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Sarasota Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009 10 years ago

Sweet Gigs: Homegrown gems

by: Loren Mayo Black Tie Editor

Carlos Mendez’ fingernails are surprisingly clean. Working with diamonds may sound alluring and glamorous, but Gemesis isn’t a jewelry store, and Mendez isn’t spending the day with polished stones.

This technician spends the workday tucking carbon pieces around a diamond core inside of steel chambers that simulate, over a five-day period, the underground growth process 100 miles beneath the earth’s surface that usually takes years.

“We grow the diamond from the beginning, from a seed,” Mendez said. “We use 850,000 psi (pounds-per-square-inch) of pressure and a temperature of 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.”

The Gemesis cultured diamond has the same chemical, physical and optical characteristics as a mined diamond and is distinguished by hardness, specific gravity, refractive index and dispersion factor.

The diamond core holds one diamond seed the size of a grain of sand and elements such as graphite, carbon and boron. The amount of nitrogen added to the compound depends on the color of the stone; for darker colors, more nitrogen is necessary.

When heat and pressure are added, the graphite and atoms become liquid and adhere to the seed, which starts the growth process.

When the solid cools down, the metal is dissolved to remove the diamond and, afterward, is graded by one of four scientists, who examine the rough diamond to prepare it for sale. Most diamonds are 2.5 to 2.75 karats before they are cut and cost roughly half the price of mined, white diamonds.

“We send the rough diamonds out to India, Israel, New York and South Africa for polishing, cutting, sizing and selling,” Mendez said.

Some pieces are sent back to Gemesis and sold as loose diamonds or made into earrings.

“It’s a challenge, working with scientists and making it all happen,” Mendez said. “But everything here is unique, fun. Not a lot of people have this job.”

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