Here's a great article from the Smithsonian about synthetic diamonds, which are getting better all the time. The De Beers cartel is none too pleased to have its empire threatened by upstarts like Apollo Diamond.
"This is a virtual diamond mine," says Apollo CEO Bryant Linares when I arrive at the company's secret location, where diamonds are made. "If we were in Africa, we'd have barbed wire, security guards and watch towers. We can't do that in Massachusetts." Apollo's directors worry about theft, corporate spies and their own safety. When Linares was at a diamond conference a few years ago, he says, a man he declines to describe slipped behind him as he was walking out of a hotel meeting room and said someone from a natural diamond company just might put a bullet in his head. "It was a scary moment," Linares recalls.
Bryant's father, Robert Linares, working with a collaborator who became a co-founder of Apollo, invented the company's diamond-growing technique. Robert escorts me into one of the company's production rooms, a long hall filled with four refrigerator-size chambers bristling with tubes and gauges. As technicians walk past in scrubs and lab coats, I glance inside the porthole window of one of the machines. A kryptonite-green cloud fills the top of the chamber; at the bottom are 16 button-size disks, each one glowing a hazy pink. "Doesn't look like anything, right?" Robert says. "But they will be half-caraters in a few weeks."