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What You Need to Know About Mermaid Blue Diamonds

August 17, 2018

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MERMAID BLUE DIAMONDS

First things first, blue diamonds are real. But. Since the supply is so limited and the demand has skyrocketed, most blue diamonds on the market have been color enhanced. If you’re still skeptical about the authenticity of these mermaid colored stones or simply want to know more about how they get to have such a wicked color, here are the answers to your burning blue diamond questions.

Here are the answers to your burning blue diamond questions.

Why?

Because fancy colored diamonds are both awesome and rare, turning an otherwise dull stone into a vivid blue diamond increases its value. Today’s technical advancements make it easy and affordable to enhance or even completely change color in diamonds, whereas prices for natural blue diamond are off the charts for folks like you and me. And even if you could afford to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars per carat for a blue diamond, you’d be hard-pressed to find one with today’s high demand.

What's the process of treating a diamond?

The traditional white (or technically colorless) diamonds that we’ve all seen in classic engagement rings and other diamond jewelry, are created from one of nature’s longer-term wizardry processes involving super-heated, highly pressurized carbon molecules close to the Earth’s core. Nature also makes green and blue colored diamonds by exposing them to radiation deep down under the Earth’s surface. This radiation changes the position of the atoms within a diamond’s crystal structure, which affects the color.

Scientists and diamond nerds have tried to copy this process from Nature for over a century. Color enhanced diamonds are real diamonds exposed to similar radiation but over a shorter period of a time in a lab. The radiation can enhance, change or brighten stones to all sorts of colors like pink, blue, green, yellow, red purple and orange. So color treated diamonds are not grown in a lab, just treated, like you might dye your hair pink or blue. It’s still real hair. 

The diamonds that are color treated are usually diamonds with undesirable colors, like pale yellows or browns, that are dramatically enhanced (so from a pale yellow to vivid yellow) or even changed completely to blue for example

Irradiation is the fancy word for exposing a stone to radiation.

There are four processes to change a diamond’s color through irradiation that are currently in use:

  • Cyclotron: In 1942, scientists at the University of Michigan put some diamonds in a cyclotron and bombarded them with heavy radiation of protons and deuterons to turn regular diamonds into vivid green stones. After a short quarantine period to get rid of any leftover radioactiveness, the world had its first artificially colored diamonds that were safe to wear. Cyclotroned diamonds take on a superficial blue-green or green color and are annealed to 800°C to turn them yellow or orange. This method is rare nowadays.
  • Gamma rays: This is the cheapest and safest method of irradiating diamonds, but also the longest. It can take months. Gamma ray bombardment of a diamond through exposure to cobalt-60 produces a blue to blue-green color that penetrates the entire stone.

Later, scientist refined the irradiation to a process that’s more common today, by bombarding diamonds with high-energy neutrons or electrons. These processes are safer and bring the most vivid color to the diamond.

  • Electrons: A bombardement of neutrons from a reactor are ‘fired’ at the diamond. It gives a deep color, as the beam penetrates the entire stone.
  • Neutron: The diamond is penetrated about 1 millimeter deep, while it’s exposed to tiny high-energy electrons.

Irradiated diamonds are not lab created, they're natural and real diamonds

Scientists and diamond nerds have tried to copy this process from Nature for over a century. Color enhanced diamonds are real diamonds exposed to similar radiation but over a shorter period of a time in a lab. The radiation can enhance, change or brighten stones to all sorts of colors like pink, blue, green, yellow, red purple and orange. So color treated diamonds are not grown in a lab, just treated, like you might dye your hair pink or blue. It’s still real hair. 

Diamonds are forever. Is a blue diamond also forever blue?

Irradiation is non-nuclear and leaves no kind of residual radiation behind. The color change is permanent, stable and irreversible under normal wear and tear. The color is not affected by chemicals, ultrasonic cleaners, steam cleaning or polishing. Only when exposed to extremely high temperatures - like the 500 to 900 degrees Celsius fire blowing out of a jeweler's torch - blue and green colored diamonds may fade or even turn yellow.

Under normal circumstances, your diamond wouldn’t come in touch with such high temperatures. So this is only relevant when you’re taking your ring in for its annual checkup like prong repairs, resizing, cleaning, or any other service. Please be sure to tell your jeweler that the diamond is irradiated diamond. Your jeweler will know to take the appropriate precautions. Natural colored diamonds on the other hand are unaffected by heat.

Because this process is permanent, the GIA will grade and certify irradiated diamonds and can also laser inscribe the diamond to notify any potential buyer that the diamond has been irradiated.

Are irradiated diamonds safe?

Out of all of the gemstone treatments currently on the market, irradiation is the one treatment that always raises questions. When the words “irradiation” are whispered, the first thing that springs to mind is, ‘is it safe’? The good news is: yes it is. 

The first thing that comes to mind is 'should I be afraid'?

All diamonds have been exposed to natural radiation over the millennia before man unearthed them, so technically all colored diamonds have been irradiated. And this exposure doesn't make them radioactive. Irradiation changes a diamond’s color and it's the only diamond treatment that exists in nature as well as in laboratory conditions.

Radiation is measured by millirem or Radiation Absorbance Dose. The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) did a comparison of a large 6 carat blue topaz stone (blue topaz is another gemstone that is commonly irradiated to obtain its blue color) against other common forms of exposure. Because an intercontinental flight or watching TV also exposes you to certain levels of radiation. 

  • Dose of wearing a blue topaz for one year = 0.03 millerem 
  • Wearing porcelain crown or false teeth for one year = 0.07 millerem
  • Chest X-ray = 60 millerem (2000x that of topaz)

Blue diamonds are safer to wear than a porcelain crown

How do you know?

After a purely experimental phase of changing diamond colors in the early 1940s, diamonds colored using irradiation flooded the market in the 1950s. As there was no simple test to distinguish hues created in nature from those changed in a lab, the market for colored diamonds crashed. Nowadays, a simple test using spectroscopes can tell natural from irradiated diamonds (each shows different spectra, or light absorption characteristics).

Colors

What colors can be produced by diamond irradiation? Blue, black, green and yellow are the most popular colors produced using the irradiation process. Orange, red and purple/pink colors are also possible, but more difficult to produce.

Additional treatments

The overall clarity or imperfections of irradiated diamonds won't change with irradiation, but tend to hide or disguise certain imperfections better than when they are colorless. Pretty much the same way a blue dress won’t look stained as easily as a virgin white dress. Irradiation may be followed by a high pressure, high temperature treatment to improve the stone’s clarity. 

 Advanced technology nowadays has enabled the jewelry industry to improve the visual appearance of lower grade diamonds by the process of laser drilling or fracture filling. This practice is referred to as "clarity enhanced". Laser drilling, and fracture filling treatments result in an unnatural product. These diamonds have been altered and are no longer considered "natural" diamonds.

Full disclosure

With regard to irradiated stones, your jeweler should tell you whether the gemstone you’re looking at has been treated, whether any special care is needed because of it and whether the treatment significantly affects the value of the gemstone. All irradiated diamonds should have a full disclosure and must be presented as being color enhanced. 

Most irradiated diamonds have a very particular coloring to them that can be easy to spot once you've seen enough of them. While the term “irradiated diamonds” will always be used on official trade documentation and diamond grading reports, the market will mostly use the terms "color enhanced" and "treated for color”.

Value

Will the value of the diamond change after enhancements? The value of a treated blue diamond is much lower (several 0’s less) when measured against a comparable untreated stone, just because it’s a lot faster to get this blue color in a lab than it is to wait for nature to perform one of its rare tricks. Of course diamonds wouldn’t be color enhanced if it didn’t make them more appealing and desirable, and thus sellable. However, they are priced lower than a naturally occuring colored diamond or a less included diamond. 

 Color enhanced blue diamonds are probably the only blue diamonds us common folks can afford. Yet, these diamonds shouldn't be considered an investment in the same way a natural blue diamond would. So buy the diamond because you love it, not because you think you can sell it for a profit later.

Buy the diamond because you love it, not as an investment

So to sum it up, irradiated diamonds are not lab created, they're natural and real diamonds. They have been treated using radioactivity, and are safer to wear than a porcelain crown. 

Now tell me in the comments below. How do you feel about blue diamonds? Would you wear one?

Love them hard? Design your own blue diamond ring here.


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