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World’s largest man-made diamond facility launched in S’pore

SINGAPORE — Gem lovers will soon be able to purchase made-in-Singapore diamonds: A facility launched yesterday by IIa Technologies will produce artificial diamonds that are physically and chemically identical to their natural counterparts.

World’s largest man-made diamond facility launched in S’pore

Pink and Colourless Grown Diamonds by IIa Technologies that have been cut and polished for use in the Luxury sector. Photo: Ila Technologies

SINGAPORE — Gem lovers will soon be able to purchase made-in-Singapore diamonds: A facility launched yesterday by IIa Technologies will produce artificial diamonds that are physically and chemically identical to their natural counterparts.

The 200,000 sq ft facility in Jurong, the world’s largest diamond greenhouse, can produce up to 300,000 carats of diamonds annually — for jewellery as well as industrial uses.

The company said its patented process can produce colourless diamonds of the rare IIa variety. Of all mined diamonds, only 2 per cent are of this variety.

Singapore-based IIa Technologies has come a long way since setting up a small greenhouse facility in Woodlands in 2005 that was focused mainly on research. Chief executive Vishal Mehta said the company had pumped in about US$110 million (S$152.7 million) into research and development over the past seven to eight years, as well as into the new Jurong facility.

“It’s not only about replenishment of what is not there, but creating a new product, new options for consumers worldwide,” Mr Mehta said. The lab-grown diamonds are likely to be priced between 30 and 40 per cent lower than natural ones.

IIa Technologies’ breakthrough comes as global diamond production is set to fall even while demand rises from markets such as the United States, India and China.

Besides jewellery, the grown diamonds will increasingly be used for high technology applications such as in the semi-conductor and electrical industries, as well as in medical and optical instruments, a Frost & Sullivan research report said.

For the fashion-conscious, the made-in-Singapore diamonds could be available at retailers soon, with Mr Mehta saying the company is looking to tie up with stores here by the year-end. IIa Technologies has also started six research projects with the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University and Republic Polytechnic to explore diamond usage in various industries.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who officiated the launch event, called IIa Technologies’ business a “fascinating niche with a global market”.

“Increasingly, you have niche producers within precision engineering, which are designing and producing their own products and marketing them globally. It requires R&D, deep specialised skills and global orientation.” This will lead to good jobs being created in Singapore, he noted.

“IIa Technologies has been a strong supporter of developing Singaporeans. It is not a large firm by way of employment. It is highly technology-intensive, but that tends to be the type of firm that has opportunities for highly specialised jobs with very deep skills, so these are very good jobs,” said Mr Tharman.

IIa Technologies currently employs 225 employees here, up from just 25 five years ago. Mr Mehta said: “What we intend to do is create high-value jobs over the next few years, as the kind of skills that customers need are very specialised,and have to be created in-house.”

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