Company to Mass-Produce Synthetic Yellow Diamonds

Gemesis Corp., based in Sarasota, Fla., has stepped up production of its yellow synthetic diamonds and is planning a jewelry line and marketing push for this spring. Although it is not the first company to create jewelry with synthetic yellows, company officials claim its output is larger and better than its predecessors’. The company is growing 100 stones a month, and plans call for it to produce many times that.

“We have made some major improvements in our production,” says company chairman General Carter Clarke. “We’ve tripled the rate of growth. We’ve been working with the University of Florida for years, but it’s taken us this long to feel comfortable with the quality and the consistency.”

The company will invest $20 million to $25 million in two new facilities that will house up to 400 diamond-producing machines. It has hired Kenneth W. Watson, an industry veteran and former head of Cartier, as its CEO.

The jewelry will be sold mostly to high-end retailers, with the stones selling for 50%-60% less than comparable naturals. Sizes range from .75 ct. to 3 cts., with most in the .75-ct. to 1.5-ct. range.

Clarke says the company also can produce blue, green, and colorless stones. However, it has no intention of bringing the whites to market at this time, although they may use them as well as blues for accent stones.

“We can do colorless now, but it takes a little bit longer,” says Clarke. “We are not able to produce them at the same rate as the colored diamonds.”

The company hopes to call its new product “cultured” diamonds. Clarke stresses that the company wants the stones identified as non-natural and is looking at giving them an identifying mark using laser inscription or some other engraving technology. “We are not interested in having these stones misrepresented,” he says. “We are going to great lengths to identify these stones for what they are.”

He also says that since production is still limited, “it will be a while before these have an impact on the market.” According to Clarke, the company’s projected revenue should eventually hit $70 million to $80 million annually. “That’s really just a fraction of the overall market,” says Watson.

Watson says the company will promote its gems through a publicity campaign and, ultimately, consumer advertising. “I really believe the time has come for these types of stones,” he says.

The Gemological Institute of America says it hasn’t inspected the new stones but expects them to be readily identifiable, as are most synthetics.

“Jewelers can identify them if they really want to make the attempt,” says GIA director of research Dr. James E. Shigley. “If you are not really familiar with the characteristics, it’s a little tricky, but it’s not difficult for us.”

Among the characteristics jewelers should look for in colored diamonds are color zoning, metallic inclusions, zoned fluorescence, magnetism, and typically smaller size, with intense colors.

“We see colored synthetics in the lab occasionally, but we have for years,” says Shane McClure, GIA’s West Coast director of identification services. “People are getting better at producing synthetics, but it’s still not an easy thing to do.”