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Learn more about HRD Antwerp's Research department with Ellen Biermans,our research manager

Ellen Biermans, Research Manager at HRD Antwerp, gives some insight about the company’s research and development department. Learn more about synthetic diamonds, and the most common diamond treatments! 
What is the main focus of the HRD Antwerp Research Department and when was it founded?
The HRD Antwerp Research Department was established when the company was founded in 1973, to meet a profound need for a dedicated research unit.  Our main task today is to diligently monitor and investigate the latest developments in diamond synthesis and color treatments. The research conducted by our team of experienced scientists is vital to safeguarding consumer confidence. It is key to developing new detection protocols for diamonds that are potentially synthetic or have been subjected to a color treatment.

What are synthetic diamonds, and how are they produced?
A synthetic diamond is man-made but has the exact same chemical composition as a natural diamond including its optical and physical properties as refractive index, cut, color, clarity and carat. The only difference is its point of origin: One is grown in a controlled laboratory environment while the other is extracted from the ground. Synthetic diamonds can be produced by two methods – high pressure high temperature (HPHT) and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD). The HPHT process replicates the natural formation conditions of a diamond within a lab-controlled environment by applying HPHT to a carbon source. With the HPHT process, it is possible to grow a rough diamond of up to 2 or 3 carats in just a few days. CVD, meanwhile, is a diamond production process where a carbonaceous gas (usually methane) is heated to a very high temperature in order to break down its atomic compound after which carbon atoms precipitate onto a surface to steadily form layers. The CVD production speed for a good quality diamond is around half a millimeter a day. CVD diamonds are usually light brown but their color can be enhanced to make them more attractive.

What is the most common diamond treatment today?
One of the most common diamond treatments today is HPHT. In addition to manufacturing synthetic diamonds, the HPHT process can also be used to enhance the color of lower-quality (light brown) diamonds. During this treatment, a diamond is heated to temperatures of over 2100 degrees Celsius at a very high, stable pressure. A brown color is associated with the presence of plastic deformation or defects in a diamond’s crystal lattice. An HPHT treatment changes these defects, transforming the
color of a diamond from brown, grey and light yellow to intense yellow, greenish-yellow, pink, blue or colorless. When an HPHT treated diamond is submitted for certification under disclosed conditions, HRD Antwerp will issue a Treated Diamond Grading Report.

What kind of equipment or techniques do you use in your research?
We use nondestructive techniques in order not to damage the stones. We primarily use a variety of spectroscopic techniques which provide us with detailed information at a diamond’s atomic level. HRD Antwerp constantly invests in its research department in order to make sure the laboratory is equipped with state-of-the-art instruments needed for cutting-edge diamond examination.

For more information:
Edith Castus, Head of Marketing & Communications

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