This morning, Diamond Foundry premiered, a new California-based lab-grown diamond producer that is backed by Leonardo DiCaprio as well as “10 billionaires,” including the founder of Twitter. DiCaprio, who starred in Blood Diamond, tweeted about the company today.
Proud to invest in Diamond Foundry–a co reducing human & environmental toll by sustainably culturing diamonds. https://t.co/prhoee6olx
— Leonardo DiCaprio (@LeoDiCaprio) November 11, 2015
Unlike other lab-diamond manufacturers, it is selling its stones with jewelry—and designer jewelry at that. Here, head of commercial relations Alon Ben-Shoshan talked to JCK via email about this intriguing new company.
JCK: How do you produce your diamonds? Is it a variation of HPHT, CVD, or microwave?
Alon Ben-Shoshan: Our process is an evolution of CVD technology, with profoundly different reactor technology based on a 10x more intense plasma as well as 10x higher energy efficiency.
We designed our technology from scratch to handle semiconductor-grade production standards.
All of our diamonds are warranted by us. We proudly identify their origin. We support the mining association’s efforts of clear labeling.
JCK: Will you be selling these pieces as jewelry?
Ben-Shoshan: Yes, we are also launching a curated marketplace of designers online. We are starting with two dozen distinguished designers including JCK [Jewelers’ Choice] Best Ring design award winners.
JCK: Will they be sold wholesale?
Ben-Shoshan: I strongly believe in embracing the existing industry, and that means working through traditional sales channels as well.
JCK: Will you offer any kind of marking that specifies their origin?
Ben-Shoshan: We are committed to educating consumers about this new option that they now have when shopping for a diamond. One of our key tenets is transparency, and we are very proud of our diamonds’ origin.
JCK: What qualities and sizes do you have available? What is your monthly production?
Ben-Shoshan: Our technology allows us to grow more pristine rough crystals than ever before. We can control quality and output very finely.
We are targeting mass-market qualities and sizes. Our present baseline production is GHI color VS clarity and 1–2 ct. polished sizes.
JCK: What is the price differential between your product and naturals?
Ben-Shoshan: I tend to agree with just about everything you write on this subject. We want to increase the total size of the diamond market and bring back folks who would otherwise be noncustomers of this product. Our foundry diamonds are bringing people back to the diamond jewelry industry. We see this every day in California.
We are positioning our diamonds as a premium product and not going down the route of others who primarily differentiate based on price.
As you will see on our site, our pricing is higher than industrially mined ones for the smaller diamonds and somewhat lower for the largest sizes. Bottom line: What matters is that we are taking the advice of the industry thought leaders who understand that we all have to work together to help people fall back in love with the diamond.
JCK: Will DiCaprio be involved as a spokesman? Will he be referencing the Blood Diamond movie?
Ben-Shoshan: Leonardo DiCaprio is a part owner and will engage in social media on specific occasions. But he’s a busy man and not ready to be a full-time spokesperson.
JCK: How will your product be advertised/promoted? What is your marketing budget?
Ben-Shoshan: Just like how other modern Silicon Valley based start-ups have promoted their products over the past few years.
While I am working closely with traditional players, I have no interest in marketing in the way that the industry has traditionally. We will be leveraging our tech roots.
JCK: What role do the Silicon Valley funders play? How much funding have you received?
Ben-Shoshan: They are all actively involved. Please note that we are not posting their names on our website because they are investing privately.
While we have received less than $100 million in funding so far, we have an order of magnitude more funding interest than we are accepting capital.
JCK: How have your Silicon Valley connections changed how you are approaching this?
Ben-Shoshan: We are very open and transparent, none of us come from the traditional diamond world. We understand how to build and scale new technologies, especially semiconductor technologies, very well.
JCK: Any info on the background of you and your principals, and how you got involved?
Ben-Shoshan: Martin Roscheisen, CEO, and Jeremy Scholz, chief technology officer, founded the company in 2012. They previously worked for a decade together at Nanosolar. Scholz is an MIT engineer who was the lead on engineering $100 million’s worth of semiconductor tooling. Roscheisen, while at Stanford, built the first very successful group messaging company (cofounded with [CEO of Google parent] Larry Page’s brother) in the late 1990s and then created the first solar tech company in Silicon Valley with $640 million in funding.
I was involved in a few start-ups (which shall remain nameless) in the diamond-growing space and was introduced to the team by a mutual industry connection. I personally joined the team in Silicon Valley because of their connections and experience in the technology world. We will make things happen where others have failed.