D.NEA, a company that sells lab-grown diamonds via an online website, has now moved into brick-and-mortar business by setting up a boutique in Greenville, S.C.
Company CEO Eric Franklin tells JCK that this is the only retail location the company is interested in—for now.
“We have been previously just working out of office space,” he says. “We got tired of the weather in Michigan and we moved to Greenville. We just decided to open the retail space because we have a lot of customers that want to see the diamonds in person. It’s more for appointments than for walk-in traffic.”
Another company in the lab-grown business, Scio, is based out of Greenville, but Franklin says that’s just “an odd coincidence.”
“We don’t have any association with them,” he says.
Franklin says the company, which uses high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) production presses based in Europe, manufacturers mostly blues and yellows, but can produce up to three-quarter carat colorless stones.
However, those colorless stones don’t cost significantly less than the naturals.
“They are maybe 10 to 15 percent less, nothing significant,” he says. “They won’t ever be 50 percent less, though.”
He eventually hopes to produce 1 ct. colorless stones,
“We are seeing a lot of good improvement,” he says. “We will have 1 carat whites but I can’t say for certain when. It will be in the near future rather than distant future.”
Franklin calls his company “currently, the biggest producer of synthetic diamonds for jewelry purposes.”
“Our growth has been linear rather than exponential,” he says. “We are not going to go out and raise venture capital. We have kind of flown under the radar and are letting our stones speak for themselves.”
He says his customer base is interested in the technology behind the stones.
“They are engineers and chemists and appreciate that they are manmade,” he says. “They are people who like the latest high-tech thing.”
The second biggest source of customers is interested more in social issues, he says.
“We’re not a big company,” he says. “We progress all the time but it’s slow progress.”
While Gemesis had planned to mass-produce lab-grown colorless stones, so far its website appears inactive. Scio purchased the assets of the former lab-grown manufacturer Apollo Diamond, and says it will begin producing diamonds next year. Chatham Created Gems is still involved in the field, offering colored diamonds.