Washington Diamonds Corp., the newest entry in the man-made diamond sector, is now regularly producing 1 ct. stones, its founder and chairman Clive Hill tells me.
The company, which uses technology licensed from the Carnegie Institute of Washington, produces about a hundred 1 ct. diamonds a month, with colors in the G-H-I range and clarities about VVS-SI. Hill says he hopes to regularly produce 2 ct. stones by the end of the year.
The stones generally sell for about 20 to 25 percent less than comparable naturals, and the company’s main customers are California chain Robbins Brothers and e-tailer Brilliant Earth. All the stones are inscribed with “Lab Grown in the USA” to identify their origin.
“It took a lot of time to get to this point, because at first they didn’t come out caraters,” he says. “We are basically a technology business that sells diamonds, and sometimes, things take time.”
Still, like some other companies in this sector, Hill looks at the gem business as a stepping stone for a far more profitable business: Using diamonds in technology.
“Ultimately lab-grown diamonds will be about far more than diamonds,” he says. “There is far more in the tech field that you can do.”
Some other diamond producers have gone public or attracted outside investors. But Hill isn’t sure what his company will do now.
“It has a very scalable business model, and it’s very sexy,” he says. “But we are not sure.”
Like some—but not all—of his comrades in the field, Hill bristles at the descriptor “synthetic.”
“You say ‘synthetic,’ people think it’s CZ or moissanite,” he says. “It’s clearly a misleading term.”
As a former retailer—Hill’s the former CEO of Fraser Hart, a British retail chain—he understands the industry’s fears about his product, but thinks they are overblown.
“When I heard about this, I thought this would cannibalize the market,” he says. “But then I thought, if it does cannibalize it, I would like to sit down early to dinner. Ultimately, the winners with lab-grown will be the people who embrace it.”