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Why Having a Greater Purpose Is Fundamental for These Founders Clean Origin is on a mission to educate the world about the importance and beauty of lab-grown diamonds.
Diamonds are beautiful. They're valuable. They're even "a girl's best friend," as the saying goes. But more people are understanding that many diamonds come from a dark industry plagued by violence and corruption. That's why two jewelry-industry veterans decided to do something about it.
In 2017 Alexander Weindling and Ryan Bonifacino co-founded Clean Origin with a passion for the earth. While Geologists believe that diamonds formed deep within the Earth between 1 billion to 3 billion years ago, Clean Origin doesn't mine its gems — it creates lab-grown diamonds that are 100 percent ethical, giving customers peace of mind and a diamond with a beautiful, pure beginning.
Despite the traditional preference for mined gems, demand for lab-grown diamonds is growing. Many major jewelry brands have started selling lab-grown diamonds and research indicates that 70 percent of millennials would consider purchasing a lab-grown diamond for their engagement ring.
Clean Origin is realizing this growth as well. The company's annual revenues have reached well into the eight-figure range and its team of 30 is expected to double before the end of the year.
Here, we speak with co-founder and CEO Alexander Weindling about why having a bigger purpose has been so important to Clean Origin and how it has helped create a brand that resonates with modern customers.
Why did you start Clean Origin?
Weindling: I am the third generation in a diamond family going back to Antwerp, Belgium. My grandfather, father, and I became prominent in the global diamond industry. Together with our partners, we had cutting factories in New York, Israel, and India, and supplied the largest retailers in this country.
Founding the world's largest, exclusively lab-grown diamonds brand is my chance to finish my career on the right side of history. It's a redemption story for me and an effort to make a worthy handoff of this brutalized planet to all our children.
How has this purpose helped set your brand apart from the competition?
Weindling: The most obvious thing that sets us apart is we won't touch any mined diamonds or gemstones. Our competitors put dollars first and seem willing to sell anything. We are 100 percent committed to the only 100 percent conflict-free, environmentally superior diamond: lab-grown diamonds and we want to educate the world about them.
What's the process of growing diamonds in a lab?
Weindling: There are two methods but the majority of our center diamonds are grown using the "Chemical Vapor Deposition" method. A slice of a diamond, usually lab-grown, is placed in an oven in a very particular environment and heated to the temperature of the surface of the sun. Layers of diamonds "grow" atop the sliver and, voila, a 100-percent chemically, optically, and geologically real diamond emerges.
Are there other ways lab-grown diamonds are different from naturally made diamonds?
Weindling: Yes, they are far less expensive and you can look at it on your finger forever and never have to wonder if a huge crater was dug in the earth or some warlord deployed forced labor to get it on your finger. It's about living and being on the right side of history.
Besides the diamonds themselves, how are you catering to customers?
Weindling: We've improved the entire buying process with tangible offerings, not just pretty pictures and gracious words on a website. We offer a 100-day, no-questions-asked return policy and we mean it. Every diamond engagement ring is made to order for every customer. Well, we keep a few solitaire rings ready to ship overnight for the last-minute shoppers!
And no one working in our stores, our virtual appointments, or our customer success is on a commission. Our people are bonused on customer satisfaction. Their job is to work for the customer. They have no sales goals or targets. Delivering happiness is how one famous fellow once put it.
What do you say to detractors who argue that lab-grown diamonds aren't worth as much as naturally made diamonds?
Weindling: I wish them well in whatever diamond they choose to purchase. We are all about choice — about providing an alternative to mined diamonds. The very notion of worth, however, is a human creation. NFT's, for example, are selling for millions of dollars. Thirty-five-year-old sneakers are selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
What's next for Clean Origin and this industry?
Weindling: We will continue to educate the world about the miracle of lab-grown diamonds.
Click here to learn more about Clean Origin and the lab-grown diamond industry.