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How to Tell if a Diamond is Real

diamond, diamond jewelry, diamond rings, diamond test, diamonds
How to Tell if a Diamond is Real

Diamonds have long been coveted for their captivating brilliance, robust hardness and timeless elegance. But with so many imitations, it's important to ensure that you're investing in an authentic diamond gemstone. Whether you've inherited a stone or are shopping for that perfect diamond ring, learning how to tell if a diamond ring is real can save you time, money and regret.

Understanding the Authenticity of Diamonds

Why is it important to discern real diamonds from fakes? Other than the substantial price difference, real diamonds carry an undeniable aura of quality and beauty. Diamonds are among nature's most magnificent creations, formed over billions of years under intense heat and pressure deep within the earth. Their sparkle and durability are unmatched, making them valuable symbols of love, commitment and, to many, prestige.

Several tests can help you determine if a gem is real, but it's equally helpful to understand the distinct characteristics of a genuine diamond. Familiarizing yourself with these traits will help you appreciate the diamond's beauty while allowing you to better identify real diamonds from counterfeits.

Characteristics of a Real Diamond

When learning how to tell if a diamond ring or individual gemstone is real, it's important to consider the sparkle test along with other defining attributes of a genuine stone. These include brilliance and sparkle, hardness, a high refractive index and superior thermal conductivity.

Real diamonds are famous for their exceptional brilliance and 'fire,' which refers to their striking ability to split white light into spectral colors. Thanks to the high refractive index, diamonds bend light more efficiently than any other gemstone, resulting in their iconic diamond sparkle.

Diamonds are also the hardest known substance on earth, rating a 10 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. This makes them highly resistant to scratching and chipping, which is why they are frequently subjected to a test known as the scratch test.

loose diamonds getting tested if they are real


Physical Properties of a Real Diamond

To better identify authentic diamond gemstones, it also helps to understand their physical properties. This refers to their actual crystal structure, molecular composition, color, clarity, carat weight and cut quality — all of which contribute to the gem’s brilliance and overall quality.

Diamonds have a unique crystal structure, and their molecular composition is pure carbon atoms arranged in a specific lattice. This molecular arrangement is responsible for the diamond's hardness and its high thermal conductivity, allowing it to disperse heat rapidly.

When examining color and clarity, remember that a flawless diamond is extremely rare. Most diamonds have inclusions, which are tiny imperfections inside the stone. They may also have varying degrees of blemishes or flaws on their outer surface.

If you notice obvious flaws, it doesn’t mean the diamond is fake. It just means the diamond may not be high quality.

Carat weight measures a diamond's size, and cut refers to how well the diamond has been shaped and faceted from its rough state. A well-cut diamond will maximize light return, resulting in eye-catching brilliance and fire.

Differences Between a Real Diamond and a Fake One

Now that we’ve talked about real diamonds, let’s explore the world of manmade diamonds and diamond simulants. Man Made diamonds, or lab-grown diamonds as they are more commonly known, are identical to natural diamonds in chemical, physical, and optical properties. The primary difference is that they are created in labs over weeks or months rather than formed naturally over billions of years. Therefore, they are considered 'real' diamonds, albeit manmade.

On the other hand, diamond simulants like cubic zirconia and moissanite look similar to diamonds but have different chemical and physical properties. They're often used in cheaper jewelry or as placeholders in engagement ring settings.

You may be able to identify some fake diamonds with simple at-home tests or by looking for specific indicators such as lack of brilliance, too-perfect clarity or unnatural color.

Specific Tests to Determine if a Diamond is Real

There are several ways to test a diamond's authenticity at home. These include:

The fog test: This involves blowing hot air onto the diamond to see if it fogs up. A real diamond will clear up quickly due to its high thermal conductivity.

The water test: Since real diamonds are denser than most gemstones, they will sink when dropped into a glass of water. Fake diamonds do not have as high of density and are more likely to float.

The heat test: This test involves heating the diamond with a lighter for about 40 seconds, then dropping it into cold water. A real diamond, due to its strong molecular bonds, will not react, while many fake diamonds will crack or shatter.

With all that said, a diamond tester is the best way to get accurate results. This handheld device measures the heat conductivity of the stone. Real diamonds, being excellent heat conductors, will show a different result than most diamond simulants.

Bear in mind, however, that these tests are not foolproof and cannot distinguish natural diamonds from lab-created ones. For this, a more advanced analysis is required.

Inspecting a Diamond Using a Magnifying Glass

One way to distinguish natural diamonds from synthetic stones involves using a magnifying glass to study the diamond's clarity characteristics. This usually requires a jeweler's loupe or magnifying glass of at least 10x magnification. With these instruments, you can examine the diamond for inclusions and blemishes. Natural diamonds usually contain minor imperfections, while many diamond simulants are often flawless.

Steps to Perform a Black Light Test on a Diamond

The principle of fluorescence can also help determine a diamond's authenticity. Under UV light, some diamonds emit a bluish glow; although not all real diamonds show this trait.

To prepare for this test, you'll need a black light and a dark room. Hold the diamond under the light and watch for reactions. If it reveals a bluish fluorescence, it is more likely to be a real diamond.

Identifying a Lab-Grown Diamond

As mentioned, lab diamonds are virtually identical to natural diamonds except for their origin. The only real difference is that lab-created diamonds contain microscopic inscriptions indicating their lab-grown nature, but these require special magnification equipment to see. 

There are highly specific instruments that can tell a lab diamond from a natural diamond. With that said, it’s important to remember that lab diamonds are real diamond gemstones that are chemically, optically and physically the same as natural diamonds.

Professional Appraisal by a Jeweler to Determine Authenticity

While home tests are helpful, nothing beats the expertise of a professional jeweler or gemologist. They have advanced equipment and experienced eyes to discern natural diamonds from synthetic ones and simulants. 

During a diamond appraisal, the expert will inspect your diamond using various instruments, scrutinizing its cut, color, clarity and carat weight. They may also use advanced gemological microscopy or spectrometry to further analyze the diamond.

The Bottom Line

Determining a diamond's authenticity involves understanding its characteristics, recognizing its physical properties and performing tests. However, remember that these methods can sometimes yield inconclusive results. When in doubt, seek professional assistance from an expert, and always buy your diamond jewelry from reputable local sources, such as John Atencio, who only uses top-quality, ethically sourced natural and lab-grown diamonds in his artfully designed pieces.

Nothing surpasses the joy and confidence of wearing or gifting an authentic diamond. If you're considering a new piece of diamond jewelry, John Atencio is the only name you need to know. 

Explore our lab diamond search or natural diamond search. You can also make an appointment at one of our stores, where our attentive consultants will provide a personalized approach to help you find the perfect diamond and fine jewelry.