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Growing Colored Diamonds: An Interview with Alex Grizenko of Ultimate Created Diamonds

Jul 16, 1999 3:49 PM   By Robert Genis
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By Robert Genis



Alex Grizenko, president of Ultimate Created Diamonds (UDC) in Golden, Colorado,

is a major player in the marketing of synthetic Russian colored diamonds. RDR recently

interviewed Grizenko for a closer look at the latest trends in this fast changing market.

Could you describe your background and how you got into the gem business?

My background is probably as diversified as backgrounds get. After receiving a bachelor of science degree in physiological psychology and a master's degree from Duke's Fuqua School of Business, I spent 14 years in computer related businesses. My first opportunity to respect and admire gemstones only came in 1987, when I began frequent business trips to Russia. I recall an occasion when one of our Russian partners put into my palm ten large, round, brilliant, Siberian chrome diopsides. It was at that moment, I believe, that I decided to enter the gem trade.

After spending several years studying Russian colored gemstones and then developing sources for them, I created Russian Colored Stone (RCS) Company in 1993. RCS immediately set out to popularize a number of very attractive natural gems, including chrome diopside and demantoid garnet from Russia, bicolor topaz and heliodor beryl from the Ukraine, and spinel and scapolite from Tadjikistan.

In 1994, in parallel with our natural programs, we began selling Russian-lab created hydrothermal emerald, followed by flux and pulled alexandrite, and then created red beryl. The following year we concluded agreements with Russian diamond growers and began selling lab-grown diamonds in the U.S. under the trademark “Ultimate Created Diamonds.”

During the past two years, Ultimate Created Diamond Co. (UCD) has focused on recreating fancy diamond colors in synthetics. To date we have achieved spectacular fancy yellows and fancy blues simply through crystal growth and fancy reds, oranges, pinks, and alexandrite-effect color change diamonds through irradiation and/or heat-pressure treatment. We continue to add to our palette of fancy diamond colors. We have grown near-colorless and have received our share of publicity from the major magazines on them. Recently we have taken a strategic position to focus only on the development and production of fancy color diamonds.

Do you have exclusive relationships with the Russian growers of synthetic diamonds? How many Russian firms have the high-tech equipment to produce synthetic diamonds?

We have several exclusive relationships with diamond growers in Russia, however, the Russian labs and lab staff are all struggling to survive, and exclusivity often takes on different interpretations. Some labs are barely functioning, but the good labs are still alive, even though their names may have changed more than once. Adrian Pennink of the BBC, who is doing a film on synthetic diamonds, keeps asking me the same question, "How many labs are there?" The honest answer is that I don't know how many there are in total, but I suspect there are a few more than the six labs that I know still make jewelry grade synthetic diamonds.

Would you briefly discuss the trends in synthetic Russian diamond production. Are production, sizes, and qualities increasing?

Bigger was a trend for awhile, but with existing technology a size limitation of 5 to 6 carat crystals has stopped this trend. Qualities are constantly increasing, and new color recipes are being added to the color palette. Also, the quest continues for more advanced uses of synthetic diamond in high tech applications. Someday we will have an active synthetic diamond industry, and what you see today is just the beginning.

Is your primary market the United States? Do you also market in Europe and Asia? Do you target manufacturers, jewelers, or custom designers?

Our primary market will be the United States where we intend to establish our created diamond brand with jewelry designers, manufacturers, and retailers. The U.S. is more tolerant of change and we expect that it will embrace our created diamonds faster than any other part of the world. Of course, with successes in the U.S. we will expand our markets to Europe and Asia.

Could you explain why your synthetic diamonds are an exact copy of natural diamonds vs. moissanite or cubic zirconia?

For more sophisticated explanations, please look toward the gemological scholars. Simply stated, a diamond is a diamond, whether nature makes it deep in the earth, or we make it in a lab. Our lab diamond, except for traces of impurities (which we want for color), is essentially carbon. And if it is carbon and looks like a diamond, well, it is a diamond. It has the same physical properties, same optical properties, same chemical properties, same brilliance, and same fire. Moissanite or cubic zirconia would like to fool you into thinking that they are carbon, but alas, they are only simulants. They have a different chemistry, different optical properties, they are very different.

Could you describe the colors you are marketing and the prices per carat?

Our prices are based on clarity, cut, weight, and color and the ranges are as follows based on price per carat.

4Yellows $600 to $3,000

4Blues $2,000 to $5,000

4Reds, Oranges, Pinks $1,000 to $5,000

4Color Change $2,000 to $4,000

Is the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) grading and laser inscribing your diamonds?

GIA is able to laser inscribe our created diamonds with a UCD logo and inventory number and we have initiated discussions with other labs around the world to perform a similar service. To date we have offered inscription service to our clients as an option, and the majority of our clients have chosen not to incur the additional expense, especially on smaller stones. We believe very strongly about facilitating long-term identification of our synthetics and our future plans include in-house inscription of each stone above .25 carats.

Do you have any advice for dealers or jewelers on how to recognize and identify your diamonds?

As beautiful as our diamonds are, they share certain characteristics which might identify a diamond as a synthetic. When these diamonds are presented as natural and non-treated diamonds, my advice is to send them to a qualified lab for identification. Signs for synthetic diamonds have been reported on extensively in all of the gem and jewelry trade magazines during the past six months. I believe that we now have a general industry awareness that a small number of synthetic diamonds have entered the trade and more will follow. Current technology won't produce mountains of synthetics, but all jewelers should recognize diamonds that have:

4Opaque metallic inclusions which are flux remnants;

4Magnetism;

4Uneven color distribution and zoning;

4Distinctive short wave fluorescence

(green or strong yellow) and long lasting phosphorescence;

4Distinctive octagonal or "stop sign" graining patterns.

Do you have a web page where interested parties can learn more about your products?

Yes, our web site is http://www.UCDiamonds.com. Our gem gallery is located at rcgems.com.

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Tags: GIA, Jewelry, Labs, Production, Russia, United States
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