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Northern diamond DNA

GNWT first to certify diamonds for origin

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 13/00) - Stephen Kakfwi is making sure you are getting an authentic northern diamond.

The NWT premier is signing his name on each certificate that accompanies a certified diamond.

The diamonds are certified, mined, cut and polished in the NWT, and it is the first time a government has certified diamonds for origin.

"Our program will provide consumers with a guarantee that they are buying a truly Northern diamond," Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development Minister Joe Handley said.

The RCMP-reviewed program follows the rough diamond from the mine through the diamond factory.

Each certificate includes a what is known as a gemprint. Gemprint is a computerized identification system that provides a fingerprint of the diamond.

Gemologist Norbert Brinkhaus, with Brinkhaus Jewellers in Calgary, said: "This is the best use I've seen for gemprint in the 25 years I've been using it."

Brinkhaus Jewellers has a stake in Deton'Cho Diamonds.

"Gemprint is like a diamond DNA," he said.

Guaranteeing a diamond had been mined, cut and polished in Canada, ensures consumers they are not buying so-called conflict diamonds -- diamonds which have been sold to finance war.

Brinkhaus suggests in the future, the GNWT's certification program could serve as a example for others looking to certify their diamonds.

Brinkhaus Jewellers has acquired about 500 GNWT certified diamonds so far, he adds.

The GNWT diamond certification program was developed with Deton'Cho Diamonds Inc. and Arslanian Cutting Works Ltd. Deton'Cho Diamonds operates a cutting and polishing plant in Ndilo while the Arslanian plant is on the Yellowknife airport property.

Missing from the list is Sirius Diamonds, the first company to cut and polish Ekati diamonds.

"Sirius believes their certification is superior," Sirius Diamonds President Stephen Ben-Oliel said.

Ben-Oliel said a major market for Canadian diamonds is the US and the Sirius Diamonds certification stands up to tough American Gem Society and Gemology Institute of America standards.

Sirius gathers data on individual stones by using lasers to measure the outer dimensions of the stone.

As well as guaranteeing it's a Canadian diamond, "we guarantee it's not treated (or) colour-enhanced. We guarantee our grade, cut and clarity."

Ben-Oliel adds because Sirius did not join the GNWT program, the company is being "marginalized" by the territorial government.