Diamond Foundry’s high-tech process is poised to
bring lab-grown diamonds to
the masses—but it’s hardly
the frst upstart to bet on
manufacturing fne jewels.
GEMSTONES ARE BORN
Caltech grad Carroll F.
Chatham’s San Francisco–
based Chatham Created
Gems & Diamonds pioneered
and sapphires. Today,
Chatham’s son runs the
company, which began
diamonds in the 1980s.
1990: DIAMONDS BUILT
Robert Linares, a Bell Labs
PhD with an expertise in
Apollo Diamond, which grew
diamonds—long coveted for
their thermal conductivity—for
industries like nanotechnology and computing.
1996: WHITE DIAMONDS GET
A MANMADE MAKEOVER
Retired Army brigadier
general Carter Clarke founded
Gemesis using Russian
technology to mass produce
gem-grade diamonds. It took
the company 15 years to
manufacture its frst white
diamond—a process much
more complex than producing
the yellow diamonds it had
previously been making.
2005: SYNTHETICS MAKE THEIR
Entrepreneurs Beth Gerstein
and Eric Grossberg opened
Santa Clara, California—based
Brilliant Earth, an online
retailer founded to sell
“ethical” jewelry that uses
only lab-grown diamonds.
Today, they claim to be the
category’s largest direct-to-consumer seller.
2015: DIY DIAMOND RING
Two years after purchasing a
lab-grown diamond engagement ring, husband-and-wife team Jason Payne and
Lindsay Reinsmith opened
Silicon Valley–based retailer
Ada Diamonds, where
customers can design their
own synthetic diamond
jewelry—up to 10 carats.
The reactor, composed of 350 parts,
is based on tens of thousands of simulations. Each simulation took nearly a week
to perform. The reactor is very complex,
and being of by even the tiniest amount
can lead to a meltdown.
Clean up a category
The diamond industry is dominated by very
proftable houses like Cartier, the jeweler
to the kings for centuries. We wanted
to build a new Cartier for people who care
More than half of the diamonds on the
market today come from confict regions,
like the Congo and Sierra Leone. That
reality hasn’t changed that much since the
movie Blood Diamond came out, in 2006.
The flm revealed a violent industry that
uses both slave and child labor to mine and
polish the diamonds. It also portrayed the
devastating environmental impact that
diamond mining has. As a result, people
started thinking about the provenance of
their diamonds and wanted to be assured
that no one, or the earth, was getting hurt
in the process of mining them.
Confict-free diamonds are highly
sought after, but it’s difcult to prove
where any mined diamonds come from,
because they can go through two dozen
owners between the mine and the con-
sumer. So a diamond is mined somewhere
in Africa and traded several times before
it makes it to one of the exchanges. From
there, it might get traded a few more
times before it makes it to India for polish-
ing. The polished stone gets sent back to
the wholesale diamond exchanges, and by
then that diamond is virtually untraceable.
Meanwhile, we can make a diamond in
two to three weeks in our lab. We’re creat-
ing a new market of buyers who would
not buy a diamond unless it was genuinely
ethical. Millennials are our main buyers.
We’re selling a product based on values,
which is what they’re attracted to.
MINING THEIR OWN BUSINESS
R. Martin Roscheisen, CEO,
and Jeremy Scholz, CTO,
of Diamond Foundry.
FROM GEEK TO GLAM
This Diamond Foundry
collaboration with Barneys and
designer Nak Armstrong retails
for nearly $5,000.
Find your essential partner
Once we perfected the technology, we
needed to start designing and selling jewelry, so we began collaborating with designers and sold those items on our website.
But we quickly saw the advantage of an
in-house jewelry-design team. We met
Vanessa Stofenmacher in late 2016, and
quickly acquired Vrai & Oro, her L.A.-based
company. It was a fast-growing company
with great traction on social media.
She joined us and brought her team of 20.
We charge roughly the same for our
diamonds as what mined diamonds cost.
Diamond prices go up and down, and cost
more or less depends on size, cut, and
clarity. A 2.15-carat rose-cut diamond on our
website costs $15,000, whereas a 1.2-carat
round cut costs $3,300. We sell each batch
as quickly as we make it.
Our goal is to grow bigger diamonds
and ofer them at slightly below-market
prices. Our diamonds grow about a millimeter a month. Making a bigger diamond
is hard—it might crack as it grows, and you
need more material to start it and a larger
reactor. Now we can grow a 15-carat
diamond, compared with the three-carat
we launched with.
Counter critics with
When consumers are skeptical, we tackle
it through education. If you ask people
abstractly whether they would buy a
synthetic diamond, they tend to be disinclined. But that’s like asking consumers
in 1990 whether they would buy an electric
car, at a time when the only electric cars in
existence were golf carts. When people see
our diamonds in a store and understand
their cultivation, there is zero resistance.
We lose virtually no customers once people
are educated. Cultivated diamonds are
simply a better product all around. It’s like
organic food—it’s better.