Most everybody knows that Mother Nature takes millions of years to crush coal or other carbon into diamonds. A new startup named Diamond Foundry claims they can make “real” diamonds just like Mother Nature, with its high-temperature foundries producing diamonds “from seed” in just a few weeks.
The new Santa Clara startup was founded by Martin Roscheisen, who had a plan to grow “real” diamonds in a lab. These new “real” diamonds are created from a small slice of a natural, mined diamond as the manufacturing substrate.
It took two years of experimentation, but Roscheisen’s team says it has developed a commercial scale manufacturing process for diamonds. Moreover, the firm claims to be able to grow hundreds of diamonds up to nine carats in weight with their current plasma-based diamond manufacturing process.
Diamond Foundry already raised around $100 million
Of note, Diamond Foundry has already closed three rounds of financing from the likes of actor Leonardo DiCaprio, Twitter founder Evan Williams, Zynga founder Mark Pincus, One Kings Lane cofounder Alison Pincus, SUN Microsystems founder Andreas Bechtolsheim, Facebook co-founder Andrew McCollum, ex-Facebook COO Owen van Natta, Marc Benioff’s private-investment manager Mark Goldstein, Sequoia Capital’s David Spector, ex-eBay President Jeff Skoll, Scott Banister, Vast Ventures, Caspian VC Partners, and more than a dozen others.
If this story sounds familiar think of Theranos, but so far there is no evidence of any “anomalies” at Diamond Foundry.
The firm claims it has raised just under $100 million to date, not bad given the tech startup just launched on Wednesday morning. Of interest, CEO Roscheisen was in the same Ph.D. program at Stanford as Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Diamond Foundry has a thoughtfully crafted 21st century business model, based on a marketplace with about 200 partnering designers who buy the crystals from Diamond Foundry, and use them in their custom jewelry they sell to consumers online. At this point, the designer purchases are the company’s sole source of revenue.
The model of buying diamonds direct through Diamond Foundry allows designers to cut out the middlemen like De Beers or Tiffany’s. However, Diamond Foundry is not selling its product at a discount wither.
Most synthetic diamonds today cost close to 30% less than natural mined diamonds, and Diamond Foundry says its product will cost about the same as regular diamonds or a even a bit more.
Details on diamond manufacturing process
In its marketing materials, the firm claims it is “culturing diamonds,” and says its process does not yield traditional synthetic diamonds but “100% pure diamonds” with the same molecular imperfections you find in natural mined diamonds.
According to one investor in Diamond Foundry, creating a diamond was like growing a plant. First, you need a seed from another plant in order to grow a new one. The process involves using a small slice of a natural diamond as the base, or “seed,” on which new layers are grown over and over until new diamonds are produced. The “seed” base is then scraped off and can reused to grow more new diamonds.
The new diamonds are grown in an extremely hot plasma reactor that tops out at close to 8,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Creating the diamonds involves a plasma process that makes atoms attach themselves to the thin slice of natural-extracted diamond. The new atoms then naturally layer on top of the natural diamond seed until eventually a pure, jewelry-grade diamond is created.
The Diamond Foundry says that hundreds of these real diamonds can be produced in just a few weeks, the largest one so far topping out at nine carats.