Jeweller warns of 'fracture filled' diamonds


A DUBLIN jeweller has said that growing numbers of young Irish couples are discovering that the engagement rings they purchased abroad at what seemed like knock-down prices are in fact “fracture filled”.

Dublin-based jeweller Carol Clarke-Ng says she finds herself breaking the bad news on increasingly frequent occasions to unsuspecting customers who have brought rings into her shop to be valued.

“Over the last few years I noticed a lot of people were buying diamond rings abroad and saying they saw the same ring in Dublin for €50,000, while they bought it for €10,000,” she says.

However, Clarke-Ng, who offers an in-depth “valuation while you wait” service, claims that perhaps 25 per cent of the rings she values which are bought in places like New York and Dubai turn out on inspection to be “fracture filled”. She says some sellers prefer the more positive-sounding term “clarity enhanced”.

“Fracture filling” makes a diamond more attractive by disguising its inclusions with what Clarke-Ng describes as a “plasticy resin”.

The filler can reflect light almost as well as the surrounding stone so the fractures are less apparent. It is certainly not an illegal procedure. Reputable jewellers who carry a selection of filled diamonds will always disclose when a stone has been treated in this way and will provide information about special care requirements. With proper care “fracture filling” can last for years.

However, some Irish couples are saying they were either not informed about “fracture filling” or did not understand what “enhanced clarity” meant when they purchased diamonds abroad.

The fillers used to enhance the appearance of diamonds can sometimes be damaged by common jewellery repair procedures, according to Clarke-Ng.

She says unless jewellers educate themselves about the extent of “fracture filling” they could be leaving themselves open to possible lawsuits.

“It’s a warning to jewellers. These rings are only a new thing here in the last few years. They are going to be coming in for cleaning, repairs, getting a claw fixed and so on. If they don’t know anything about them there are going to be an awful lot of cases.”

She warns that repeated cleaning can harm the fillers, especially when the method involves steam, acid or ultrasonics. Heat from a jeweller’s torch could cause beads of melted filter to leak out of a diamond’s fracture.

Other potentially damaging conditions include the high temperatures created during recutting or repolishing, as well as the heat generated during retipping or repair.

Even prolonged exposure to sunlight may discolour fillers and make diamonds appear cloudy over time.

While some damage is reversible, Clarke-Ng advises against making such a purchase in the first place and urges potential purchasers to be vigilant.

“They are very, very bad buys,” she warns. “You could be washing your hands in hot water and the stuff could just seep out.”

Pointing to a large pile of receipts, Clarke-Ng says: “These are just the ones I know about. They were all being asked just to sign a receipt. It has in tiny writing ‘I understand this diamond has been fracture filled’.

“I’m doing the valuations in front of them; I see their reaction. They are very, very upset. It’s all engagement rings and youngish women. There are a few older people, but mainly younger people who have saved up to go away and maybe get engaged at Easter or Christmas.”