At a drab office park in a Washington suburb, in an unmarked building’s windowless lab, Yarden Tsach is growing diamonds.
Not rhinestones or cubic zirconia. Diamonds. Real ones. In a matter of eight weeks, inside a gas-filled chamber, he replicates a process that usually takes billions of years in the bowels of the planet. Carbon atom by carbon atom, he creates nature’s hardest, most brilliant and — if decades of advertisements are to be believed — most romantic stone.
No outsiders get to witness this genesis, though. WD Lab Grown Diamonds, where Tsach is chief technology officer, guards its approach as zealously as its address. These are the measures a company takes when it’s a target — of fierce competitors, potential jewel thieves and a traditional industry that would very much like it to go away.
“Everything is after us,” Tsach says. He doesn’t mean it as a joke. Until the middle of the past century, all of the world’s diamonds originated more than 1 billion years ago in the Earth’s hot, dark interior.
Tremendous temperatures and pressures forced the carbon atoms there to link up in a flawless, three-dimensional lattice that would prove incredibly strong and equally effective at bending and bouncing light. The result was a crystal — a gem in the rough that, once cut and polished, would dazzle with unmatched radiance.
Yet getting those stones up to the surface has required an enormous — and sometimes bloody — effort. The environmental impact of diamond mines is so sprawling that it can be seen from space.
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