OYUNA in conversation with Kimai

EARTH SERIES

Sidney Neuhaus and Jessica Warch are the two founders of Kimai - by using lab-diamonds and recycled gold, they are channeling their heritage into a modern jewelry brand that delivers true traceability.


Sidney (left side) wearing Land sweater and Jessica (right side) wearing Planet sweater.
Photographed by Cathy Kasterine

What is a lab-grown diamond?

Lab-grown diamonds are basically chemically and physically identical to mined diamonds, but without the social and environmental impact of mining.


What is the original material you start with?

Diamond is carbon. They are 100% made out of carbon, so lab-grown or mined diamond is pure carbon. Therefore the end result is the same, it is impossible to tell them apart.


Wow. Even chemically - molecule-wise, it is exactly the same thing, that is amazing. You were one of the first companies who did this, how did you come up with the idea?

We both come from diamond-trading families in Belgium, so we grew up surrounded by jewelry, which is basically how we got passionate about this industry. When we moved to London, we were both eighteen. We were increasingly conscious about what we were purchasing, even regarding the food industry and where we bought clothes. And then we found that within the jewelry industry, there are so many controversies, that it was not really transparent. So we asked the people who surround us back home in Belgium where their diamonds come from. We couldn't find any answers to our questions, which then led to how we learned about lab-grown diamonds. We concluded that this was the best solution to what we were lacking from within this industry, which is why we chose lab-grown diamonds.


And you didn't find answers within your families either.

It is really hard to have transparency and traceability in the industry so it was really hard to find answers to our questions.


This is incredibly interesting. So you are best friends, and you both chose to come to London, why is that? 

I studied Gemologist in London with natural diamonds and crystals because it is a passion of mine. I wanted to move out of Belgium to discover the world and ended up never leaving.

Yeah, and I moved as well to pursue my Business studies.


That’s the perfect combination! So Sidney is more involved in the creative process and Jessica handles the business, both coming from families with a background in diamonds. Wow, that is such a cool thing.

I think it's also good to have different skills and a different balance, where you trust each other from the different departments of the business.


Similarly for me as for our readers, I think most people would be interested to know; is a lab-grown diamond cheaper than a natural diamond?

Yes. We talk a lot about the benefits of lab-grown diamonds being more environmentally friendly.


What makes them more environmentally friendly?

Because depending on the laboratory you use, it’s renewable energy. There is no mining involved and therefore none of the environmental and social impacts that ensue the mining process for natural diamonds. We know exactly who works in the labs as well as the conditions they work in, and then there is the price difference. Lab-grown diamonds are around 50% or more, cheaper than natural diamonds, which is a lot more interesting. It’s more approachable as well.


There are a lot of controllership controversies, surrounding the practical side of mainland mining of diamonds. There are some really terrible stories, is it still ongoing?

I think they are trying to be more traceable at least, but using lab-grown diamonds enabled us to have the full traceability of our supply chain, which is amazing in this kind of industry to achieve.


It really is. So you just need carbon, to make lab-grown diamonds?

Yes. You can't make it at home sadly, you need a special machine using specific technology that reproduces the mining environment in a laboratory.


Where do they get the carbon from?

For the very first lab-grown diamond, the carbon came from a naturally mined diamond. However now each time they produce one, they take a piece from a lab-mined diamond, like carbon.


Okay, that's what I was wondering. It requires a template, so you need the mined diamond.
Not anymore. For the very first one, yes, but presently, you can start from a lab-grown diamond.


That’s absolutely incredible, knowledge in this industry has developed so much. I hope more and more people get to know this, I always say; access to information is the most important thing. People need to know what is happening in the whole ethical side of diamonds. When, if anyone gets a diamond, sooner or later in life as an engagement ring or for any other occasion, this important piece they get in an important stage of their lives; it needs to be coming from a pure conscience. So this is a great thing that you are able to provide.

For sure, yes.


So for the last set of questions, I will just say a word, and you can tell me the first thing that comes to your mind. Blue?
Fire.
Water.

Softness?
Cashmere.
A dog.

Strength?
Resilience.
Devotion.

That’s nice, or you could say lab-grown diamonds, right? They are unbreakable.
Yes, absolutely!


I imagine these lab-grown diamonds are also used for very precise, high-tech medical purposes, is that right?
That is right, yes, they are used for industrial purposes because they are unbreakable.


Very cool. Okay, one last word - precious?
Diamond. Diamond, lab-grown diamond! A lab-grown diamond is simply a diamond. That’s the main idea.

I also think jewelry for the word precious. We talked a lot about the emotion behind a piece of jewelry, because it’s always the emotional value that reminds you of someone or something. We always talk about the story of a piece of jewelry. It’s the piece itself that tells a story about you, or a person in your life. You carry it with you.


Jewelry is so precious, it’s always related to something amazing. It’s so easy to carry, it’s so small it’s always there, for a lifetime.

It is. Thank you so much for having us.