The movie Blood Diamond is almost a decade old, and if you remember it, you know it was a gruesome portrayal of violence in the diamond trade during the Sierra Leone civil war. It also starred Leonardo DiCaprio, who played one of the diamond smugglers. Now, we’ve now learned that the award-winning actor and environmentalist has invested in a Santa Clara-based startup called Diamond Foundry, which says it can grow real diamonds in just a matter of weeks, offering an alternative to draw business away from the brutal conflicts that make warlords rich.
DiCaprio isn’t the only big investor in the startup. Reportedly, 10 billionaires have also recently backed the diamond maker. It might sound insane to think you can “grow” hundreds of diamonds in two weeks, weighing up to nine carats each, but that’s exactly what Diamond Foundry is promising. They grow “real” diamonds in a lab. Unlike synthetic diamonds, these would be created from ‘seeds’ consisting of a sliver of a natural, mined diamond. From there, the process is pretty similar to the ones used to make synthetic diamonds. The diamonds are grown layer-by-layer from a superheated plasma in chemical reactors that can reach more than 14,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That is about 2.5 times hotter than the surface of the sun.
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The jewelry market can be tough for consumers to navigate, especially if don’t want your gem’s origins keeping you up at night with guilt. Lab-grown or “ethical” diamonds aren’t new, but most are synthetic because they do not use a genuine diamond at the start. Synthetic or “cultured” diamonds emerged in the late 1800s, intended to be a lower cost alternative to genuine diamonds, and the products gained popularity in more recent years as media has helped educate people about the brutal violence within the diamond industry.
Diamond Foundry has spent more than two years developing its technique for diamond growing, and the company has reportedly raised less than $100 million to date after three rounds of financing. The startup publicly launched on November 11, and has created a marketplace with about 200 partnering designers who will take the diamonds and turn them into wearable jewelry. Since they are making ‘real’ diamonds, rather than the synthetic variety which tends to go for about 30 percent less than the cost of genuine diamonds, Diamond Foundry says its wares will cost the same, if not more, than their mined counterpart. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.
Via Business Insider
Lead image via Shutterstock, images via Diamond Foundry