The search for the perfect diamonds or the perfect diamond ring can be a very elusive search, especially if you don’t understand diamonds, what to look for, and the fact that there are different types of diamonds.
Beyond the brilliant/ clear diamonds, the colored diamonds, and the lab-created diamonds, there is another class of diamonds, the enhanced natural diamonds. Ever heard about this class of diamonds before? No?
Don’t worry. This article shares important insights into everything you need to know about enhanced natural diamonds.
What is an enhanced natural diamond?
Sold at half the price of other diamonds and boasting a characteristic bright white design and also regarded as the most eye-clean of diamonds, the enhanced natural diamond is easily what sounds like a dream come true to anyone looking for the perfect diamond affordably.
And if you are on the hunt for the perfect diamond, you may have come across diamonds with “enhanced” attached to their names or descriptions.
An enhanced diamond can be defined as a class of lower-quality, heavily included, and low-quality diamonds which have been chemically color treated for enhancement of their color and clarity. They are cheaper than the mined diamonds, for obvious reasons. Interestingly, the reasons behind the creation of the enhanced diamonds have to do with the human desire to increase their profit margins in whichever way, even selling slow-moving, low-quality diamonds at half the selling price of the mined diamonds.
1.Clarity Enhanced Diamonds
Clarity enhancement for diamonds is a lot like doing plastic surgery on diamonds, and it’s often done to I2/I3 diamonds with inclusions, blemishes, and unsightly flaws.
This is an important factor to keep in mind when it comes to the enhanced natural diamonds because inclusions are the worst enemy to diamonds.
Inclusions affect the integrity, transparency, and even the structure of the diamonds. And a gemstone’s beauty is measured by the presence of imperfections; the beauty of a diamond lies in the complete absence of imperfections. With this in mind, some jewelers enhance the appearance of diamonds’ clarity by getting rid of the inclusions, hence the creation of the enhanced diamonds.
For clarity enhancement, jewelers employ one of two methods – laser drilling and fracture filling.
Method 1 – Fracture Filling
To enhance the clarity of diamonds using fracture filling, the jewelers inject the inclusion-filled diamonds with a glass-like resin. This resin flows into the gaps in the diamond, filling them up while sealing any small cracks present in the rock. As a result, the inclusions or fractures in the diamonds become invisible; anyone looking at them without a microscope.
Because fracture filling results in the disappearance of the cracks and the feathers in the diamonds, almost magically, it’s used by most jewelers. Keep in mind; however, that fracture filling leaves you with a diamond that is part plastic and part natural.
But not all of the fracture-filled diamonds come to be in the same way, and though fracture filling is meant to remove or mask imperfections, there are things that would make these imperfections more apparent. In some cases, the filling may result in the appearance of some glassy plastic steam filled with air bubbles emanating from the stone’s interior. And when diamonds with shallow fractures are filled, there is always a high likelihood that the fillings will show up as white scratches/ cracks, with a web-like appearance.
Method 2 – Laser Drilling
The other way of enhancing the clarity of highly included diamonds is through laser drilling. With laser drilling, jewelers either apply heat or treat specific chemicals into the inclusion-filled diamonds, resulting in diamonds whose flaws are not very visible.
Laser drilling results in the formation of very thin lines (white lines) or tunnels that follow a different pattern other than that seen in natural growing diamonds. For the best-enhanced effects, the laser-drilled diamonds will also go through fracture filling.
Laser drilling is also often used because it bleaches the black and/or the colored inclusions, turning that mottled diamond eye clean, white, and apparently, inclusion-free. After the tiny tunnel has been drilled, a strong acidic chemical, often a mixture of sulphuric acid and concentrated hydrofluoric acid, may be poured into the inclusion to dissolve and to bleach out the inclusions. As long as the drilling is done right, there will be no damage to the diamond.
2.Color Enhanced Diamonds
Enhanced diamonds also come about as a result of color changes/ enhancement, which takes place through a chemical process called HPHT or High-Pressure High Temperature. HPHT is used for color enhancement in darker diamonds because this process recreates the specific natural processes through which diamonds are formed in the earth’s crust, a natural process that could whiten or colorize diamonds. The process mimicry is also the reason why HPHT is used to create lab-grown diamonds.
HPHT applied to natural diamonds will be detected through GIA notes because the diamonds are Artificially Irradiated or HPHT-annealed. For differentiation, the GIA insists that these diamonds must be laser-inscribed with the specific designations noted here.
Are enhanced diamonds real?
Yes, the enhanced diamonds are real diamonds.
What you need to know is that, as mentioned above, the enhanced diamonds are natural diamonds that have been treated – they are not synthetic. The enhancement allows for the creation of the perfect diamond from an imperfect one, often one filled with inclusions.
How long do clarity-enhanced diamonds last?
While there is no specific timeline showing how long the clarity-enhanced diamond will last, you need to keep in mind that the laser drilling or fracture filling are impermanent, and the results attained may deteriorate rather fast as the filling resin deteriorates.
And if the diamond is worn often, ultrasonically cleaned, or not stored the right way, it will lose its shine in a period comparably shorter than how long it would take for a natural diamond to require cleaning.
Pros and cons of enhanced natural diamond
The main advantage of buying an enhanced diamond is that you will save money, albeit in the short term. This is because you end up buying a diamond of a bigger carat weight for less, and the quality is definitely better than that of a heavily-included natural diamond, especially if the diamond’s enhancement is done carefully.
The enhanced diamond costs between 30 and 50% of the cost of a natural stone of the same quality specifications and carat weight.
- Appearance (Initial)
There is also the fact that the enhanced diamond is eye-clean and colorless, two features that make the most expensive diamonds.
Cons of enhanced natural diamonds
Although the enhanced natural diamonds offer significant savings, they come with too many undesirables.
- Cleaning complexity
The first issue with the enhanced diamonds is that cleaning them is a complicated and uphill task. Since many of the home jewelry cleaners are made using ammonia, and ammonia is toxic to the enhanced diamonds, it might not be easy to find a safe and effective cleaning solution for the enhanced diamond.
On top of that, there is the fact that taking the diamond to the jewelry cleaners isn’t a good option either. Whether they use steam or an ultrasonic cleaner, the heat and the steam would dissolve and cause the fillers to leak from the stone. This aggressive cleaning could also expand the stone, widening the original inclusions and fractures, which would mean that the diamond loses its clarity.
According to the GIA, ultrasonic cleaning of the enhanced diamonds causes direct damage to the filler used, hence a negative influence on the diamond’s clarity.
- Repair Issues
Once treated, the enhanced diamond is not 100% stable, and it will be too fragile to be repaired. And if it must be repaired, the heat applied to the stone during the repair will make the diamond more malleable, eventually resulting in the loss of the filling or the appearance of new inclusions, leaving you with a more cloudy diamond. In extreme cases and depending on the filler used, the diamond might have gas bubbles.
- Weakened Structural Integrity
The other thing that makes enhanced natural diamonds not the best idea or option for you is the fact that laser drilling results in the creation of multiple tunnels that will slowly weaken the structural integrity of the diamond, resulting in issues with durability.
- Faster Degradation and Discoloration
Fracture filling, though not permanent, often results in the quick deterioration of the quality and the appearance of the diamonds, and that diamond may turn hazy or cloudy in a few months.
- Visible Filler
Despite the intention to create a perfect natural diamond, there are cases where the enhancement processes leave the diamond looking worse; for example, the filler may be visible if the filling is too close to the surface.
Can you buy an enhanced natural diamond?
Yes, you could buy the enhanced natural diamond; but you shouldn’t.
For starters, the gains are short-term. The other issues with these diamonds include the fact that the GIA and other leading gemological institutions do not give grading reports for enhanced diamonds, and you are really not buying a genuine piece.
These diamonds are also harder to maintain, and they depreciate too fast because the filler could be eroded too soon or the size of the inclusions increased, hence a cloudy appearance.
The clarity or the color-enhanced natural diamonds are cheaper, and they look picture-perfect, but the treatments used to enhance the color or clarity of the diamonds are temporary, making the enhanced natural diamonds, not the best idea. This is also the reason why the GIA, along with all other certification organizations, do not grade the enhanced natural diamonds.
That said, we wouldn’t encourage you to buy the enhanced natural diamonds. The lab-grown diamonds are a better alternative as they are optically, atomically, chemically, and physically similar to the mined diamonds, and they are sold for half the price.