For years, De Beers, the world’s largest purveyor of natural diamonds, argued against the acceptance and GIA grading of lab-grown stones. But since 2003, synthetic diamond production has taken off, driven by consumer demand for merchandise that’s environmentally friendly (no open-pit mines), sociopolitically neutral (no blood diamonds), and monopoly-free (not controlled by De Beers). As a result, Gemesis, the leading manufacturer of gem-quality diamonds (see “The Diamond Wars Have Begun,” issue 11.09), has expanded operations rapidly. Three years ago, the company had 24 diamond-producing machines; now it has hundreds - matching the cash-value output of a small mine - and is turning on a new one every other day. “At this point, we operate like any other mine,” says Clark McEwen, COO of Gemesis. “We produce rough diamonds in our machines and sell to distributors who do the cutting and polishing.”I like the idea of replacing diamond mines with diamond factories for the reasons listed above.
Of course, if this is really successful, it will drive down the price of diamonds. But, the whole reason diamonds are popular is that they are expensive and make for an easy display of wealth. When diamonds become cheap they will no longer fill this role and some other more precious (meaning rare and expensive) gem will take its place. And odds are that new gem will have the same problems that diamonds currently have, and we are back to square one.
On the other hand, if the carbon comes from someone special, then maybe the diamond will have more sentimental value that no other gem can match.