West Coast startup Diamond Foundry is ushering in a new precious-mineral rush in California—this time for clear, undetectably lab-grown diamonds made by plasma reactor technology that mimics the outer core of the sun.
When founder and CEO Martin Roscheisen had trouble getting his solar-panel company off the ground, he refitted its technology into the five-year-old Diamond Foundry, which produces 100,000 carats a year in its new South San Francisco facility and had around $100 million in sales last year.
The company’s raw products are sold wholesale to jewelers around the world and used in-house for its direct-to-consumer jewelry brand, Vrai & Oro, which Diamond Foundry acquired in November 2016. Geared toward millennial women, with unique cuts, a 121,000-follower-strong Instagram presence, and ethical sourcing (no blood diamonds!), Vrai & Oro accounted for 50% of Diamond Foundry’s 2017 revenue. “We’re fully integrated, from mine to finger,” says Roscheisen.
To create an even bigger market for man-made diamonds, the company is now wooing the fashion class: It showcased its jewels at Paris Fashion Week last fall, at an event cohosted by Stella McCartney, and has partnered with such upscale brands as Barneys New York and Swarovski for new collections. (It also helps to have Leonardo DiCaprio among its investors.) Demand is growing.
“We’re doubling our production over the next few months,” says Roscheisen, “and we’ve still had to decline [sales opportunities].” Later this year, when the company debuts a megafactory in Wenatchee, Washington, customers will have another 1 million carats’ worth of opportunities to buy from Diamond Foundry.