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Diamond Fingerprinting

January 31, 2008

Scientists are using phosphorescence to authenticate blue diamonds.


A signature for blue diamonds. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The famous Hope Diamond owes much of its value to its rich blue color. Now, Penn State University mineral scientist Peter Heaney and his colleagues may have found a way to authenticate these rare jewels. They tested the Hope and dozens of other blue diamonds for phosphorescence: the tendency to glow after exposure to ultraviolet light.

PETER HEANEY (Pennsylvania State University):
In the case of the Hope Diamond, one can observe this reddish-orange glow for nearly five minutes, after the ultraviolet light has turned off.

Heaney’s team found that every blue diamond had a unique, identifiable glow, which could also reveal if it was artificially enhanced or just plain fake. Heaney suspects it may also indicate where a diamond came from; if he’s right, that could help block the sale of diamonds used to finance violent conflicts. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.