Apparently diamonds aren’t as rare as we thought they were.
As in, they can now be grown in a lab.
Just ask Leonardo DiCaprio, who – along with 10 billionaires – have invested in Diamond Foundry, a Santa Clara-based startup that claims it can grow diamonds that are as high quality as natural gems.
The best part is they come without the exploitation of the mining industry – and it seems like a lot less work: they can make hundreds of diamonds in two weeks. The diamonds can weigh up to nine carats each.
In very simple terms (let’s be honest, few of us are scientists), here’s how it’s done:
What makes the product different than other synthetic products on the market is that they begin with a real diamond as a seed crystal. Using a super heated plasma that allows atoms to attach themselves to a tiny piece of natural diamond, more atoms are built on, layer by layer, until they form a pure, jewellery-grade larger diamond.
It may sounds simple, but it’s no small undertaking. The gems are grown in chemical reactors that can reach 8,000 degrees Celsius – that’s hotter than the surface of the sun for those of you paying attention.
The company has spent the last three years quietly working on the project. After a few initial attempts failed, its current successful practice could, quite literally, change the entire industry. That’s probably why both Leo and the billionaires were quick to jump on board.
Of course, DiCaprio famously starred in 2007’s Blood Diamond, which exposed a very troubling side of the diamond industry. The industry has faced harsh criticism for its negative environmental impact and child labour practices.
While the company is rapidly producing the precious gemstones, don’t expect them to be designing jewellery any time soon. Instead, it has a growing marketplace with about 200 partnering designers who purchase the diamonds directly for their pieces, then sell them straight to consumers online. In doing so, the designers avoid coughing up a cut to traditional outlets like Tiffany’s or Birks.
That’s not to say, however, that they come cheap. Unlike cheaper synthetic “diamonds,” they company says their diamonds retail at or above market value.
When it comes to diamonds, there will always be a market for them. Whether the Diamond Foundry’s diamonds “last forever” like their Earth-formed counterparts remains to be seen, but I have a feeling this is just the first of what we’ll hear of the potentially industry-changing company.
As for Leo, if he came bearing diamonds, I certainly wouldn’t refuse them.