De Beers plans to begin manufacturing synthetic diamond jewelry in Gresham by 2020.

De Beers plans to begin manufacturing synthetic diamond jewelry in Gresham by 2020.

Manutsawee Buapet/Fotolia/AP

The Portland area will soon be able to add diamond manufacturing to its list of local specialties. Gemstone industry giant De Beers announced a plan to begin manufacturing synthetic diamond jewelry, and that it would to open a 60,000 square foot factory in Gresham by 2020.

David Iler of Alchemy Jewelers in Portland took notice of the announcement. He told OPB “Weekend Edition” host John Notarianni that the diamonds will be significantly less expensive than natural diamonds, but they won’t be fake, knock-off jewelry. They’ll be scientifically identical to the real thing.

“They have the same chemical composition and the same crystalline structure,” Iler said. “The difference is one’s created in a laboratory and one takes an entire volcano to bring the diamonds up to the surface.”

De Beers likely chose to manufacture the diamonds in the Portland area because of the region’s cheap electricity. Iler said they take a lot of energy to produce — the manufacturing process uses “an incredibly hot plasma, near the temperature of the sun.”

Iler acknowledged that synthetic diamonds could be a more ethical choice than a traditionally mined stone, but with a caveat: “I’m concerned of some of the other ideas, like what is the real carbon footprint of a man-made diamond?”

So, is it worth thinking about buying a Oregon-made synthetic diamond for your next major life event? Iler said with a laugh that it’s a conversation his customers will have to make on their own: “I’ve found that it’s quite variable.”

Listen to the full conversation by using the audio player at the top of this story.