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Counter Cultured

“I love cultured diamonds, and I did the moment I first saw them,” says Joe Schubach of Joseph Schubach Jewelers, Scottsdale, Arizona. He’s speaking of the deeply saturated yellows created in high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) chambers by Gemesis Corp. “I’ve been with Gemesis from the start, and while I initially saw a lot of resistance among my peers to cultured diamonds, I think what they offer at retail is clear: sales that might not have been made otherwise; a new type of client; a luxury that would have been otherwise unaffordable; and most important, the ability to individuate with a unique product. In a market as competitive as Scottsdale, that’s huge.”

Schubach’s operation is unique, making him fairly typical of jewelers who carry lab-created diamonds: forward-looking, open to alternatives, and web savvy. The family business is just shy of a century old, with doors once in three states, including nine in the Phoenix area. After he took over the business in 1994, however, Schubach closed every door, took a thousand square feet in an office building and opened a design-centric, appointment-based salon tailored to on-line sales and marketing. The first Arizonan to offer moissanite, his inventory also includes Chatham lab-created diamonds, sapphires, rubies, and emeralds; fracture-filled diamonds; and simulated stones.

Call them what you will, diamonds grown in machines are still as controversial as they’ve been since their 2003 write-up in Wired, a story that certainly put man-made on the map. Retailers, however, are seeing straightforward results. “Techies love them,” Schubach says. “Environmentally and socially conscious people. People who didn’t know fancy colors exist, or third-time diamond buyers who’ve always wanted one, but could never afford a fancy. Fashion buyers, but also bridal. If I have a reservation, it’s that they’re pretty much maxing out at 1.5 carats, and demand for 2 carat-plus is big and growing.”

“I have a long list of people who want one caraters,” says Alexandria Matossian of Bostonian Jewelers. “The bulk of our stones to date are less than a half-carat.” She’s speaking not of HPHT yellows, but of whites from Boston-based Apollo Diamond, which grows stones by the chemical vapor depostion (CVD) process. Bostonian is the first jeweler, and currently the only jeweler, to carry Apollo. “We’re getting so many calls from out west,” says Matossian, “and two a day from England, Australia, Canada. I suspect there will be other retailers before long.” Apollo president Bryant Linares says the company will be “exploring the expansion of retail” later this year.

With seven bench jewelers, Bostonian is also a unique operation. Jewelry manufacturers for 30 years, with a decade-old Internet presence and a pioneering technological bent, they opened a design-oriented, appointment-based door in a diamond district building 12 years ago. That business rests heavily on referrals, Internet marketing, and on a very new type of customer.

“I’d say 25 percent of new calls are Apollo-based,” says Matossian. “Some have spoken of the environment or conflict. But this is Boston and the bulk of local interest is from techies buying Apollo for loved ones, or simply to sit next to their computer. Some have been watching the process develop for years, and the romance for these customers—and I think it’s a legitimate use of the word—lies in a very full understanding of the process.”

Because of the less than a half-carat average size, Matossian has found her greatest CVD use in jewelry is as side stones. The local connection with Apollo is important, but it runs deeper. “We met the Linares family in 1999 [founder Dr. Robert Linares, who began with CVD for use in semiconductors, and his son Bryant], when Jewelers of America did a seminar,” she says. “They’re people who genuinely want to help the world, and you can’t mistake that. It’s about as non-synthetic as you can get.” That positive feeling extends to Apollo buyers. “There’s an aura to these sales that’s very positive. I’ve certainly never had a customer say, ‘Ugh, that’s synthetic.’”

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Palladium rings
Palladium rings with Gemesis centers accented by natural pavé diamonds by Renaissance Diamonds, (561) 368-1111.
earrings with one carat total weight Gemesis cultured diamonds and pavé natural diamonds
“Maltese Cross” earrings with one carat total weight Gemesis cultured diamonds and pavé natural diamonds by Joseph Schubach Jewelers, (888) 724-8222.
Platinum rings with diamonds
Platinum rings from the “Vines” collection set with Apollo cultured diamonds from Bostonian Jewelers, (617) 523-2934.
lab-created diamond set into a platinum Steven Kretchmer ring
From left: Fancy vivid yellowish-orange 1.30 carat D.NEA lab-created diamond set into a platinum Steven Kretchmer ring, $7,740; 1.82 carat fancy vivid yellow orange D.NEA lab-created diamond, platinum, and 22k yellow gold ring; and fancy deep blue 0.83 carat D.NEA lab-created diamond and 18k white gold ring by Jane Taylor, $6,535, all from D.NEA, (877) LAB-DIAMOND.
lab-grown diamonds
Designs set with Gemesis lab-grown diamonds by Pintura, (212) 575-8145.
Platinum ring with 14 round Gemesis lab-grown diamonds
Platinum ring with 14 round Gemesis lab-grown diamonds, total 5.60 carats, and 28 natural white diamonds by Renaissance Platinum, (310) 360-1189.
Earrings with cushion shape fancy yellow lab-grown diamonds
Earrings with cushion shape fancy yellow lab-grown diamonds, 2.45 carats, surrounded by 3.3 carats of natural diamonds by Solaura, suggested retail $26,600, (212) 869-5160.
diamond pendant
Pendant by Taryn Rose for Cultured Diamond Co., (27) (11) 455-0170,
18k gold rings with .16 carat lab-grown blue, yellow, and pink diamonds
The “Conscience” collection by Gary Ptak features 18k gold rings with .16 carat lab-grown blue, yellow, and pink diamonds, suggested retail $2,190 to $2,478, (800) 782-5112.