Former fruit warehouse in Wenatchee to shine — with diamonds

The foundry grows gems “atom by atom” by mimicking the geologic processes that form natural diamonds.

By Mike Irwin / The Wenatchee World

WENATCHEE — The city’s industrial sector is set to sparkle.

A San Francisco company announced Friday it will transform a former fruit-packing warehouse into a diamond-making foundry, hire up to 96 employees and begin cultivating the gems by June of next year.

Diamond Foundry, which “grows” diamonds under intense heat and pressure, said it has leased from Stemilt Growers three acres and the warehouse, which was damaged in the 2015 Sleepy Hollow Fire and rebuilt. The 56,000-square-foot warehouse is located in an industrial district along North Miller Street.

Construction of the site has begun, said R. Martin Roscheisen, Diamond Foundry’s CEO. Wenatchee will be home to the company’s main foundry with the San Francisco plant focused on tool construction and technical issues. Hiring at the new facility could be underway in a few months with 40 employees needed initially and upward of 96 required as diamond making comes on line.

Roscheisen said the company — diamondfoundry.com — chose Wenatchee for its “hydropower source of energy, supportive community and capability to hire skilled staff.” He also said “the beauty of the Wenatchee Valley” will help in recruiting people to the area if needed.

Diamond Foundry’s commitment to Wenatchee “shows fabulous collaboration among some of our business and civic leaders, both individuals and organizations,” said Patrick Jones, executive director for the Port of Chelan County. The port, Stemilt Growers, the city of Wenatchee, the Chelan County PUD and the state Department of Commerce all had a role in bringing the foundry to Wenatchee, Jones said.

Founded in 2013, Diamond Foundry creates jewels “atom by atom” by mimicking the geologic processes that create natural diamonds, said the company’s website. In plasma “hot as the outer layer of the sun,” carbon atoms attach to the molecular crystal lattice of a tiny bit of natural diamond which then grows into a pure, jewelry-grade diamond.

It takes about two weeks to grow a one-carat diamond, said Roscheisen. The company now makes about 100,000 carats of diamonds a year, which are cut for sale to individuals and designers of high-fashion jewelry and clothing.

Diamond Foundry is on track to be profitable this year, Roscheisen said in a February interview. Each of the company’s diamonds is valued according to market prices set at diamond exchanges around the globe and are generally priced about the same as natural diamonds.

One of several high-profile investors, actor Leonardo DiCaprio has helped fund Diamond Foundry because, he said, the company “cultivates real diamonds in America without the human and environmental toll of mining.” DiCaprio starred in “Blood Diamond,” a film about diamonds mined in war zones for the profit of warlords. Diamond Foundry has estimated that up to 3 million slaves are currently digging for diamonds in Africa and India.

Roscheisen has estimated that in 20 years nearly all new diamonds will be man-made because the supply of natural diamonds will be exhausted. No new mines have been discovered, he said, in the last 25 years.

Roscheisen, 46, is a pioneer in solar panel technologies and has launched five startups, including a precursor to Facebook. He has a Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford University.

“Wenatchee is America at its best in many ways,” said Roscheisen. It’s “a place where community and pristine nature are paramount. We are looking forward to contributing to the greater Wenatchee community for a long time to come.”

Talk to us

More in Northwest

FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2014, file photo, Billy Frank Jr. poses for a photo near Frank's Landing on the Nisqually River in Nisqually, Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday, April 14, 2021, signed a measure that starts the process of honoring the late Frank, a Nisqually tribal member who championed treaty rights and protecting the environment, with a statue at the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Statue of Native American leader step closer to U.S. Capitol

Billy Frank Jr., a Nisqually tribal member, was a champion of treaty rights and the environment.

FILE - In this July 25, 2020, file photo, police pepper spray protesters, near Seattle Central College in Seattle, during a march and protest in support of Black Lives Matter. Washington state lawmakers are wrapping up their work on an ambitious package of police accountability legislation. There are bills that curb police tactics and equipment, restricting the use of tear gas, chokeholds and neck restraints and banning no-knock warrants; that create an independent office to review the use of deadly force by police; that require officers to intervene if their colleagues engage in deadly force; and that make it easier to decertify officers for bad acts. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Slew of police reform bills headed to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk

One of the bills will require officers to intervene if their colleagues engage in excessive force.

A gray whale appears to have developed an infection after being darted with a satellite tracking tag. (NOAA Fisheries)
Gray whale could be sick from tracking tag

Experts are concerned over possible infections related to the animal’s tagging site.

Package funding U.S. 2 trestle, Monroe bypass on the move

A $17.8 billion plan dealing with highways, ferries and transit has cleared the state Senate transportation panel.

FILE - In this May 26, 2020, file photo, a sign at the headquarters for the Washington state Employment Security Department is shown at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Washington state's rush to get unemployment benefits to residents who lost jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak left it vulnerable to criminals who made off with hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent claims. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Audit: Unemployment fraud likely higher than $647 million

The auditor’s office indicated that the total amount stolen in Washington state could exceed $1 billion.

FILE - In this May 4, 2020, file photo, an Asian giant hornet from Japan is held on a pin by Sven Spichiger, an entomologist with the Washington state Dept. of Agriculture in Olympia, Wash. Scientists in the U.S. and Canada are opening new fronts in the war against the so-called murder hornets as the giant insects begin establishing nests this spring. The scientists said Wednesday, March 17, 2021, the battle to prevent the apex predators from establishing a foothold in North America is being fought mostly in Whatcom County, Washington and the nearby Fraser Valley of British Columbia, where the hornets have been spotted in recent years. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Officials seek new tools to combat invasive giant hornets

One new rule would allow the state to declare an “infested site” for 20 meters around a nest.

FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Alexandria Sheriff's Office shows John Cameron Denton, founder and former leader of a neo-Nazi group called Atomwaffen Division. Federal prosecutors in Virginia are seeking a five-year prison sentence for Denton, who pleaded guilty to conspiring with other far-right extremists to threaten dozens of targets, including a predominantly African American church, a sitting U.S. Cabinet member and journalists.  U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady is scheduled to sentence Denton on Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (Alexandria Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
Prosecutors seek 5-year term for ex-leader of neo-Nazi group

Another man, Kaleb Cole, whose weapons were seized in Arlington, is due to face trial in September.

Whatcom County: Breastfeeding in public is not indecent

It’s a new exception to the law forbidding “any female to expose or permit public display of her bosom.”

State Senate approves expansion of low-income tax credit

The bill passed the Democratic-led chamber on a bipartisan 47-2 vote and now heads back to the House.

Two people survive small plane crash near San Juan Island

The two on board managed to make it back to shore of Blakley Island.

Sen. John McCoy, D-38
McCoy receives an overdue tribute from Senate colleagues

The former lawmaker was praised as a “quiet giant” for his work on education, environment and tribal issues.

Washington Legislature approves Juneteenth as state holiday

The measure passed the Senate on a bipartisan 47-1 vote and now heads to Gov. Jay Inslee.