Category Archives: FAKE DIAMONDS

Now There Are Near-Perfect Copies of the Hope Diamond

Scientists created cubic zirconia replicas of the historic gem’s previous forms—the original brought from India and the famous “French Blue”

The Hope Diamond that famously resides at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. has long been known for its inimitable color—a deep, steely blue, shifting ever-so-slightly in the light. It’s a hue that replica makers have tried and failed to copy; curator Jeffrey Post says the color attempt is always “garishly awful,” an aquamarine blue or a sickly “Windex blue.”

The true color is a trick of the light, thanks in part to the gemstone’s unique blue color and cut. It hasn’t always looked this way, either. When Jean Baptiste Tavernier first sold the original 112-carat diamond from India to King Louis XIV in 1668, it was crudely cut and a lighter color. Tavernier called it “un beau violet” (a beautiful violet). It would become bluer and darker as the gem passed through different hands, both French and American, and was recut twice more.

For the first time, scientists have created near-perfect cubic zirconia replicas of the diamond in its previous forms: the original brought from India, King Louis XIV’s “French Blue” and the current version encased in a Cartier pendant. It’s a project that’s taken a decade to perfect, involving cross-Atlantic collaborations between the Smithsonian, the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris and the gem-cutter John Hatleberg.

“We’ve been able to use a modern technology to bring back from history a diamond that no one has seen since 1792,” said Post at an October press conference. “We are actually putting ourselves back in the eyes of King Louis XIV and seeing what he saw.”

When the famous blue diamond first joined Louis XIV’s crown jewels in 1668, it was a lot bigger and flatter than it was today. It was cut in the Mughal style, with a large, flat base and top to match. Because there weren’t as many facets—the small flat faces on a crystal surface—to reflect light internally, it was a much lighter blue. “It’s like looking through a window,” Post said, holding the replica up to a lamp.

 
A computer simulation of how the Hope Diamond likely appeared when it was owned by King Louis XIV of France. (Image by François Farges)

The gem became much darker and smaller once the court jeweler got his hands on it. It was cut with more facits and shrunk to 69 carats. It was then that it became known as the “French Blue,” said François Farges of the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, and it perfectly matched Louis XIV’s sensibility.

“Think of the garden at the Castle of Versailles with the straight lines, perfectly well-arranged symmetry, good angles,” Farges said. “It is the same inspiration you have in the French Blue.”

It was cut precisely but unusually, with a small eye in the middle that let light pass clear through. This was done intentionally, as Farges and Post proposed in a 2014 paper. According to the crown jewels inventory, the diamond was set into gold and mounted on a stick. Farges found that, when placed in a gold setting via a computer model, the center of the diamond would look like a golden sun—the symbol of Louis XIV, “the sun king.” It’s even more impressive, Farges said, if you consider that the blue of the diamond and the gold of the sun represented the French monarchy.

Now, Post could hold up a replica of the French Blue placed in a facsimile of its gold setting and show the faint golden sun-like shape in the middle. Farges said that historical records suggest Louis XIV would have pulled the jewel from a gold chest and proudly displayed the stick for important visitors; it was meant to be observed, not worn.

“The big message was that France was so rich that they could use all those diamonds at any time to build a huge army in case the country would be invaded,” Farges said. “It was really a political instrument just to serve the glory of the king against the foreign kingdoms.”

All of these details about the diamond’s journey, color, faceting and use wouldn’t have been discovered without historical records like Tavierner’s drawings in his journal and those Farges has studied at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle.

Farges said he stumbled upon one of the most important records about the diamond by accident. He was looking through the drawers of diamonds in the national gem collection and found a lead cast. He was puzzled by its shape, which didn’t resemble any type of diamond he had seen before, so he spent the night doing research. To his surprise, he found that it was the lead cast for the French Blue.

“I came to the conclusion that it was the only replica, the only historical replica known to date of a French blue diamond, that we thought was completely lost. It’s not totally lost,” Farges said. “For the first time, we had the model in 3D that was perfectly accurate, with all of the facetings.”

Before creating the older versions of the diamond, Hatleberg set out to make a replica of the current version of the Hope. Almost 30 years ago, Post took the Hope out of its pendant setting and gave it to Hatleberg so he could make a silicone mold and then a resin epoxy cast. From there, he cut cubic zirconia to match the cast, and then brought several of the copies to a company in Minnesota to add the coloring.

To replicate the color, the company used a method called precious metal nanodot vapor deposition. They take a colorless stone and thinly coat it with metal atoms, making tiny adjustments to ever-so-slightly tweak the color. This technology wasn’t available even five years ago, Hatleberg said.

Hatleberg would then come to Post and Farges with copies coated with different colors. “We’d go, ‘A little too dark, too light, too green, too blue, too purple,’” Post said. “And after literally years of doing that, dozens of trips back and forth, we finally ended up with a stone that all of us here, all of us who know the Hope Diamond, looked at and said, ‘We can’t tell the difference.’”

The replica might look exactly the same as the original Hope Diamond, but aspiring jewel thieves or counterfeiters, beware; there’s no way that you could slip a fake past an expert. Under an ultraviolet light in a dark room, the Hope Diamond phosphoresces, Post says, glowing orange for about a minute or so. He can use a spectrometer to measure the light spectrum, which differs from diamond to diamond like a fingerprint, he says.

It’s unclear when visitors will be able to look at the replicas in real life, but Post says he hopes the stones will be on display at the Natural History Museum within the next year or two. There will also be a set of replicas that travel around the country out on loan, and a set for the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle.

In the meantime, Post said, he hopes to study the Hope’s history even further with Hatleberg and Farges. “It’s such an interesting diamond, both scientifically and historically,” Post said. “We know we’re going to keep learning from it. We’ve only begun to learn all of its secrets.”

Henry Sapiecha

5 Quick easy tests in spotting a Fake Diamond

Tell if a Diamond is Real Step 1.jpg

One of the most common questions that gemologists are asked is how to tell the difference between a real diamond and a fake stone.

We spoke with Reyne Hirsch, a 20th century decorative arts expert and consultant for the global online marketplace Lofty, about how to tell when a diamond is real, and when and why to take it to an expert.

Test At Home
“We see a lot of estate jewelry that comes up in our line of business,” Hirsch explained to Business Insider. “People who are selling their parents’ estate assume the money is in the house itself — but sometimes the things inside the home have a lot more value than they think.”

For jewelry you inherit or find at garage sales, it’s best to do a few simple DIY tests before bringing the pieces in for a gemologist to look at.

1. Look at the diamond and setting through a loupe.

Diamonds through a loupe

A loupe is a magnifying glass that you can buy at any jewelry store and will let you take a closer look at your gem and setting.

“When you’re looking at a diamond, there are a few things you’ll notice,” Hirsch told us. “First, the majority of diamonds are made in nature so that means you’re going to see some imperfections in the carbon. A fake stone would be perfect — absolutely perfect.”

Hirsch cautions that certain lab-grown stones will also look perfect through the loupe, and so you should be cautious before discarding perfect gems. It can be a clue, however, to take a closer look or bring the stone to an expert.

Second, observe the diamond’s edges. “When you’re taking a look at a diamond through a loupe, a real stone is going to have sharp edges, and a fake stone will have rounded edges,” Hirsch explained.

Lastly, look at the mounting and etchings, especially any marks that signify what metal was used. “If the metal is gold plated or silver, chances are it’s not a diamond because why would you put a nice stone mounted in such a cheap metal?” Hirsch said. “Most diamonds are mounted in gold or set in platinum.”

“Also take a look at the mounting itself and how that diamond is set,” she added. “If the setting looks like it’s of poor quality, that probably means it’s not going to be a real diamond either.”

2. Rub sandpaper against the stone.

Uncut diamond

This is an easy test since diamonds are one of the world’s hardest materials and won’t be scratched by the rough surface. “If it’s a diamond, it will remain perfect, if it’s a cubic zirconium, it will scratch it up,” Hirsch said.

3. Do the fog test.

The right one is a 0.41 carat synthetic lab grown diamond and the left one is a slightly larger natural diamond, both visually indistinguishable from each other.

Breathe hot air on your diamond the same way you would if you were fogging up a bathroom mirror.

“A fake diamond will fog up for a short period of time whereas a real diamond will not because it won’t retain the heat,” Hirsch explained.

4. Hold it in the light to see how it sparkles.

Diamond reflecting in the light sparkly

The way that diamonds reflect light is unique: Inside the stone, the diamond will sparkle grey and white (known as “brilliance”) while outside of the gem, it will reflect rainbow colours onto other surfaces (this dispersed light is known as “fire”).

A fake diamond will have rainbow colours that you can see inside the diamond.

“People have a misconception that diamonds sparkle like a rainbow, but they don’t,” Hirsch said. “They do sparkle, but it’s more of a grey colour. If you see something with rainbow colours [inside the stone], it could be a sign that it’s not a diamond.”

Still confused? This is a good explainer of brilliance versus fire.

5. Look at the stone’s refractivity.

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Diamonds are so sparkly because of the way they refract and bend light. Glass, quartz, and cubic zirconium may mimic a diamond’s brilliance, but they have much lower refractive indexes.

This means that if your stone isn’t in a setting, you can place it over a newspaper and the light will scatter inside the real diamond and prevent a black reflection. A fake diamond will let the black shine through, and you may even be able to read a word depending on the size of the fake stone.

If your diamond is mounted, make sure you can’t see through it to the mount itself — that’s a very bad sign.

Test With A Gemologist
Once you’ve done all your home tests, it’s time to take your jewels that could be diamonds to a gemologist.

“You don’t want to take a box full of jewelry because it will cost you money for them to look,” Hirsch explained. “I would be flat out frank and say you’re not interested in selling, but just ask if they’re worth you paying attention to or if it’s fine to let the kid’s play with them.”

Diamond through a loupe

But don’t just take your diamonds to any old jeweler. It’s important to do your research and find a qualified gemologist.

“At mall stores, they tend to have sales people — not gemologists,” Hirsch said. “They just know what sells in their stores and what appeals to the masses. Look beyond the average jewelry store and go to a local antique stores or ask your local antique jewelry store who is a reputable gemologist in town who knows about diamonds.”

Even if you know the jewelry you have contains diamonds, it can pay off to take them to a gemologist to know how much they’re actually worth.

“Say you have five, 1-carat diamonds on the table — the cut, colour, and clarity will be a huge factor in why one is worth $US800 and one is worth $US10,000,” she said.

What it could be instead of a diamond:
White topaz — Topaz is a mineral that is usually tinted yellow, red, brown, or pale grey, but can sometimes be white or appear colorless. Diamonds are much harder than topaz, however, which can wear down and scratch over time making it dull or cloudy.

White sapphire — We usually think of sapphires as being blue, but this gem can also be white. Just like topaz, sapphires are prone to more damage than diamonds and do not have the same fire and brilliance of a true diamond.

Cubic zirconium — Mass-produced since 1976, cubic zirconium scratches easily and does not have the same fire and shine as diamonds.

Moissanite — Moissanite is harder than cubic zirconium and these stones are visually dazzling. The main difference is that moissanites have a different brilliance than a diamond where you can see rainbow colours within the stone, giving it a disco ball effect.

Lab grown — Lab-grown diamonds are technically “real” diamonds both chemically and physical, but they will not fetch for the same price as a mined diamond. Hirsch says they usually sell for about 20% to 30% less than a traditional diamond.

So the next time you run across something you think is just cheap costume jewelry, it’s important to test it — just in case.

SUPPLIED BY BUSINESS INSIDER AUSTRALIA

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Henry Sapiecha