Brazil’s gem, real and costume jewelry industry has had an important technological boost as the new facilities of the Gemological Research Laboratory (LAPEGE) were opened in Rio de Janeiro on August 20. At the leading edge of its kind in South America, it is part of the Mineral Technology Center (CETEM) run by the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation.
“Our activities focus on grading and identifying gemstones and precious metals,” explained Jurgen Schnellrath, senior researcher in charge of the laboratory. LAPEGE is fully equipped to demonstrate if a stone is authentic or if it is a synthetic imitation, like many of those found in the market. “Sounds easy, but it’s not quite so.”
According to Schnellrath, there are a number of smaller labs in Brazil that carry out basic identification with low-cost equipment. But CETEM has obtained funding to purchase cutting-edge testing equipment including spectrophotometers, which measure and match the amount of light absorbed by a given solution.
“With these resources, we are ready to go beyond basic lab capabilities,” said Schnellrath. He mentioned the example of a colored diamond that can cost as much as US$ 1 million a carat, when you can add this color artificially instead making it difficult to determine its authenticity.
“This led us at CETEM to acquire next-generation technology in order to work out puzzles that we had been unable to solve up to this point,” he completed.
Until now, those interested in determining the authenticity of a stone like that had to send it out to the United States and wait for months to get a certificate.
“We now rely on a laboratory in Brazil that can produce these results in a shorter time frame. This is was an important achievement because buying a gem is all about customer confidence, so it’s critical to rely on laboratories that are capable of ensuring a stronger domestic market by providing certification that makes deals easier,” the researcher pointed out.
Brazil’s gem and jewelry industry is officially reported to create 350,000 jobs and to have made US$ 3.32 billion in sales in 2012. About 96% of the production chain consists of micro and small enterprises.
Brazil is a traditional supplier of gems and “was the world’s leading diamond producer for 150 years from the colonial period until 1866, when diamonds were discovered in South Africa,” said Schnellrath.
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