Ulrich Boser, a Washington D.C.-based freelancer, also writes for the New York Times, Washington Post, Slate and the U.S. News & World Report, where he is a contributing editor. He is currently working on a book about the world's largest unsolved art heist.
What was the most interesting lab-grown diamond that you actually saw?
I think what's curious about the lab-grown diamonds is that they can make them into all shapes and sizes. So you could see lab-grown diamonds at the nano scale. You could see very large plates—dinner plate size—that were covered with little diamonds, perhaps to be used to sand something. Chemical vapor deposition [CVD] diamonds are made in these large tubes, and when you see them immediately come out, they don't look very diamond like. They're square and look like a piece of tinted glass. So it's surprising to see these and then think someone cuts them into actual diamonds.
How did your feelings on lab-grown diamonds change by working on this story?
I think initially I had thought that I would somehow be able to tell. I don't know why I thought that. But we think, oh, they're grown in a lab you would have thought that it had some markings on it, some sensibility, something about it that would be visible to the naked eye.
What was your favorite moment during reporting?
They [Apollo] lent me a few of their diamonds, which was a little bit nerve wracking. I had to sign a form and tell them I would repay them if I lost these diamonds. So I was meandering around Boston with some loose diamonds in my pocket, showing the diamonds to various jewelers and seeing their reactions. Watching how surprised they were at how good these diamonds were and explaining to them how they were made really impressed upon me how much these diamonds really are exactly like the diamonds you'd find in a ring or that had been mined in the earth thousands of years ago. They would study the diamond; one even brought out some of his smaller devices to see if it was cubic zirconium or moissanite. They really couldn't tell the difference. These were regular, on the street diamond merchants, and they were very nervous about what this diamond means for the jewelry industry. Having them call over their colleagues, like "Can you believe this thing?" was just very eye-opening.