The Straits Times
Published on Mar 28, 2013
Local firm 'growing diamonds from diamonds'
By Rachel Scully
A LOCAL firm claims to have made a significant breakthrough in "growing" rare, colourless diamonds.
IIa Technologies in Woodlands says it can produce high-grade diamonds, needed for everything from engagement rings to precision cutting tools.
Its managing director Vishal Mehta summed up the firm's process as "growing diamonds from diamonds".
It involves placing diamond "seeds" - thin, flat pieces of diamonds it has already grown - in high-pressure chambers. A constant supply of carbon molecules is then pumped in, triggering carbon molecules to "stick" on the seeds, in turn creating bigger diamonds.
It takes about two months before a 0.5cm diamond can be "harvested".
The firm has about 100 growth chambers in its 20,000 sq ft facility, and each chamber is able to grow between 16 and 30 diamonds.
Plans are in the pipeline to expand its production capabilities.
The cultured gems supposedly have the same composition, structure and physical properties as traditionally mined diamonds.
They are sold to such clients as jewellers and those in high-technology industries that require ultra-precision cutting tools in China, India, the Middle East and South-east Asia.
The firm is named after the Type IIa diamond, which accounts for only 2 per cent of the world's natural supply of the precious stone.
Mr Mehta, who hails from a line of Mumbai jewellers, said the global supply for diamonds lags behind demand, so IIa Technologies can step in with a consistent supply produced in a sustainable way.
The firm was started here in 2005 under Professor D. S. Misra, IIa Technologies' technical director.
Mr Mehta, 31, was tight-lipped on sales figures, production capacity and capital investment. "Tens of millions have been pumped in", was all he was willing to reveal.
The firm's main challenge was voltage fluctuations affecting diamond production, but that has been resolved. It has 160 staff and 75 per cent are Singaporeans.