IGI (Italian Gemological Institute) and the certification of micro diamond surfaces

Valentina Gagliardi is deputy head of the analysis lab at the Italian Gemological Institute (IGI). In this interview she tells us how their collaboration with Elisa Ferrari and her team began and developed, leading to certification of the method used to calculate the density of diamonds in DiamArt micro diamond surfaces.

Of the many collaborations and innovations in DiamArt's short history, one is particularly prestigious: the partnership with the IGI (Italian Gemological Institute). It is a journey that has led to a new direction in certification processes, creating an accurate and replicable method for calculating the density of diamonds present in DiamArt micro diamond surfaces. We learn about it in the words of Valentina Gagliardi, deputy head of the analysis lab at the Italian Gemological Institute (IGI).

What does the IGI do, and what are its priorities, after such a difficult couple of years?

The Italian Gemological Institute is a no-profit organization founded in Milan in 1973 and recognized by the President of Italy in legislative decree 767 on 11 August 1979. The IGI consists of two main sections: the school and the analysis laboratory. The main objective remains to create a culture around precious stones, and to this end training is a fundamental aspect. In addition, it aims to preserve its impartial role in certification. Here at the Italian Gemological Institute we have enormous responsibility in terms of our role, and it is essential that our relationship of trust with individuals, companies or bodies is not eroded. We're coming out of a difficult period, and our sector has not escaped the emergency that plunged so many people and businesses into crisis. If anything, our role has become even more important in the certification and guaranteeing of precious stones, jewellery and anything else we are asked to certify.

What did it mean for the IGI to embark on a course of certification for a highly innovative production process like DiamArt's?

Our collaboration was an opportunity to take stock of our knowledge and experience and adopt a completely new approach. For the Italian Gemological Institute, moving out of our comfort zone to meet DiamArt's requests was a challenge, and at the same time extremely motivating. We'd never seen anything like it before, and we had to modify our protocols to achieve the result: a certification of the method used to calculate the density of diamonds in DiamArt micro diamond surfaces.

We were very happy to meet the people behind the DiamArt project and to see the business grow over time.

What were the salient points, the most complex stages and the most unexpected aspects?

For us at the IGI, it was a challenge because we'd never worked with this kind of problem and this type of material, which actually didn’t existed until DiamArt invented it. In order to create the certification, it was essential to have detailed knowledge of the production process for micro diamond surfaces. And in this, Elisa Ferrari and her team were extremely precise and accurate. The DiamArt production process is based on a specific technology which allows each micro diamond to be partially mounted and placed side by side but never overlapping. This precise arrangement of the stones means every square centimetre of the surface contains the same number of micro diamonds. To check the accuracy of the declared density achieved by this process, we developed a new system of analysis, new tools and new protocols.

It is important to underline that the checking and verification procedures at the Italian Gemological Institute are extremely rigorous. Regarding certification of the calculation method for the density of diamonds in DiamArt surfaces, we were in completely uncharted waters, which meant our responsibility was even greater and demanded scrupulous attention to every detail of the process. This also pushed Elisa Ferrari and the team to work even harder in terms of precision and accuracy. A reciprocal stimulus that led to growth for both parties.

Taking on this challenge was exciting; on the one hand we were motivated to address the challenge, on the other there was the satisfaction of succeeding. Seeing progress in both sectors - analysis in our case, and production in theirs - was definitely one of the most unexpected and gratifying things.

For the IGI, what did it mean to work with micro diamonds?

Difficulty and motivation went hand in hand. Not only the analysis part, but also the experimental part, which led to a genuine collaboration in order to solve the challenge posed by DiamArt. We worked in synergy to develop a process that was streamlined and transmissible, drawn up in black and white, step by step and replicable. A great result. The analysis work we do in the IGI lab should not stop with the client, but should also be understandable for the people who buy the products. The end customer should be able to trust they will find all the characteristics listed for the product. DiamArt's openness, intellectual integrity, transparency and hard work made the process easier. We established a solid relationship in which both parties overcame their limitations to achieve an important goal.

To paraphrase climbing jargon, would you say that the IGI and DiamArt have opened a new route?

Yes, and it's a route we were immediately curious about since, although we initially had only a partial understanding of what DiamArt's new process was, there was an immediate instinct that it might be something completely unprecedented and a new opportunity for the jewellery sector. And this feeling was confirmed. Every time a new DiamArt piece arrives to be certified, we are amazed by the numerous potential applications for micro diamond surfaces, from tiles to handbags, paintings to trophies, buckles to belts.

It's always a surprise to see what Elisa Ferrari and her team come up with. It's stimulating and never repetitive.

DiamArt surfaces can be made with natural diamonds, lab-grown diamonds or both. What did you think of this?

An intelligent and bold choice. By going down this route, DiamArt becomes impartial in terms of the origins of the diamond: there are still many customers who seek natural diamonds, but we're also seeing a major shift towards lab-grown diamonds. What's more - and we're seeing this in the items coming to us for certification - it's increasingly clear that DiamArt aims to go beyond the classic concept of diamond and head in a new direction, geared to creating aesthetic and stylistic solutions for a wide range of applications. And the use and appreciation of the properties and characteristics of both types of diamonds is heading in that very direction.

Anyone who buys DiamArt micro diamond surfaces can request certification directly from the IGI. What is this? What does it consist of? How is it issued?

It consists of two options which move in two different directions. The first: certification of the calculation method; the second, certification of the density of diamond in an individual item. The first option is the process we've described, and it's the result of close collaboration. The second is the work we carry out at the IGI lab on a daily basis: certification of items that are sent to us. DiamArt customers can send us their samples and, following our analysis, we send them the certification.

The IGI invited DiamArt to a talk at VicenzaOro in September 2019, and partly thanks to this, DiamArt was nominated as one of the 100 most interesting startups in the jewellery and precious stones sector. What's the innovative scope of DiamArt?

VicenzaOro 2019 was the ideal showcase to present our experience. Both the IGI and DiamArt deserved visibility for what we achieved together: we were interested from the outset, and working with them was useful in terms of understanding what we were looking at, how far it could go. DiamArt's innovation extends in several directions, from compositions in natural and/or synthetic diamond to possible applications, and not least certification, which we at the IGI were also involved in. VicenzaOro seemed like the perfect opportunity to promote this innovation throughout the sector, and the trade fair proved us right, listing DiamArt in the VicenzaOro+ magazine as one of the most interesting startups in the jewellery and precious stones sector.

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