A technology company grows diamonds in the desert

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(CNN) — Diamonds are the hardest substance on Earth and are very difficult to find in nature.

For thousands of years, humans have dug deep into the earth for diamonds, creating some of the world’s largest artificial pits in Russia and South Africa that reach as far as 625 meters (2,050 ft) underground.

The intensive process has impacts on both nature and people, including hazardous working conditions and practices that damage ecosystems.

But mining is not the only way to obtain diamonds. According to the International Gem Society, the first laboratory-grown diamond (LGD) was produced in the 1950s, and the technology continues to evolve, allowing laboratories to grow gem-quality crystals at affordable prices. (Up to 80% cheaper) Without sustainability and mining ethics concerns.

And growing diamonds artificially means that diamond production can be taken to the most unexpected places, including deserts.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the world leader in diamond imports and exports, but it has no diamond mines. Then, businessman Mohammed Sabeg saw an opportunity to not only market diamonds, but also develop them.

In 2022, he co-founded Dubai-based 2DOT4 Diamonds and became the first to produce, cut and polish lab-grown diamonds in the UAE.

“Our idea was to bring the mine closer to the consumer,” says Sabeg. “Instead of shipping diamonds around the world, diamonds are produced and sold locally.”

Mohammed Sabeg, co-founder of Dubai-based company 2DOT4, is examining lab-grown diamonds.  (Paul DeWitt/CNN)

Mohammed Sabeg, co-founder of Dubai-based company 2DOT4, is examining lab-grown diamonds. (Paul DeWitt/CNN)

diamonds in creation

The company’s name, 2DOT4, comes from diamond’s refractive index: the speed at which light passes through diamond compared to air, which is about 2.4 times slower.

For Sabeg, having a name related to a physical property of a gem indicates that pieces produced in the laboratory are similar to those found in nature.

“The only difference is that we control the pressure, we control the heat, we control the gases,” he says. “You don’t have control over the diamonds that are mined, the earth does.”

Sabeg explains that to grow a diamond, whether grown in a lab or mined, you start with a “seed” and it’s usually between 0.3 and 0.6 millimeters thick. (2DOT4 makes its own seeds from home-grown diamonds.)

The seeds placed inside a reactor are exposed to gases such as hydrogen, methane, oxygen and argon. It experiences pressures up to 180 tors (about two-thirds the pressure at the summit of Mount Everest) and reaches temperatures of 1,000 °C (1,832 °F). Thus, carbon is gradually deposited on thin slices.

Therefore, its quantity increasing is a matter of time.

Diamonds are growing inside a reactor at 2DOT4 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  (Paul DeWitt/CNN)

Diamonds are growing inside a reactor at 2DOT4 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Paul DeWitt/CNN)

“The speed of development is decided using various parameters: the lower the speed, the better the quality,” Sabeg explains.

On average, 2DOT4 grows its diamonds at a speed of about 0.01 millimeters per hour. This means that every 24 hours the stone increases in length by an amount equal to the thickness of two sheets of paper.

Once the diamond has grown to at least five millimeters in height, the piece is called a “block” and has three possible outcomes. It can be harvested into more seeds, which will be returned to the reactors to grow more diamonds. Or, depending on demand, 2DOT4 will cut and polish the gemstone. After this it can be sold to jewelers and designers or designed jewelery can be made at home.

a world gem

Currently, the United States, China and India dominate LGD production, with the latter two accounting for more than two-thirds of global production, according to Paul Zimnisky, a US-based diamond industry analyst and consultant.

Apart from jewellery, lab-grown diamonds are used in many industries, especially when it comes to making tools that cut dense materials like concrete, marble and metals.

For example, China “has a decades-long heritage of producing synthetic diamonds for abrasive industrial applications, so it also has the knowledge and infrastructure to become a major producer of synthetic diamonds for jewellery,” explains Zimnisky. .

A section of rough diamond that is ready to be polished or cut into rough diamond.  (Paul DeWitt/CNN)

A section of rough diamond that is ready to be polished or cut into rough diamond. (Paul DeWitt/CNN)

India, on the other hand, has long been a leader in diamond cutting and polishing, and has also adopted LGD technology to launch it into production. Last year, the country carried out tax reforms in the sector and promised additional financing to further expand its synthetic diamond industry.

Given the UAE’s status as a major diamond trading hub and its diversification efforts away from oil, expanding into the lab-grown diamond industry is a key to its economy, says Ahmed bin Sulayem, director executive and CEO of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre. There may be steps. DMCC), a global trade center that organized the first Lab-Grown Diamond Symposium.

Bin Sulayem says, “As the rise of the LGD industry symbolizes the intersection of technology and commerce, its potential is huge, (and) we are excited to see Dubai as a leading force in this transformative era.”

He added, “Sixty years ago, if you told someone it was a synthetic or lab-grown diamond, they wouldn’t even look at it.” But younger generations are more concerned about the ethical and environmental issues associated with mining and are attracted to the affordability of luxury goods, “so the industry has to adapt,” he added.

However, entering the LGD production sector can be a challenge. According to Zimnisky, it will be difficult to compete with India and China on a large scale, “unless you have a competitive advantage or a specialized or niche business.”

Interior of the 2DOT4 laboratory in Dubai.  (Paul DeWitt/CNN)

Interior of the 2DOT4 laboratory in Dubai. (Paul DeWitt/CNN)

great future

Other UAE companies are following 2DOT4 and setting up their LGD businesses in Dubai, including Ivic Diamonds, part of the HRA Group, which set up its production facilities in the emirate just a few months ago. Meanwhile, local brands like Attica and Ioni market their designs using only lab-grown gems.

For DMCC, the aim is to encourage all production to be done internally as a way of adding value to the final product and strengthening local industry.

“The main message we are giving to the lab-grown diamond industry is: don’t waste time selling diamonds, focus on the final art,” Bin Sulayem says.

For Sabeg, the hope is that 2DOT4’s creations are laying the foundation for the future of LGD production in a country that currently imports more diamonds than anywhere else in the world.

“The way we look at what we’re doing is setting a standard in the industry,” he says.


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