Debunking Myths: The Challenges of Determining Diamond Origins through Physical Characteristics

Top GIA Fellow Claims Science Cannot Determine Diamond Origin

Dr. James Shigley, a distinguished research fellow at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), stated that it is highly unlikely to identify a diamond’s origin based on its physical characteristics. He explained that diamonds lack distinctive visual features that would determine their provenance and the samples of stones often do not provide enough information. The only possible indication of a diamond’s origin is trace elements, which are difficult to analyze due to their low concentration and do not typically reveal where the stone came from.

According to Dr. Shigley, the chemical composition of diamonds reflects geological processes in the mantle and is not related to their current location on the earth’s surface. Studies conducted to determine a diamond’s origin have been limited in size and range of locations, making it challenging to confirm the source of a stone now or in the future. However, he mentioned that identifying the origin of a diamond by matching its polished form to the rough stone of known provenance is possible with a success rate of around 90%. This process is similar to a chain of custody, emphasizing that this method is more effective than studying a polished diamond alone.

During the GEMTalks LinkedIn Live session, Dr. Shigley also discussed the possibility of determining the origin of colored gemstones and lab-grown diamonds, which is considered more achievable goals as well as impacting lab-grown diamonds on gemology industry. He answered questions from the audience and provided insights into the complex world of gemology.

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