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Ahmed Bin Sulayem

Precious Diversification: How the Ultimate Material can be Forever

With just one day remaining until DMCC’s Inaugural Lab-Grown Diamond Symposium, I am reminded of a journalist who, several months ago, asked me about the perceived conflict of interest in promoting the lab-grown industry adjacently to the world’s top trading hub for rough diamonds and whether it might be detrimental to its natural counterpart. The answer is quite the opposite.

Since the emergence of a commercially viable lab-grown diamond industry, the coexistence of both sectors has catalysed the purpose of the other while providing an extensive list of benefits that reach beyond the myopic viewpoint of jewellery and into an exciting future for our industrial, scientific, medical, and electrical communities. As the industry grows, natural and lab-grown diamonds are complementary and not competitors.

It is beyond the jewellery sector where I believe lab-grown diamonds will come into their element. Where previously the requirement but high cost in the industrial sector was unavoidable, lab-grown diamonds have provided a more cost-effective way of supporting mining, construction, and machining. At the same time, their heat-resistant properties make them highly suited to high-power electronics and thermal management systems.

Within research and development and material science, lab-grown diamonds represent the “ultimate material” for high-pressure research, quantum optics and as a medium for laser experiments thanks to their pure optical, electrical, and thermal properties. In medicine, they are broadly used for greater precision in both general surgery and dentistry. Meanwhile, their use in the electronics and semiconductor space will support the next generation of high-performance transistors, diodes and radiation detectors thanks to their high-carrier mobility and low dielectric constant.

The world’s first lab-grown diamond was produced in 1974 under a project codenamed “Project Superpressure.” The scientists achieved their ground-breaking result by mimicking the immense conditions required to forge naturally occurring diamonds; in this case, by subjecting small seed crystals to temperatures of 1,600 degrees Celsius and a pressure of 100,000 atmospheres. By adding iron, nickel, and cobalt to accelerate the transformation, the team successfully turned graphite into diamond. While too small for jewellery, the outcome did provide use in the industrial sector.

Today most lab-grown diamonds are created through chemical vapour deposition, which uses carbon gas to heat and sticks to the diamond seed, giving scientists greater control over the finished product in terms of size and quality while reducing the cost of production. As a result natural and lab-grown diamonds have found their niches in the jewellery market – one upholding the prestige of the industry as a naturally occurring stone whose value is justified by its extraordinary development and extraction, with the other yielding a more cost-effective, yet still desirable entry point for consumers.

As highlighted by industry leader and Del Lima director Ali Pastorini, “The growth of lab-grown diamonds is a reality that paves the way for new customers who, until then, did not consider the acquisition of a jewel as a consumption item. I have always said natural and lab-grown diamonds can co-exist because they serve different target audiences. Ultimately, it contributes to an increase in the search for diamonds and more visibility to our sector.”

As a sector that has been widely undervalued, misunderstood, or erroneously seen as a threat to the existing natural diamond business, I’ve been encouraged by the level of support shown by industry experts from both sides who understand the complementary value of lab-grown diamonds, and those whose industries will significantly benefit from having direct access to what will become a global industry centre.

In Dubai, over $1.5 billion of lab-grown diamonds were traded in 2022 – a year-on-year increase of 126 percent. At DMCC we operate lab-grown diamond tenders and have over 30 companies operating in the LGD space – many of which trade and do business with Israeli customers daily. And while I believe we are only at the beginning of the market’s true potential, DMCC’s Lab-grown Diamond Symposium will set a precedent as the first regional gathering that engages and discusses the true potential of this nascent industry. We have registered considerable interest from Israeli stakeholders.

With so much experience sitting at the interface of technology and traditional physical commodities such as gold and natural diamonds, Israeli companies will undoubtedly play a major role in lab-grown diamonds in the years to come. And I stand ready to work with them as we turn the region into the next major hub for this exciting new technology.

About the Author
Ahmed Bin Sulayem is the Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre and has driven its growth from a start-up of 28 member companies in 2003 to the world’s leading free zone in 2023 with over 23,000 member companies from 180 countries, employing over 65,000 people. Mr. Bin Sulayem currently serves as the Chairman of the Dubai Diamond Exchange (DDE) and the Dubai Gold & Commodities Exchange (DGCX).
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