Diamond Foundry has spent the last three years quietly working on an ambitious project.
The Santa Clara startup, created by Nanosolar founder Martin Roscheisen, wanted to grow “real” diamonds in a lab. Unlike synthetic diamonds, these would be hatched from a sliver of a natural, mined diamond as the substrate.
After two years of experiments with failed diamond-growing reactors, Roscheisen’s team says it cracked the code. Now the company claims to be able to grow hundreds of diamonds that are up to nine carats in just two weeks in a lab.
The breakthrough was enough to convince ten billionaires and members of Silicon Valley tech royalty to invest.
Diamond Foundry has closed three rounds of financing from individuals including actor Leonardo DiCaprio, Twitter/Medium founder Evan Williams, Zynga founder Mark Pincus, One Kings Lane cofounder Alison Pincus, SUN Microsystems founder Andreas Bechtolsheim, Facebook cofounder Andrew McCollum, former Facebook COO Owen van Natta, Marc Benioff’s private-investment manager Mark Goldstein, Sequoia Capital’s David Spector, former eBay President Jeff Skoll, Scott Banister, Vast Ventures, and many others.
DiCaprio starred in the movie “Blood Diamond” and has since taken on some related activism against the industry, which has been heavily criticized for its negative environmental impact and child labor.
The company says it has raised less than $100 million to date — which is significant considering the startup just publicly launched on Wednesday morning. Roscheisen, the company’s CEO, was in the same Ph.D. program at Stanford as Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
While Diamond Foundry is making the diamonds, it isn’t designing jewelry. Instead, it has a marketplace with about 200 partnering designers who buy the crystals from Diamond Foundry, put them in their rings, bracelets, and necklaces, then sell them straight to consumers online. The designer purchases are currently the startup’s only source of income.
By buying diamonds through Diamond Foundry, the designers can avoid giving a cut of the money to traditional outlets like De Beers or Tiffany’s. That doesn’t mean Diamond Foundry is selling its jewels at a discount though.
While synthetic diamonds tend to cost about 30% less than naturally made and mined diamonds, Diamond Foundry says its product will cost about the same, if not more, than market value.
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