New York-based Aether is a direct-to-consumer (DTC) startup that makes lab-grown diamonds from carbon recaptured from the atmosphere. While it sounds straight out of sci-fi, the company already began shipping products to customers in the middle of 2021 and claims that it has produced “hundreds” of carats of diamonds in 2021 with a goal to increase that to thousands in 2022. This year, Aether also plans to open its first pop-up shops, most likely starting in New York.

  • The company has just completed an $18 million Series A funding round led by Helena, an LA-based think tank focused on environmental and social issues, bringing its total funding to more than $21 million since its inception in 2018.

Zoom In: As lab-grown diamonds gain popularity as substitutes for traditional (mined) diamonds, Aether offers a greener alternative. The startup gets the carbon from Climeworks, a carbon-capture plant in Switzerland that’s also worked with Helena, and uses a proprietary process to turn the CO2 removed from the atmosphere into diamonds. And the results are pretty remarkable.

  • According to Aether, each 1-carat diamond purchased removes 20 metric tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere, more than an average American’s annual carbon footprint.
  • In February, the company became a B Corp, claiming to be the only diamond company with the certification. B Corp Certification is a designation that a company meets a high standard of social and environmental performance, accountability to all stakeholders, and transparency about their business.

Zoom Out: Lab-grown diamonds accounted for around 8% of worldwide diamond sales in 2021, totaling about $5.9 billion. Other companies also want their share of the pie and have, of course, jumped on the bandwagon.

  • In 2021, the Danish jewelry manufacturer and retailer Pandora announced that it would sell only lab-grown diamonds.
  • In 2018, Diamond giant De Beers introduced a lab-grown subsidiary called Lightbox Jewelry.
  • Similarly, Vrai, a carbon-neutral lab-grown diamond company backed by Blood Diamond star and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio, opened its flagship store in Los Angeles last year.
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