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November 1999


Man-Made in Florida

Synthetic diamonds from a new producer are headed for jewelry counters

A Florida company has launched commercial production of synthetic diamonds with hopes of having enough ready to market in a year or two.

The diamonds are produced with Russian technology, equipment and expertise in a project funded by Carter Clarke, a retired U.S. Army general who runs Gemesis Corp. in Gainesville. Gemesis hired researchers and engineers from the University of Florida and scientists from Novosibirsk, a Russian diamond synthesis center. Scientists who still live in Russia collaborate on the project also.
The company's resources include several diamond presses imported from Russia. "The quality of the machines left something to be desired," says Clarke. "But with modifications, we'll be able to control consistency and supply."

The company has produced more than 200 yellow, brownish yellow, colorless and green diamonds in the past 11/2 years, some up to 1.60 carats. Clarke says the green is caused by coloring agents, not irradiation like other green diamonds.

Jewelry Focus

The first order of business is perfecting gem-quality synthetic diamonds, says Reza Abbaschian, the principal investigator at the University of Florida. "Long-term plans call for production of diamonds for use in electronics and other high-tech applications."

The university says a typical jeweler couldn't distinguish between a natural diamond and one of these synthetics. But synthetic diamond expert Alex Grizenko of Ultimate Created Diamonds, Golden, CO, says they are produced with a high-pressure, high-temperature, split-sphere apparatus typical of diamond synthesis so they should be identifiable using standard gemological techniques, such as fluorescence and magnification. (See Professional Jeweler, March 1999, p. 29, for tips on separating synthetic and natural diamonds.)


Clarke plans to import 200 more presses and eventually to produce 20,000 to 24,000 carats annually. He hasn't set prices yet and is investigating several distribution methods, including the Internet, wholesale and retail. "I see this as a niche product that could be priced to compete with natural [diamonds] and simulants such as cubic zirconia," he says.

Clarke plans to market his product as cultured diamonds and says he's unaware of any Federal Trade Commission infringements using the term. "The FTC clearly says these diamonds should be sold with a qualification," and the word 'cultured' is our qualification," he says. Here's what the FTC Guides for the Jewelry Industry say in Section 23.19: "It is an unfair trade practice to use the ... name of any precious or semiprecious stone, as descriptive of a synthetic stone or an imitation or simulated stone, unless such word or name is immediately preceded, with equal conspicuity, by the word 'synthetic,' or by the word 'imitation' or 'simulated,' whichever is applicable, or by some other word or phrase of like meaning, so as clearly to disclose the nature of such product and the fact that it is not a natural stone."

by Robert Weldon, G.G.

Robert Chodelka, a scientist in the synthetic diamond project at the University of Florida, poses with a high-temperature, high-pressure press used to produce diamonds.

Examples of uncut diamonds produced in Florida. These and other colors may be available to the jewelry trade in quantity in a year or two.

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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