For those lucky enough to have diamonds to worry about, there's a new procedure called Gemprinting, which can help you worry a little less.
Gemprinting is a way to "fingerprint" a diamond. Though a laser-photographic process, a Gemprint machine takes a photograph of the light pattern unique to each stone. Now Gemprinting is not going to stop anyone from making off with your valuables. The best way to prevent theft, experts say, is to take off that ring, necklace or tiara and lock it in a safe deposit box.
But if you and your stone are parted, a Gemprint will insure its positive identification -- which has not always been easy to do -- if the diamond is recovered.
The process was developed during research in laser technology at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. The Gemprint Company, headquartered in Chicago, was founded in 1975. About 400 of its $3,000 Gemprint machines are in operation in the United States, and 100,000 photographic prints of diamonds have been registered with the company. The process takes about a minute.
If you choose to Gemprint a diamond, its Gemprint photo -- which looks like a constellation of stars -- will be in intimidating company. Clarence Kelley, former FBI director and board-member of Gemprint, recently supervised the "fingerprinting" of the Smithsonian's Hope Diamond. Gemprint performed the service gratis on the world famous gem. But if you wish to get your less finger-crushing engagement ring Gemprinted, it will cost about $20.
"We do it for several reasons," says Irwin Gross, general manager of Creative Goldsmiths at the White Flint Mall, which provides Gemprinting. "One is that we do a lot of custom-order work, and people are sometimes concerned that if they leave a stone for remounting, they might not be getting the same stone back. The Gemprinting also protects the jeweler against that sort of change."
Gross also points out that many insurance companies offer discounts on insurance premiums for diamonds that have been Gemprinted.
While the Gemprinting process can be performed on other clear precious stones, the company says it was really designed for the particular refracting qualities of a diamond. Fake diamonds can be identified, however, by the characteristic pattern of dots they produce. An Gemprint officials assure a diamond's print will remain constant unless the most radical of surgery is done to a stone.
"Contrary to popular opinion, diamonds can't be cut like dresses," says a company spokesman. "And most recutting means a tremendous reduction in value of the stone, so it's usually not done on stolen diamonds."
While Gemprinting offers a new edge of security, gem dealers advise not to forget standard precautions.
In addition to insuring a diamond, which many people can do by adding a rider to their homeowner's policy, jewelers also suggest making sure your insurance appraisal is up-to-date."Diamond values have gone up 300 percent in the past five years," Gross points out.
Bill Norris, a gemologist with Bailey Banks & Biddle, says that in his experience more diamonds are lost than stolen. His advice is to have the prongs on the diamond's mounting checked every six months to a year.
And keep that engagement ring out of the swimming pool. Chlorine can attack the alloy in gold settings, he says. Of course, it would be a good idea to make sure you put the ring back on your finger once you get out of the water.