Diamonds Are in the Air

Lab-grown diamonds are reaching new heights — quite literally — because of Skydiamond, an English company that uses carbon from the atmosphere to create what it calls sustainable, carbon-negative diamonds.

And jewelry brands, including the English designer Stephen Webster and Gucci’s experimental online store Vault, are using the gems.

Skydiamond is the creation of Dale Vince, a climate-change activist and entrepreneur, who said during a recent phone interview that 10 years ago he sought to “capture carbon on an epic scale by fiddling with the environment.”

But he soon realized that removing carbon from the air would be helpful only if it could be stored, to prevent it from re-entering the atmosphere. That was when he had a light-bulb moment.

“Back then I just had the simple thought that the most prevalent form of carbon that we know of is the diamond. And wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to make diamonds from excess atmospheric carbon?” he said. “It was just a mind doodle.”

That doodle became Skydiamond, based in Gloucestershire, England, which uses a technology called direct air capture. Once the carbon dioxide is gathered from the air, it is liquefied, cooled and purified on site, Mr. Vince said, and stored in tanks.

The company then produces its gems in the same general way as other lab-grown diamonds, Mr. Vince said, but he stressed that the processing is powered by renewable energy, including solar, wind and rain — bypassing environmental concerns about the enormous amounts of energy required to mimic the earth’s natural process of compression and heating to create diamonds.

Mr. Vince is no stranger to environmental initiatives. In 1995, he founded Ecotricity, an English energy company focused on ethical renewable energy. He also created Devil’s Kitchen, which produces plant-based burgers and sausages, and he is chairman of the Forest Green Rovers, a carbon-neutral soccer club in England that has been recognized by the United Nations.

In December 2021, Skydiamond introduced its first 15 diamonds, which Mr. Vince said sold out online within hours. Then in October, the company debuted a jewelry line with solitaire pendants and stud earrings priced from 250 pounds to 15,000 pounds ($305 to $18,325), followed in December by a collaboration with the Stephen Webster brand.

The major piece in the Webster collection, priced from $2,450 to $65,000 in the United States, is the Orbital Piercer Earrings, a pair of blue titanium pieces inspired by the idea of orbiting space debris. It also featured four new diamond cuts — named Stellar, Volt, Rocket and Meteoric — developed by Mr. Webster’s brand.

Mr. Webster said in an email that he had never considered using lab-grown diamonds, but was drawn to Skydiamond’s renewable energy agenda.

“I knew that this process was definitely progressing the diamond growing industry in a genuinely sustainable way,” Mr. Webster wrote. “It gave me enough reason to want to be at the forefront of bringing these particular diamonds to the market.”

Earlier this month, the London fine jeweler Bleue Burnham and Skydiamond introduced a cloud-theme collection of silver and gold jewels, featuring pendants, rings and bracelets set with as many as 500 diamonds (£875 to £37,500). They are sold exclusively on Vault, the Gucci site.

Word of mouth about Skydiamond has continued to grow. Jessica Warch is the co-founder and chief executive of Kimaï, a London jeweler that exclusively uses lab-grown diamonds.

Her brand still is considering whether to use Skydiamonds, but she praised the company for its eco credentials as well as its research and development investment.

“A lot of people can do lab-grown diamonds, but what people are struggling with is achieving high quality stones,” she said. “It’s like buying the best oven: It doesn’t mean that the best cake will come out — you need the right recipe.”

She said that she considered Skydiamond’s pricing to be “a work in progress,” with its stones selling at levels close to that of natural diamonds — even though most lab-grown diamonds are typically a fraction of that price.

For comparison: According to Rapaport, a jewelry industry source for diamond prices, a one-carat round natural diamond, with an E color and VS2 clarity, would retail from $6,884, while a similar lab-grown diamond would retail from $1,402.

Skydiamond, asked to price one of its gems with similar qualities to the natural diamond, said its stone would retail for £7,410 ($9,052).

Ms. Warch said sustainability in many industries came at a premium, but, in jewelry, lab-grown diamonds and their lower prices were “playing a role in motivating customers to make that switch faster.”