In a market driven by branding, product differentiation and personalisation, the opportunity to inscribe diamonds and other gemstones opens up many possibilities. In this latest series about the high tech equipment used at Assay Office Birmingham gemmologist CHERYL OWEN explains the versatility and popularity of the gem inscription technology
We have been offering the gemstone inscription service for several years. Initially some people seemed a bit wary of it as it was very new to the UK, but now our customers are really beginning to take advantage of all the benefits the equipment can offer.
Historically inscriptions were all about diamond report numbers. These were inscribed on the girdle of the stone to provide reassurance that the gemstone and the certificate went together. However, we are now supplying all sorts of personal messages and logos. The technology has improved over the years and has really widened our scope. Whereas inscription was restricted to diamonds initially, the newer equipment enables us to apply inscriptions to coloured stones too.
The current technology is provided by a gem inscription application using a laser. This means that the stone is not subjected to any direct heat, avoiding any risk of the stone being damaged or shattered during the inscription process. The depth of the inscription can be varied by the operator but is too shallow to affect clarity. The process was frowned upon by some to start with, and felt to devalue the stone, but the benefits of having a guaranteed matching stone and report have been recognised and the technique is widely accepted.
The inscription process is very user friendly but the quality of the final result will of course depend upon the operator. The stone is first assessed visually, to determine the most appropriate position for the inscription. The equipment is capable of inscribing stones from 5pt to 1000 carats so clearly there are decisions to be made with regard to the appropriate font size, style and the depth of the inscription.
The stone is positioned in front of the laser beam, held firm in a small jig which can also hold jewellery, enabling stones to be inscribed even after setting as long as sufficient appropriate area is accessible. The equipment focuses onto the area selected, providing the operator with a very clear image on the screen to enable them to position the inscription perfectly.
A long inscription will need to negotiate the curve of the girdle and this is cleverly mapped automatically for messages up to 18 characters long. For longer inscriptions the operator will need to re-position the stone and start afresh. Inscriptions can be applied to all types of gemstones; diamonds, tanzanites, emeralds, sapphire, rubies and even CZ’s amongst others.
Diamond inscriptions show up particularly well as the diamond carbonises, creating a black inscription which is relatively easy to read. Inscriptions on coloured stones need to be a bit deeper to be clearly legible. Numbers or messages are most often placed on the girdle of the stone. They can be any size but if less than 40 microns high will be illegible even with a 10x loupe although it is still possible to see that something is inscribed there.
The application of inscriptions is virtually unlimited. To begin with we were mainly asked for certificate numbers. Currently many of our AnchorCert Gem Lab customers like to have the report number added to the girdle after we have assessed their stone.
This adds reassurance that that particular stone has been independently examined by AnchorCert. However, beyond this we have used the laser for many different purposes. Secret, personal, romantic messages are popular with the bridal market. These could be names, dates, ‘I love you’, or any other one off message to really make an engagement ring special.
Others go a step further and we have previously inscribed an (unprintable) message right across the table of a diamond for a well known rock star as well as replicating drawings and signatures. We receive requests from retailers, manufacturers and private customers alike.
The software allows simple conversion of jpegs, an application commonly used by retailers or manufacturers wishing to ‘brand’ their diamonds or other gemstones. A discreet logo can be added to the girdle, differentiating the product and in some cases guaranteeing a minimum weight or quality if that is a feature of the brand.
Likewise straightforward confirmation of weight, clarity, colour and authenticity in the form of the letters ‘dia’ can be added. This trend is expected to grow. There is evidently an opportunity for those who are openly marketing synthetic or treated diamonds or gems under a brand name to brand all of their gemstones so there can be no question of the customer not knowing what they are buying.
Aside from consumer driven applications, gemstone inscription can be useful to the trade. Master stones can be clearly labelled as such, but this does not just apply to polished product. AnchorCert Gem Lab carried out a major exercise for DTC prior to their move to Botswana, inscribing their rough master stones with stock numbers to improve stock control and easy identification.
In summary the gemstone laser inscription equipment has enabled AnchorCert Gem Lab to bring a quick, inexpensive service to the industry which can add value to product, create product differentiation or provide unique identification and reassurance.
For more information on diamond and gemstone laser inscription
call 0871 423 7922
or contact us here.
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