was actually a worthless lab grown crystal. The girdle and surface chips were the biggest look out, while it is not impossible for a diamond to have a chipped surface, it tends to be closer to an edge and usually is only one chip.
What transpired was that the engagement ring originally had a 6 claw setting, and this wasn’t to my client’s taste, so later on it was changed. The ring was valued before it went into whichever workshop they chose to use and at this point a switch was made. Heartbreaking.
Other ways to tell if your diamond or gemstone is fake
Precious jewellery looks precious from all angles, while old costume jewellery only has to look good on the showcase side. Look at a stone set in a ring or necklace from the bottom or back. If it is flat on one side, or there’s material with a rough, stippled or stucco texture, it’s probably not very valuable. Foil used to be used in costume jewellery to increase the reflective appearance of stones, if you can see this it is another tell-tale sign.
Hot or not?
Precious gems usually feel very cool to the touch, while glass feels a bit warmer. Plastic heats up in your hand very quickly.
Weigh the possibilities
Cheaper materials used in costume jewellery, such as copper and zinc, weigh less than gold and platinum. Weight isn’t a great indicator of value, but this in combination with a hallmark (in the UK) can be a good indicator that the setting is precious, and set a precedent for whether it is a real diamond or not. A 3 carat diamond in a 9 carat gold setting can be a sign that something is amiss..
Look for air
Glass jewellery often has tiny air bubbles in it, a sure sign it is not a diamond.
Read/find the inscription
A lot of certified diamonds carry an inscription on the girdle. This is very difficult to read with the naked eye, or even under magnification some times, but if you have a certified stone you should be able to check the majority of settings for the hallmark. When we mount our diamond rings, wherever possible we ensure that the diamond inscription is placed between the claws where it can be read by an expert. It is worth noting, that the certificate which came with the stone will usually say whether the diamond has been engraved or not.
Ask an expert
It is a no-brainer, but sometimes people are actually reluctant to go in store and ask the question. I can test stones in front of my clients, it is not 100% accurate but if a diamond is a cause for concern, I can advise there and then. Lapidaries buy gemstones as well as selling them. So you could always visit a consumer store (some are trade only) and get a read. A good gemologist will be able to advise you immediately.
It is really important before you send your jewellery off anywhere for repairs or remodelling, to make sure you have a good read on the company taking it from you to work on. I am quite happy to put prospective clients in touch with my existing client base, and share my testimonials. Further, I am careful to ensure that I have been through a piece of jewellery with my client before taking it on, and highlighted any issues to them. As with so many of these cases, it really pays not to go ‘cheapest’. It is sad but true that any industry has unscrupulous operators in it, and as a portable store of wealth, diamonds can be vulnerable.
Here, good insurance can be priceless as well, as if you believe your stone has been swapped out, this is fraud, and an insurer will help you take steps to recover your piece, after all – they are paying the premium otherwise!
I’d finally say, that independent jewellery valuers and reputable retailers are really helpful – you can have a stone tested quite quickly and in a lot of cases with the latter, for free.