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Chatham


Chatham (Est. circa 1938) In the 1920’s, when Carroll Chatham was still a boy, he dreamed of growing diamonds. When he grew older, he began experiments that would result in the world’s leading lab-grown, gemstone company.

Carroll built his first gem laboratory in his family’s San Francisco garage when he was only 12.He began by trying to recreate the failed diamond-growing experiments, conducted in the 1890s, by French chemist Henri Moissan. One of Carroll’s attempts resulted in an explosion that rattled his San Francisco neighborhood and the local police.

To reassure his parents that the experiments were safe, he shifted his gem-growing focus from diamonds to emeralds which required lower pressures. After many years he still had nothing to show for his attempts to duplicate the earth’s gem-growing environment.

In 1931, Carroll entered college at the California Institute of Technology and left his current experiment running in his family’s garage. His father soon turned off the power supply to the experiment. This simple act caused emerald crystals to grow in the crucible and become the first emeralds ever grown in a laboratory. It took Carroll three years to understand why the emeralds formed. When he did, he founded the company that bears his name.

When Carroll Chatham grew his first emerald crystals in the 1930s, the jewelry industry was worried that the value of natural gems would collapse. They also worried that they wouldn’t be able to tell lab-grown emeralds from mined emeralds.

After perfecting the emerald growing process in 1938, laboratory-grown rubies, alexandrites, blue sapphires, and orange sapphires (padparadschas) were produced in the following decades.

In 1959, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) stepped in and created strict rules about what companies creating lab-grown gems could call their products. The Commission ordered Carroll to release all the details of his process in order to decide whether his gems could be called “cultured.” Because he refused to divulge the secret of how his gems were grown, Carroll agreed to stop calling them “cultured” and to call them “Chatham-created.”

Other terms often used to describe lab-grown gems are “lab created gemstones,” “synthetic gemstones,” “created gemstones,” “lab gemstones,” “man-made gemstones,” and “cultured gemstones.”

When Carroll died in 1983, his son, Tom, finally achieved his father’s lifelong dream of growing diamonds in a lab. Tom’s ongoing fascination with gemstones and crystal formation resulted in the introduction of several other lab-grown stones that include opal, morganite, and aqua blue spinel.

These gemstones have the same physical, chemical, and optical properties as mined gems. The gems are not “made.” The environment that cultivates them is controlled so that crystals grow naturally under conditions that occur naturally in the earth’s crust.

The process of growing gem crystals in a laboratory rather than mining them has been compared to making ice in a freezer instead sourcing the ice from a lake. Using the starter material, water, placed in a container and putting the container in a controlled environment creates the right conditions of temperature and time to allow ice to form. Freezer ice is usually cleaner and more perfect than lake ice because the environment is carefully controlled. When formed, it’s still ice, like ice formed in nature, but is now a sophisticated high-tech version of turning water into ice. The same comparison is valid for lab-grown gems.

These lab-grown gemstones and diamonds are cultured just like pearls. Natural ingredients are placed in an environment that duplicates nature. Once the required combination of chemical and environmental factors is created, gemstone crystals grow over the course of about a year (the exact length of time depends on the variety). As a result, the crystals have the physical, chemical, and optical properties that are identical to those found in nature.

Only certified gemologists, using a powerful microscope, can tell the difference between Chatham-created and mined gemstones. Every gemological laboratory in the world has reference samples of Chatham Created Gemstones to assist in such identification. Chatham is at the forefront of full disclosure, contributing samples and updates whenever something new is released.

Lab created gemstones also look better because, in laboratory conditions, computers control temperatures so foreign materials found in the earth are eliminated from the starting chemicals. This makes crystal growth more predictable and consistent. Only the best qualities and colors found in nature are offered for sale; lower qualities are not released.

The price difference between Chatham and mined gemstones of similar quality can be dramatic, especially in fine qualities. For fancy colored diamonds, it can be as much as $100,000 per carat. In other varieties, like colorless diamonds, the difference varies from 30% – 80% depending on the size, shape and quality of the diamond. The price difference increases substantially as the weight and quality of the diamond rises.

Chatham created gems are 100% real gemstones. Just as cultured pearls are formed in a controlled environment that replicates the natural process so lab-created Chatham gemstones are just as real as naturally occurring gems. By precisely manipulating the chemical and environmental factors with special computers, the crystals are left to grow over the course of around a year. These gemstones possess the same physical, chemical, spectral, and optical qualities of mined gems at a fraction of the cost.

Chatham Synthetic Gems are remarkable because Chatham is able to produce stones that are perfect in color and clarity. The company’s commitment to an impeccable standard of quality, service, and long-term history of achievement and presence in the fine jewelry industry make Chatham synthetic gems a worthwhile consideration.

Not only are they identical in chemical, optical, and physical characteristics to their mined equivalents, they are also beautiful gemstones at a fraction of the price of their natural counterparts. These lab grown gemstones are never treated. The colors are permanent and part of the growth process. Chatham Gemstones are covered by a lifetime warranty.

In the 1950s, the Smithsonian Institution asked founder, Carroll Chatham, to grow the largest emerald he could. He spent three years growing a crystal that was more than 2,000 carats, about the size of a baseball, which he donated to the museum’s collection.

Other Chatham Museum Donations include those to the American Museum of Natural History, Harvard Museum, Museum of Mineralogy in Hamburg, Germany, and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.

Tom Chatham has donated time to offering lectures on the growth of gemstones and diamonds for more than 30 years. He has personally given away over 20,000 Chatham crystals to further promote education. In addition, Chatham is committed to the continuing education and professionalism of the jewelry industry. The company has donated over $500,000 to the Gemological Institute of America, the world’s leading gemological educational institution.

Every Chatham rough gem is carefully oriented, cut to perfection, and polished by hand. Their master gemstone cutters produce and select only the best color and clarity even as they sacrifice 80% of the rough crystals grown. Chatham’s award-winning jewelry collection includes exclusive gem cuts not found anywhere else such as the Flame Cut, Onion Cut, Baguette Cut, Barrel Cut, Elongated Pear, Oval, and Checkerboard Antique Cushion.

Today, Chatham remains recognized as the leader of created gemstones. The company’s Lifetime Warranty and Certificate of Authenticity assure reliability and long-term value.

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