OREM If diamonds really are a girl's best friend, then that circle of friends is expanding to include pink, purple and yellow precious stones.
But for those who can't afford the naturally vibrant gems flashed by Jennifer Lopez and Katie Holmes, an Orem company has found a way to "enhance" real diamonds to make them every bit as sparkly as J.Lo's 14.5 carat blue diamond, minus the six-figure price tag.
Suncrest Diamonds, a division of US Synthetic, is one of the few companies in the world that use pressure and heat to change an authentic diamond's color not just disguise it in a coat of paint.
"If you are a celebrity, (you) can afford these outrageous prices for these diamonds," said Marc Modersitzki, director of marketing for US Synthetic in Orem, the parent company of Suncrest Diamonds. "Now we have (diamonds) ... as beautiful as the rare ones you see the celebrities going after, and we can offer them to the general public."
A natural pink diamond can cost nearly 25 times more than its colorless counterpart, and a yellow diamond can be 15 times more expensive.
But a diamond that became pink through Suncrest's "Sundance" procedure will cost only three to four times more than a white diamond.
The glittering trend in Hollywood has seen Ben Affleck, now an ex-fiance, proposing to Lopez with a 6.1-carat pink diamond and Marc Anthony, J. Lo's current husband, adding a 14.5-carat blue diamond ring to her collection.
Tom Cruise proposed to Holmes with a yellow diamond, and Kobe Bryant of the Lakers bought an 8-carat $4 million purple diamond ring for his wife, Vanessa.
"Colored diamonds are the most popular fashion jewelry today," said Russ Myers, division manager at Suncrest Diamonds. "Most fashion jewelry uses a lot of it."
But creating copycat styles the average jewelry consumer could afford meant using painted or tinted diamonds, diamonds that often lost their color if the metal around them had to be heated or adjusted.
So, wanting to capitalize on the trend, diamond wholesalers contacted US Synthetic, a company whose employees have been diamond experts for decades.
Suncrest Diamonds processes nearly 1,000 carats a week now, weighing, measuring and assigning bar codes to each diamond.
Using infrared technology, the diamonds are then scanned for certain naturally occurring chemicals. If a diamond shows signs of boron, it's highly likely it has the potential to become a blue diamond. With nitrogen, it will become a yellow stone.
"We put in the effort to figure out what's going on before the stone's processed," Myers said. "When you're dealing with diamonds, surprises aren't a good thing."
Once the chemists and engineers have finished analyzing, the diamond is pressurized.
Along the walls of the factory are pressing chambers, nearly completely filled by a monstrous six-piston press.
Each piston, about 2 feet across, will come together to compress a small rectangular box made of special heat-insulating material about 2 inches wide and 3 inches tall. Inside the box is a cylinder that holds the diamond.
The pressurizing with pressure comparable to taking the Eiffel Tower and turning it upside down on one point takes about 10 minutes. The diamond, with its new color, is then cut free from the slightly squished chamber, repolished and sent back to the wholesaler. The company doesn't have a store and will probably just work on selling to already established retailers.
But this million-dollar diamond business that began in earnest in 2003 is only a sliver of the work going on at the factory at 1260 S. 1600 West in Orem.
Nearly 600 employees stay busy with US Synthetic's primary item of sale diamond cutter bit inserts for drills used in oil and gas exploration.
Synthetic, or man-made, diamond powder is heated to nearly 1,500 degrees Celsius to form small discs, ranging from 5 mm to 25 mm. The disc is then attached to a tungsten-carbide base, which can be melded onto a drill head.
The company is quick to point out that although their drilling business uses synthetic diamonds, everything in the gem side is 100 percent real.
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