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33. Diamond Foundry

Diamonds in a Lab

Founder: Martin Roscheisen
Launched: 2015
Funding: $100 million
Valuation: N/A
Disrupting: Diamond mining
Rival: DeBeers

This San Francisco-based company has figured out how to make high-quality diamonds in its Santa Clara, California, lab that are atomically identical to diamonds mined from the earth. The Diamond Foundry was started last year by Martin Roscheisen, founder of the solar power company Nanosolar. After he folded that company in 2013, he and the team he was working with set out to see where else solar power could make a difference. The diamond industry came to mind, and with its decades-long history of human rights and labor issues, Roscheisen said it was ripe for change.

Read MoreFULL LIST: 2016 DISRUPTOR 50

The technology he came up with works this way: a sliver of an earth-mined diamond is placed in plasma reactors that reach temperatures as hot as the surface of the sun. From that, layers of identical crystal atoms form and stack on top of each other, forming a diamond that can reach nine carats in two weeks. The resulting ecofriendly diamond can then be cut and shaped and used in rings, necklaces and other jewelry.

"Mining has the largest environmental footprint of any type of human activity. We are eliminating the impact of mining on the environment and societies around the world." -Martin Roscheisen, founder and CEO

Diamond Foundry isn't the only company out there making synthetic diamonds. San Francisco-based Brilliant Earth and Pure Grown Diamonds in Florida also sell lab-made diamonds. Diamond Foundry claims what sets it apart from competitors is that it uses its solar power credits to reduce its carbon footprint to zero. It also has an online marketplace where independent jewelry designers can use Diamond Foundry's gems in their creations. The company said the designers keep the proceeds from these sales minus the cost of the diamonds.

Diamond Foundry said its diamonds are jewelry quality and backed by industry-standard certificates indicating their cut and clarity. They sell for slightly more than mined diamonds, Roscheisen said, mainly because of the limited supply right now and the fact that customers appreciate that there are no human rights violations associated with them.

So far, the company has some big names backing it. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio has invested in the company, along with Twitter founder Evan Williams and Zynga founder Mark Pincus. To date, it's raised about $100 million.


Martin Roscheisen, founder and CEO of Diamond Foundry
Source: Diamond Foundry
Martin Roscheisen, founder and CEO of Diamond Foundry

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