Lab-Grown

Tom Chatham Has Written a Book About His Family

Lab-GrownApr 18, 2023

Tom Chatham Has Written a Book About His Family

It details the family’s history and legacy in the world of lab-grown gems and is set for release at the JCK show in Las Vegas.

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Tom Chatham, left, has written his first book, “The Chatham Legacy, An American Story.” It will be available to purchase at the JCK jewelry trade show in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas—Tom Chatham, president of Chatham Created Gems Inc., has written a book about his family and the role they have played in the world of lab-created gemstones.

“The Chatham Legacy, An American Story,” is set to be released at the upcoming JCK show in Las Vegas.

The 219-page book is described as, “a look inside the true story behind the original lab-grown company,” that is a “must-read for everyone in the industry who wants to a gain a real understanding of how this category came to be.”

After experimenting with gemstone growing in the garage of his parents’ San Francisco home, chemistry-loving Carroll Chatham—Tom’s father—started Chatham Created Gems in 1938 after figuring out how to reliably produce emeralds.

“The Chatham Legacy” details these early days of experimentation, as well as the company’s battle with the Federal Trade Commission over the term “created,” a fight it ultimately won in 1963. 

“Many thousands of dollars were spent to change this one little word, from ‘cultured’ to ‘created,’” Tom writes in the book. “Everyone felt relieved and positive for the future. Chatham-Created Emerald was born.”

The industry’s back-and-forth with the FTC over terminology for man-made stones continues today, from the recent revisions to the Jewelry Guides regarding terminology around lab-grown diamonds to the FTC’s current review of the “Green Guides,” which still are open for public comment

 Related stories will be right here … 

The book also details the company’s journey to educate and try to win acceptance from the trade.

“Just to give you an idea how prehistoric the gemological world was back then, I have personal correspondences from 1947 from Richard T. Liddicoat, then president of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), which was training jewelers to become professional gemologists, asking Carroll for any suggestions he may have on separating his emeralds from natural,” Tom states in the book. 

According to the book, one of Liddicoat’s letters reads, “Since your product is so beautifully made and compares so favorably to fine natural material, we doubt that it would be possible to teach a method of identification by recognition of the differences between inclusion in your product and in natural emerald.”

After emeralds, Carroll expanded to growing rubies in 1958, alexandrite in 1972, and different varieties of sapphire beginning in 1975, among other gems. 

When Tom joined the family business in 1965, he focused on creating business opportunities for the gemstones his father was growing. He writes in the book, “The courts may have given Chatham-Created Emerald its blessing, but certain sectors of the jewelry industry did not—and some never would.”

Tom will be in Las Vegas during the JCK show signing copies of his book. His company exhibits in the Plumb Club Pavilion, PC-700.

It is available in hardcover only and costs $90. In addition to Chatham, both GIA and Vancouver, British Columbia-based Branko Gem Labs will be selling copies of the book.

To pre-order or reserve a copy, call 800-222-2002 or email sales@chatham.com.

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