A startup is using renewable energy to turn rainwater and captured carbon into diamonds
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Spotted: According to the latest figures, the world produced 116 million carats of rough diamonds in 2021. Admired since ancient times for their sparkle, the gemstones – which are the world’s hardest material – are typically mined from the earth in processes that have negative impacts on everything from soil and air quality to water scarcity, biodiversity, and climate change. What is more, the diamond mining industry has a history of human rights abuses and associations with conflict.
Because of these environmental and social challenges, many people today opt for synthetic diamonds ‘grown’ in a lab. First created by General Electric in 1954, lab-grown diamonds are now big business with a global market estimated to be worth $22.64 billion in 2022 (although this still represents only a fraction of the overall diamond trade). While synthetic diamonds offer a more ethical and sustainable alternative to the mined variety, they are not entirely free of negative impacts as they require a significant amount of coal or liquified natural gas as a raw material and are produced in an energy-intensive process.
Now, however, UK startup Skydiamond is going even further by producing diamonds made from captured CO2 and water in a process powered by solar and wind energy. The company collects rainwater from its factory roof and uses renewable electricity to split it into oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen is then combined with the captured atmospheric carbon and a special type of microbe to create methane, which is then fed into the diamond mill alongside a small amount of nitrogen. In the mill, this mix is added to a diamond seed and heated to 1,000 degrees Celsius using renewable energy provided by the startup’s partner company Ecotricity. After several weeks, the diamonds are fully formed and sent to be made into jewellery.
The groundbreaking gemstones are used in earrings, pendants, and rings, including (of course) engagement rings. They have also appeared in collaborations with Gucci Vault and Steven Webster.
Other diamond and jewellery innovations spotted by Springwise include jewellery made from regeneratively mined materials, blockchain technology for diamond traceability, and a solar-powered facility for lab-grown diamonds.
Written By: Matthew Hempstead