Leonardo DiCaprio Wants You to Ditch Mined Diamonds—and Buy Ones Made in a Lab
Leonardo DiCaprio and the cofounders of Twitter and Facebook are investing their funds in a new kind of jewel they hope will not only dazzle buyers but also give new meaning to the term "conflict-free diamonds."
Unveiled on Wednesday, Diamond Foundry's luxury crystals were invented in a San Francisco warehouse using solar power technology, not excavated from the earth by miners. The company is led by R. Martin Roscheisen, the Austrian American entrepreneur whose company Nanosolar developed a low-cost technique for printing solar power.
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"As they started looking into it, it just became so quickly, so abundantly clear that the entire [diamond] industry is fraught," Stephen Haskell, the company's vice president of marketing, told TakePart. He noted a range of problems, from the "terrible environmental impact that comes with mining to the horrific history of human conflict, whether it's child labor or completely unethical labor practices."
Haskell said the synthetic stones posed a significant challenge for engineers until they realized the same technology used to harness the sun's energy could apply to growing crystals. They spent three years creating a plasma that they say contains the same atoms as the earth-extracted rocks—unlike more affordable diamond alternatives like cubic zirconia. The crystals from Diamond Foundry are priced slightly higher than most low-end diamonds, said Haskell.
The watchdog organization found similarly appalling conditions last year in the diamond mines in Sierra Leone, where Harvard University researchers traveled in 2009 and concluded child labor was rampant. The Western African country is still recovering from a civil war that resulted in some 70,000 deaths and 2.6 million displaced people when it ended in 2002, according to the United Nations.