Shopping for a diamond is never easy, especially with so many diamond alternatives flooding the market. Despite options like moissanite, morganite, and clear sapphire, though, many shoppers will settle for nothing less than the real thing. So what is an enhanced diamond? And do these gems really count as real diamonds?
What Is an Enhanced Diamond?
To start, enhanced diamonds are 100 percent natural, earth-mined diamonds. The difference between an enhanced diamond and a "normal" diamond comes after the gemstone actually leaves the ground.
To answer, "What is an enhanced diamond?" you first need to know a bit about what makes a diamond valuable.
Generally, the more perfect a diamond, the more desirable it is. But since diamonds are a product of nature, small imperfections, called inclusions, are quite common. The fewer inclusions a diamond has, the higher its clarity rating and commercial value.
Although most inclusions are invisible to the naked eye, they can affect a diamond's overall sparkle and color.
All jewelry-grade diamonds go through a careful cutting process to get the most clarity out of each stone. However, enhanced diamonds take this process one step further.
With the use of specialized techniques, gemologists can actually erase inclusions within a given diamond. By doing so, a low-clarity diamond can become one of a much higher value.
Consumer Opinions of Enhanced Diamonds
What is an enhanced diamond worth to the average consumer? Well, that depends on who you ask.
Consumers love rare and exclusive products, especially in the jewelry world. For this reason, some people snub enhanced diamonds, seeing them as not "real" diamonds.
Others critique enhanced diamonds, not for their enhancements but because they see them as a way for jewelry retailers to make more money off of substandard gemstones.
Whichever side of this debate you stand on, it's hard to deny that enhanced diamonds are still natural diamonds. And that they offer a chance for many jewelry buyers to buy a natural diamond without blowing their budget.
On the other hand, enhanced diamonds still pose the same issues as non-enhanced natural diamonds. When it comes to mining these lower quality diamonds, there's still just as much risk of unethical labor usage and environmentally damaging practices.
Diamond Enhancement Techniques to Know
Even if you're skeptical about enhanced diamonds and their place in the jewelry industry, the technology behind this process is still quite fascinating.
If you want to know more about how we transform low-quality diamonds into stunning gemstones, here are some of the most popular techniques currently being used in the industry:
The distinction between what is an enhanced diamond and what is not can mean a lot for the value of a particular gemstone. As a result, some gemologists and jewelers draw a line between deep boiling and other enhancement techniques.
In reality, all jewelry-grade diamonds go through some form of boiling. This process lifts away dirt and other debris from the diamond's exterior.
However, deep boiling takes this process one step further. In deep boiling, the goal is to reach internal inclusions through tiny cracks in the diamond, removing them entirely.
Of course, the success of this process largely depends on how the internal inclusions sit within each diamond's structure.
In many cases, though, inclusions can't be reached through an existing crack in the diamond. But there are still ways to access and remove these unwanted inclusions.
Using a laser, gemologists can drill through a diamond to access debris particles inside. Since these drill holes are so small, they don't affect the diamond's appearance, at least to the naked eye.
There are two main types of laser drilling — tunnel drilling and plane drilling:
Tunnel drilling is currently the most common form of laser drilling. As the name implies, this process involves using a laser to drill into a diamond and remove an inclusion.
Often, after drilling the necessary tunnel, the diamond is returned to a deep boiling bath to remove the black inclusion.
Plane drilling also uses a laser to access unwanted inclusions inside a diamond. However, instead of a tunnel, this method creates a tiny, flat plane.
Diamonds treated with this enhancement technique tend to offer a slightly more natural look than tunnel drilling provides.
Again, though, these drill marks are practically invisible (if not entirely invisible) to the naked eye. Only a skilled jeweler will have the tools and expertise needed to identify these marks.
One other benefit of plane drilling, at least when compared to tunnel drilling, is that these marks are easier to fill.
After the jeweler removes the inclusion — whether through deep boiling alone or with some form of laser drilling — the crack or hole can be filled. This enhancement isn't always necessary, especially with laser drilled diamonds, but it can improve the diamond's appearance.
However, this process is especially useful for feather inclusions. Unlike inclusions caused by debris, feather inclusions are naturally occurring, empty spaces inside the diamond.
Whatever the cause, fracture filling can repair visible cracks or scratches inside a diamond, improving the clarity and overall appearance.
"What Is an Enhanced Diamond?" Q&A
Here are some other popular questions related to "What is an enhanced diamond?":
What is a GIA-certified diamond?
The GIA, or the Gemological Institute of America, inspects and certifies jewelry-grade diamonds for quality, clarity, color, and weight. These certifications play a significant role in protecting diamond buyers by verifying seller claims.
GIA certifications stay with a diamond throughout its lifetime so that owners can provide proof of their diamonds' value even after purchase. This is especially important if you plan to resell a diamond in the future.
The GIA certifies some, but not all, enhanced diamonds.
Since almost all diamonds go through deep boiling, this process does not exclude diamonds from GIA certification. Laser drilled diamonds are also eligible for GIA certification since this enhancement is permanent. However, each diamond certificate will clearly list these enhancements.
On the other hand, fracture filled diamonds are not eligible for GIA certification.
Is it possible to differentiate between enhanced and natural diamonds?
In the case of GIA-certified diamonds, all it takes is a glance at the certificate to know if any enhancements are present. But what if a diamond is not GIA-certified? Or, the certificate is not available?
The best way to differentiate an enhanced diamond from an entirely natural diamond is to consult a trusted jeweler. Your chosen jeweler will have both the tools and knowledge needed to identify an enhanced diamond.
But there are a couple of tell-tale signs you can look for on your own:
First, fracture filled diamonds can look perfect from the top. If you look at one of these diamonds from the side, though, you might see the filled area catch the light. Depending on the size, you might need a magnifying glass to see this flash of color.
You can also identify fracture-filled diamonds by the presence of tiny air bubbles in the diamond. However, high-quality fracture filling won't result in these bubbles.
Laser drilling isn't as easy to spot, at least with the naked eye. But if you have access to a jeweler's magnifier, you might be able to see the drilled tunnels when looking at an enhanced diamond from the side.
Are enhanced diamonds better than lab-created diamonds?
The jewelry industry is always looking for new ways to offer affordable, high-quality diamonds to consumers. Enhanced diamonds are one example of this endeavor, but certainly not the only one.
By placing carbon under intense heat and pressure, scientists can actually create 100 percent real diamonds in a lab.
Of course, just like with enhanced diamonds, there's an industry stigma surrounding lab-grown diamonds. But with the popularity of other lab-created gemstones, like moissanite, manmade diamonds are becoming more commercially acceptable.
In recent years, you can even find mainstream jewelers advertising lab-created diamonds as an alternative to earth-mined stones.
So, what is an enhanced diamond like when compared to a lab-created diamond?
In reality, lab-created diamonds offer fewer inclusions and, therefore, a more perfect diamond. Plus, they're (usually) less expensive.
However, many consumers still place value on earth-mined gemstones, even when the chemical makeup is identical between natural and manmade diamonds. For this reason, many people still opt for enhanced diamonds over lab-grown ones.
Are Enhanced Diamonds Worth the Investment?
Gemstones, especially diamonds, are extremely sentimental and valuable to the wearer. For this reason, it's no surprise that enhanced diamonds are shrouded in controversy.
However, for customers looking for an affordable, high-quality diamond, enhanced diamonds pan out as one of the best options out there.
With that said, enhanced diamonds don't offer a solution to many of the diamond industry's most pressing issues. But as earth-mined stones, you may still have concerns like forced labor and mining pollution.
Also, some enhancements exclude enhanced diamonds from GIA certification. You might not care about this at the time of purchase. But if you ever try to resell your diamond, you'll be out of luck.
So, what is an enhanced diamond worth? Ultimately, it's up to you to decide — feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.