Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Surat firm makesa breakthrough in diamond processing

Lexus Softmac, a unit of the Surat-based Lexus Group, has developed a new technology that allows processors to see through a rough diamond and polish it to a higher level of purity.

Industry experts said processing diamonds with the so-called immersion glass technology will also reduce wastage, thus increasing yields and profits.

India imported rough diamonds worth $11.9 billion (Rs.53,000 crore) in 2010-11, up 31% from 2009-10, according to Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council of India (GJEPC), a government-approved body that represents India’s diamond processing industry.

“This is the first such technology in the world and we have already got it patented in Europe and applied for patent rights in India,” said Utpal Mistry, ch executive of Lexus Group. “Using this technology we can see through a rough diamond, which is almost opaque, and find out impurities like carbon deposits, and plan the cutting of the diamond in a way that the impurities are not included in the diamond.”

A rough diamond is immersed in a heated formulation of immersion glass. After the glass solidifies, the clear parts of the diamond become transparent, while the impurities are visible through a microscope. These impurities are pointed out and then the glass is melted to take out the diamond for cutting.

The technology has been developed with the help of Lexus Softmac’s Russian partner OctoNus Software Ltd.

“This is the first such diamond planning technology in the world,” said K.K. Sharma, former director of Surat-based Indian Diamond Institute, which runs professional skill enhancement courses for the diamond industry.

“In other planning technologies, we end up wasting some portion of the rough diamond in the planning stage as it needs to be polished to reduce the opaqueness of the rough diamond,” he said. “This can be saved using this technology, while providing higher value to the finished diamond. This maximizes the utilization of a rough diamond and gets more profit out of it.”

Sharma said rough diamonds cut using other planning technologies yield 50-60% in terms of weight and value, while immersion glass technology can give up to 70-75%.

Lexus recently used the technology for the first time to cut a 154-carat rough diamond into 25 clear diamonds. The Gemological Institute of America, a laboratory that certifies cut and polished diamonds, gave 24 of them the “internally flawless” grade—the second highest grading for a diamond based on its clarity. Diamonds are valued in the market according to such grades.

Lexus processed the rough diamond for a Mumbai-based diamond processing firm. A senior official of the firm, who did not want to be named, said they were at best expecting 10-15 pieces of a lesser grade.

“Such indigenous technologies in diamond processing industry is definitely the need of the hour as it enables processors to take maximum returns from rough diamonds,” said Rajiv Jain, chairman, GJEPC.

Mistry said Lexus will shortly distribute the technology worldwide.

Lexus Group exports diamond-cutting technology to most diamond-processing countries, including Belgium, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Botswana, Russia and Israel.

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