The New Synthetic Diamonds

The Final Frontier

“Space……the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five year mission:…to explore strange new worlds…to seek out new life and new civilizations…, to boldly go where no man has gone before”. Those were the opening words spoken by William Shatner from his 1960’s hit “Star Trek”. Anybody who is old enough will remember how exciting it was when Star Trek came on. Even though I was just a little kid I still remember running through the house screaming at the top of my lungs “DAD..!, DAD! STAR TREK IS ON, STAR TREK IS ON!” Together we would sit in our living room and explore those new worlds. It almost felt like we were on the Starship Enterprise ourselves, one of its 430 officers or crew.
I’ve always been fascinated with the unknown; with new ideas, new inventions, new discoveries. Every day I marvel at mankind’s ingenuity. For example, who would have thought 30 years ago we’d actually be holding a cordless hand-held device that allows us not only to speak but see each other from great distances? Not me! Maybe Gene Roddenberry the creator of Star Trek had some idea. How else would he show Captain Kirk conversing with Scotty or Mr. Spock back on the Enterprise from a planet he was just beamed down to. (P.S.  To all you inventors I’m still waiting for the transporter).
In 1954 General Electric produced the first synthetic diamonds. A synthetic diamond is a rock that has all the properties (durability, hardness, refractive index, etc) of a natural diamond but was made by man. Not to be confused with simulants (those that look similar to a diamond but don’t have the same properties) like glass, cubic zirconia, moissanite. Think about it, man was able to create in a laboratory what it took Mother Nature 100 million years (minimum time required for a natural diamond to incubate) to do. WOW! But as much as that blows your mind I’ll tell you something more incredible! What didn’t happen in 1955? Can you guess? That’s right, no synthetic diamonds in the market place! Not in 56, 57, 58, or in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s or early 90’s! Man figures out how to make diamonds then man doesn’t do anything with the discovery? Why? Let’s look at the facts. Right after General Electric learns how to synthesize a diamond (which by the way wins a Nobel Prize for P.W. Bridgeman of their company) G.E is interviewed about the details and they say “We’ve only learned how to grow industrial quality (not sufficient quality to be cut into a gem for a piece of jewelry but rather to be used for drill bits, semi-conductors, and such).”  It would be 16 long pain staking years before man would not only walk on the moon but create a gem quality diamond the likes of Mother Nature.  G.E is interviewed again and I quote “We’ve conquered the next hurdle; we can now produce transparent gem quality diamonds in an attractive size.  There’s only one problem.  They cost more to grow than to find, cut and polish.”  End of story?  Not hardly!  Another quarter century would go by when a little company called Gemesis Corporation would raise their hand and say “I think I can do it. I think I can figure out how to grow a diamond cheaper than it costs to find one.”  The problem was very few people were listening and those that did just scoffed.  “If General Electric in partnership with DeBeers can’t figure out the secret to growing diamonds at a profit there’s no way some little start up company is going to figure it out!”  Know what?! THEY WERE WRONG!  Flash forward to present day.  Not only has Gemesis figured out how to grow white diamonds but they’ve figured out how to grow the tremendously expensive fancy colors–the blues, canary yellows, and oranges and even the million dollar per carat reds!  I know what you’re probably saying, “Fred, if this is true why isn’t it in all the newspapers, on TV and radio?”  Well, the reason is only now have companies like Gemesis grown enough raw diamonds to be able to meet the inevitable demand onslaught!  It makes no sense to go public when you don’t have enough supply to meet the demand.

The Interview

Two weeks ago I had the honor and privilege to talk to Carlos Valeiras (the President and CEO of Gemesis).  Here is a portion of my interview.

Question:        Mr. Valeiras how exciting it must be to be at the forefront of technology.  How did you get involved?

Answer:          “First and foremost I want to thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to let me share with the world what our little company has been up to for the last few years.  The initial ground work for synthetic diamonds began for us with trials that had been done in Russia and the University of Florida in 1996.  It was a short time after that I was approached with the opportunity to be an investor.  It was only recently that I was offered the position of CEO.

Question:        Mr. Valeiras I know you’ve unlocked the secrets to growing diamonds that encompass all the colors of the rainbow, so what will you serve up as a first course to the diamond buying public?

Answer:          While certainly there is a strong demand for the whites, the canary diamonds (yellow) are easier to grow and will offer the best price point to the public.  Using your words, that will be our first course along with the oranges.

Question:        What kind of price breaks will you be able to offer from the naturals?

Answer:          The canaries and oranges will be offered at about 1/3 the going price of the naturals.

Question:        You said that you can grow the whites.  What’s keeping you from offering the whites right now?

Answer:          We can currently produce about 600cts of rough a month and we’re moving every piece!  Since the canaries are more profitable for us and offer the best savings to the end consumer we’re not going to add the whites till we can fulfill the demand for the yellows.

Question:        When do you see that happening?

Answer:          We had originally projected this summer but we’re only scratching the surface on the yellow and orange demand.  I don’t think we will be able to turn our attention to the whites till next summer (2004).  But we’re also looking at the blues.  There is a strong demand for them which must be filled before we go white on a commercial scale.  We know the success of our company depends on being able to offer anything the public wants.

Question:        How big is the finished product you’re ending up with?

Answer:          We can currently offer anywhere from _ct. to 1 3/4ct.  In the future we’ll be adding larger core areas (device needed to grow the crystals) so we could theoretically grow any size.

Question:        Final question, how would anybody know they are looking at a synthetic versus a natural?

Answer:          All of our synthetics will most likely be laser inscribed identifying them as lab created. The diamonds will be marketed under the brand name Gemesis Cultured™ Diamond.

The Synthetics Arrive

After my interview with Carlos Valeiras he promptly sent over a parcel of yellows and oranges for me to view (see photographs below). When I opened the packages all I can tell you is I was overwhelmed! These synthetics are beautiful! I looked at them in different lighting conditions and ran the usual tests*. When I was done I set up an unscientific study where I asked people around my office what they thought. Their responses ranged from “oh my, how gorgeous” to “wow what are those?” Everyone I talked to had their breath taken away!

In closing, I want to congratulate the folks at Gemesis for their wonderful work and for taking us to a place no man has gone before!

Note: All photographs were taken by world renown designer and photographer-Jose Garcia

*For all you scientists out there who want all the technical studies I suggest reviewing the article “Gemesis Laboratory-created Diamonds” by Gems and Gemology winter 2002.

by Fred Cuellar, author of the best-selling book “How to Buy a Diamond.” More questions? Ask the Diamond Guy®