Trade Groups Sign Deal on Lab-Grown Diamonds

The World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO) and the International Grown Diamond Association (IGDA) have agreed to collaborate to protect consumer confidence around synthetic diamonds.

The organizations have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) calling for the pair to develop standards, operating principles and terminology for lab-grown diamonds, they said Monday. IGDA president Joanna Park-Tonks will sit on CIBJO’s laboratory-grown diamond committee, which has created a “Laboratory-Grown Diamond Guideline” governing standards for trading and handling synthetic stones.

The honest and accurate presentation of sustainability issues is a current focus for CIBJO’s laboratory-grown committee and was an element during the discussions between CIBJO and IGDA, the organizations said.

“We have had open lines of communication for some time already, and IGDA did participate in the public review before we released the ‘Laboratory-Grown Diamond Guidance’ document in 2021,” said CIBJO president Gaetano Cavalieri. “Over the past several years, the laboratory-grown diamonds sector has grown into a large and a prominent part of our industry, and we all have a vested interest in each other’s success.”

The signing took place on Sunday during the National Association of Jewellers (NAJ) Summit in Birmingham, UK.

Source: Diamonds.net

Lightbox Starts Selling Engagement Rings with Lab-Grown Diamonds

De Beers’ Lightbox lab-grown diamond brand is trialing sales of engagement rings, marking a major shift for the company, which previously insisted synthetic stones were not a product for important milestones.

The retailer is publicizing lab-grown diamond engagement rings on its home page, promising a “stress-free and risk-free” shopping experience. “Our cutting-edge technology ensures each of our lab-grown diamonds are quality guaranteed,” the site reads, with the marketing line: “Because great chemistry deserves great chemistry.”

A link takes viewers to a page listing 16 items featuring regular Lightbox lab-grown diamonds, or stones from the brand’s Finest line, which have higher color and clarity. The standard collection usually sells for $800 per carat plus the cost of the setting, while Finest retails at $1,500 per carat. The selection includes white, pink and blue stones, with prices ranging from $500 for a three-stone ring to $5,000 for 2 carats.

Lightbox was unavailable for comment on Sunday, but told Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) and JCK it was running “a small in-market test of consumer preferences in the lab-grown diamond engagement ring segment.”

When De Beers launched Lightbox in 2018, Bruce Cleaver, the miner’s CEO at the time, presented lab-grown as a product that “may not be forever, but is perfect for right now,” claimed there was “no real emotional value in lab-grown diamonds, because they’re not unique,” and said the stones did not warrant grading. It later debuted the Finest line, introduced stones larger than 1 carat, and started declaring the cut quality, color and clarity of its stones.

Source: Diamonds.net

IGI Sees Largest a Lab-Grown Diamond

India-based Ethereal Green Diamond has created and sold the largest polished lab-grown diamond in history, according to the International Gemological Institute (IGI), which graded it.

Named Shiphra, the emerald-cut, 50.25-carat, type IIa stone has G color, VS2 clarity, and an “excellent” score for cut, polish and symmetry, IGI said Thursday. It measures 22.95 x 18.45 x 11.57 millimeters. It’s the world’s first polished lab-grown diamond above 50 carats, IGI claimed.

Ethereal grew the 150-carat rough using the chemical vapor deposition (CVD) method over a period of eight months. It cut the stone in Surat, India, and will display the polished at its JCK Las Vegas booth. Swiss brand Shiphra Jewelry has bought it and lent its name to the piece.

“This gemstone is a paradigm-shifting breakthrough, surpassing 50 carats while exemplifying preeminent standards of sophistication and quality,” said Tehmasp Printer, president and managing director of IGI India.

The record comes shortly after IGI graded its largest lab-grown diamond to date: A 35-carat CVD stone that Maitri Lab Grown Diamonds produced. Last month, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) said it had examined a 34.59-carat diamond that Ethereal synthesized using the same method.

Source: rapaport.com

Adam O’Grady Becomes Lightbox’s First COO

Adam O’Grady

Lightbox has promoted Adam O’Grady to the newly created role of chief operating officer, effective March 27.

The executive will lead all aspects of supply chain and manufacturing activity for the De Beers-owned lab-grown diamond company, it said last week. These include diamond synthesis and jewelry manufacturing, cutting and polishing, and research and development.

O’Grady has been general manager of the Lightbox lab since 2019. In addition to his new responsibilities, he will continue to oversee operations and engineering at the company’s advanced manufacturing lab in Gresham, Oregon, where he is based.

“He is a transformational leader with deep knowledge of the lab-grown diamond category,” said Lightbox CEO Antoine Borde.

Prior to joining Lightbox, O’Grady spent his two-decade professional career at Element Six, De Beers’ industrial super-materials and synthetic-diamond business. He served in a series of general management and senior project roles in South Africa, China and the UK. In 2019, he oversaw the design and construction of Lightbox’s $94 million manufacturing lab in Gresham, which opened in October 2020.

Source: Diamonds.net

Mined diamond compared to laboratory grown diamond

Mined Diamond and laboratory grown diamond

Diamonds have long been a symbol of love, luxury, and status. However, in recent years, there has been a growing interest in the production of laboratory-grown diamonds as a more ethical and sustainable alternative to mined diamonds. In this article, we will explore the differences between a mined diamond and a laboratory-grown diamond.

Mined Diamonds:

Mined diamonds are formed naturally over millions of years deep beneath the earth’s surface. These diamonds are found in mines, usually in remote locations, and are extracted using heavy machinery and explosives. The mining process is often associated with negative environmental and social impacts, such as habitat destruction, water pollution, and exploitation of workers.

Mined diamonds are valued for their rarity and unique characteristics. The quality of a diamond is determined by the 4Cs – cut, clarity, carat weight, and colour. The more perfect a diamond is in each of these categories, the more valuable it is considered to be.

Laboratory-grown Diamonds:

Laboratory-grown diamonds are created using advanced technological processes that mimic the natural formation of diamonds. These diamonds are produced in a laboratory environment, where conditions are controlled and monitored to ensure consistent quality and purity.

The process of creating a laboratory-grown diamond involves using a small diamond seed, which is placed in a chamber and exposed to extreme heat and pressure. Over a period of weeks, carbon atoms are deposited onto the seed, gradually building up the crystal structure of the diamond.

The resulting laboratory-grown diamond is physically and chemically identical to a mined diamond, and can be graded using the same 4Cs criteria.

Differences between Mined Diamonds and Laboratory-grown Diamonds:

Mined diamonds and laboratory-grown diamonds have very similar chemical properties, as they are both made of pure carbon atoms arranged in a crystalline structure. However, there are some subtle differences in the impurities and defects that can be present in each type of diamond.

Mined diamonds can contain trace elements such as nitrogen, boron, and hydrogen, which can affect the diamond’s colour and other properties. Laboratory-grown diamonds can also contain these impurities, but they can be controlled more precisely during the growth process to produce diamonds with specific colours and properties.

One key difference between mined and laboratory-grown diamonds is the presence of defects in the crystal structure. Mined diamonds can contain defects such as vacancies, dislocations, and impurity atoms, which can affect the diamond’s hardness and other physical properties. Laboratory-grown diamonds are typically more pure and have fewer defects, which can make them more consistent in their properties and easier to work with for industrial and scientific applications.

In terms of their chemical composition, both mined and laboratory-grown diamonds are made of pure carbon, with each carbon atom bonded to four neighboring carbon atoms in a tetrahedral arrangement. This gives diamonds their unique hardness and other physical properties, as well as their optical properties such as high refractive index and dispersion.

Overall, while there are some subtle differences in the impurities and defects that can be present in mined and laboratory-grown diamonds, they are both essentially the same material in terms of their chemical properties.

One of the key differences between mined diamonds and laboratory-grown diamonds is their origin. Mined diamonds are natural, formed over millions of years in the earth’s mantle. Laboratory-grown diamonds, on the other hand, are created using advanced technological processes in a laboratory.

Another difference is the environmental and social impact of the two types of diamonds. Mined diamonds are often associated with negative environmental and social impacts, such as habitat destruction, water pollution, and exploitation of workers. Laboratory-grown diamonds, on the other hand, are generally considered to be more sustainable and ethical, as they do not involve the same level of environmental destruction or human exploitation.

Finally, there is a difference in price between mined diamonds and laboratory-grown diamonds. Mined diamonds are generally more expensive, due to their rarity and the high costs associated with mining and extraction. Laboratory-grown diamonds, on the other hand, are often less expensive, as they can be produced in larger quantities and do not require the same level of mining and extraction.

Conclusion:

Mined diamonds and laboratory-grown diamonds both have their pros and cons. While mined diamonds are valued for their rarity and unique characteristics, they are often associated with negative environmental and social impacts. Laboratory-grown diamonds, on the other hand, are more sustainable and ethical, but may be less valuable due to their artificial origin. Ultimately, the choice between a mined diamond and a laboratory-grown diamond comes down to personal values and priorities.

Source: Certin Diamond Insurance company

Will Laboratory grown diamonds take over the market ?

As of 2021 the laboratory-grown diamond trade market was estimated to be worth around $1.9 billion, according to a report by Frost & Sullivan.


This market is expected to grow significantly in the coming years, with some estimates suggesting that it could reach a value of over $15 billion by 2035.


laboratory-grown diamond trade has been growing steadily in recent years. There are several factors driving this growth.


Price: Laboratory-grown diamonds are typically less expensive than natural diamonds, which makes them an attractive option for consumers who are looking for high-quality jewelry at a more affordable price.


Ethical concerns: Some consumers are hesitant to purchase natural diamonds due to concerns about ethical issues such as conflict diamonds. Laboratory-grown diamonds are considered to be a more ethical alternative, as they are produced in a controlled environment and do not have the same potential ethical issues as natural diamonds.


Environmental concerns: The process of mining natural diamonds can have a significant environmental impact. Laboratory-grown diamonds are generally considered to be more environmentally friendly, as they do not require mining.


Advancements in technology: The technology used to produce laboratory-grown diamonds has improved significantly in recent years, making it easier and more cost-effective to produce high-quality diamonds.
All of these factors have contributed to the growth of the laboratory-grown diamond trade, and it is expected to continue to grow in the coming years.


The answer is not yet: It is worth noting that natural diamonds still hold a significant share of the diamond market, and it remains to be seen how much of an impact laboratory-grown diamonds will have on the industry as a whole over the next decade.

Source: Michael Cohen DCLA

What is the difference between a natural mined diamond and a laboratory grown diamond?

Laboratory grown rough diamond type 2A carbon crystal.

The main difference between a natural mined diamond and a laboratory grown diamond is their origin. Natural diamonds are formed deep within the Earth’s mantle under extreme heat and pressure over millions of years, while laboratory grown diamonds are created in a controlled environment in a laboratory setting.
Some other differences between natural mined diamonds and laboratory grown diamonds include:

  1. Cost: Laboratory grown diamonds are generally less expensive than natural mined diamonds, as they don’t require expensive mining and extraction processes.
  2. Clarity: Laboratory grown diamonds are generally more consistent in terms of their clarity, as they are grown under controlled conditions. Natural mined diamonds can have inclusions or blemishes, which can affect their clarity and value.
  3. Size and Colour: Laboratory grown diamonds can be grown to larger sizes and in a wider range of colours, which may not be as easily available in natural mined diamonds.
  4. Environmental impact: The environmental impact of laboratory grown diamonds is generally considered to be lower than that of natural mined diamonds, as mining can have a significant impact on the environment.
  5. Rarity and Value: Natural mined diamonds are still considered more rare and valuable than laboratory grown diamonds, due to their long history and cultural significance.
    Ultimately, whether someone chooses a natural mined diamond or a laboratory grown diamond may depend on their personal preferences and priorities, such as environmental concerns, budget, or the desire for a natural, unique stone.

It is worth noting that both natural mined diamonds and laboratory grown diamonds are chemically and physically identical, and both can be certified and graded by independent gemmological laboratories based on the same criteria.

Source: Roy Cohen DCLA

Industry-Insider Rapaport Lashes Out Against Lab-Grown Diamonds To No Avail

Lab-Grown Diamonds

Martin Rapaport recently released an incendiary memo to the diamond and jewelry industry calling on them to stop doing business in lab-grown diamonds (LGD), which he characterized as “synthetic” and “fraudulent.”

He also claimed those selling LGD were “operating dishonestly and unethically” and trading short-term opportunities at the expense of those that are “certain and sustainable.”

Rapaport is the ultimate industry insider, and there’s no question about which side his bread is buttered on. As chairman of The Rapaport Group, his company is a portal for information about and services to the diamond industry, including the Rapaport Price List, which it claims is the industry’s primary source for diamond price and market information, and an online diamond trading network, RapNet.

In a request for comment, a Rapaport representative shared the memo but added no additional comment.

Rapaport wrote:

“The greatest challenge facing the diamond trade is greed. Our trade is willfully destroying the underlying value of diamonds as a store of value through the marketing, promotion and sale of synthetic diamonds as a replacement for natural diamonds”

And he added, “Essentially, the diamond industry is trading short-term, unsustainable profits for the reputation of diamonds as a store of value.”

Then he went further, “Many – if not most – in our trade are operating dishonestly and unethically by failing to make full disclosure about the value retention of synthetic diamonds.”

And his memo concluded, “The Rapaport Group does not facilitate the sale of synthetic diamonds in any way. We believe they are a fraudulent product because of how they are sold. They are also a threat to the fundamental message of diamonds.”

This memo followed a submission to the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) in December 2021, where he pointed to Zales, James Allen, Jared, Diamond Direct (all Signet brands) and Brilliant Earth as not providing full disclosure about the LGD jewelry they sell. “Consumer expectations are not being managed honestly by unethical retailers,” he claimed.

According to lawyer Milton Springut, partner at Moses Singer, Rapaport’s disparaging and potentially injurious claims against lab-grown diamonds and the parties who do business in them probably don’t violate federal or state liability laws.

But Rapaport’s words are ill-chosen, and his claims are without merit, according to experts I spoke with.

Synthesized But No Less Real
Lab-grown diamonds may be synthetic, as in made by man, but they are just as “real” as a natural diamond, as defined by the FTC. A diamond, no matter its origin is “a mineral consisting essentially of pure carbon crystallized in the isometric system. It is found in many colors. Its hardness is 10; its specific gravity is approximately 3.52; and it has a refractive index of 2.42.”

While lab-growns that meet the above criteria can be labeled as a “diamond,” the FTC also ruled that their man-made origin must be clearly disclosed.

So it requires marketers must precede the word “diamond” with “equal conspicuousness” such words as “‘laboratory-grown,’ ‘laboratory-created,’ ‘[manufacturer name]-created,’ or some other word or phrase of like meaning, so as to disclose clearly the nature of the product and the fact it is not a mined gemstone.”

It took a little while for some involved to find their footing under the new FTC guidelines, but now it seems all companies and retailers trading in lab growns have gotten on board and clearly, responsibly and honestly disclose the man-made, laboratory-grown origins of their stones.

That’s why Rapaport’s word choice of “synthetic” is over the line, implying that lab-grown diamonds are “simulants,” on the order of CZs or moissanite that may have a diamond-look, but are distinctly different in their physical properties and chemical composition.

“It’s an intentionally pejorative term because he is desperately trying to hold on to the tradition of mined diamonds,” said Marty Hurwitz, founder of market-research firm MVI Marketing LLC (THE MVEye) that specializes in the gem, jewelry and watch industries since 1987.

“One could argue using the term ‘synthetic’ may cause harm to lab-grown businesses, but it is clear that people who use the word are using it in a denigrating fashion,” he continued.

Hurwitz also notes the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), a non-profit educational and research organization that is the industry’s primary source for grading stones, doesn’t use the term “synthetic” any longer. It provided a limited grading program for lab-grown diamonds since 2007, then expanded and elevated it in 2020 as LGDs gained more industry and consumer acceptance.

GIA’s chief executive Susan Jacques described its decision as the natural evolution of the diamond market.

“We are responding to consumer demand,” she stated. “We want to make sure that consumers are educated, that we can protect their trust in the gem and jewelry industry as well as the products they are buying. As consumers adopt this new category, it’s important that we evolve with the new consumer.”

Value Is In The Meaning
Rapaport’s rage against lab-grown diamonds seems to hinge on the fact that having an equivalent competing product in the market is causing the price of mined diamonds to fall. That’s the natural economic law of supply and demand.

And given that the prices of lab-grown diamonds are steadily falling, it is putting downward pricing pressure on mined diamonds too, reports diamond industry analyst Edahn Golan, though mined diamonds are experiencing a more moderate decline.

Then Rapaport goes one step further to claim that a mined diamond is a repository or “store of value” and that retaining, even increasing, its monetary value over time is part of the promise with purchase. This is patently false, both Hurwitz and Golan affirm.

“There is limited to no investment value in diamonds,” Hurwitz said. “Some categories of mined diamonds are investment grade and go up in value, but most diamonds depreciate faster than a car leaving the showroom. The average consumer has been fed a marketing myth, the greatest marketing story ever told. Most consumers never find out the truth because they don’t resell their diamonds.”

Golan added that jewelers have perpetuated the myth by offering a trade-in, so a purchaser of a $2,000 diamond ring can get that back in credit if they return to purchase a bigger, more expensive stone.

“I’m hearing the big trend in America now is for people who want to upgrade their engagement ring decide to keep their original stone and have it made into something else, like a pendant,” he said.

People hold onto their stone because of its sentimental, symbolic value, which is where the actual value lies, as Warren Buffett said, “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”

DeBeers tried to equate the two with its rule that a man should pay two-to-three months’ salary on an engagement ring. But ironically, that’s turned back on the industry because, with a lab grown, he can buy a bigger, more impressive stone that speaks even louder of his love for her when he pops the question.

Nothing Unethical, Fraudulent Or Dishonest Selling Lab Growns
Rapaport goes too far when he suggests that there is something unethical, fraudulent or dishonest in selling lab-grown diamonds.

“The idea that diamonds are a store of value is a fundamental component of diamond demand. Consumers are being misled by retailers who sell man-made diamonds without full disclosure. The default assumption among consumers is that man-made diamonds will appreciate over time, even though the opposite is true,” he stated in his RJC filing.

One could argue that what is unethical, fraudulent and dishonest is suggesting that a mined diamond retains, even grows in monetary value.

“Rapaport is thinking like a diamond trader. Trading prices move up and down with the market. When they go up, it’s good; when they go down, it’s bad,” Golan said, noting that the increasing availability and consumer demand for lab growns is moving the needle for mined diamonds in the wrong direction.

Unlike traders, retailers think about cash flow, margins and turns. And this is where lab-grown diamonds have the edge.

“Jewelry stores hold loose diamonds on hand and the margins on loose natural diamonds is around 36%, while the margin for LGD was 54% at the end of December. And if it takes a retailer a year to sell a mined stone, but it only averages seven months to sell a lab-grown, a retailer will make more money at the end of the year,” Golan explained.

Hurwitz rhetorically asks, “Should we tell the consumers who are walking into our stores asking for lab-growns to go away? Should we say, ‘We don’t want to sell you this product that means incredibly high margins and profits for us and incredibly high value to you?’”

Retailers that trade in lab-growns are transparent and honest about the origin of their stones. The FTC requires it. There is nothing unethical, fraudulent or dishonest for a retailer to sell a customer what they want at the price they want to pay and to make money in the process.

“Half the diamonds are sold in the United States, and 50% of the business in the United States is bridal. The natural diamond industry is losing a chunk of that ‘Holy Grail’ to lab growns. The industry has to adapt to the changing world. It’s a combination of a cultural and business change that are driving each other,” Golan shared.

Can’t Turn Back The Clock
“Rapaport has a tremendous self-interest in seeing the mined diamond business continue to thrive,” observed Hurwitz. “He’s trying to ensure that things never change. He wants to hold onto the tradition, but that’s futile.”

While Rapaport may be trying to valiantly to save the mined diamond industry, he may be doing more harm than good.

“The good news for the lab-grown diamond industry is that he appears to be going off the rails in his attacks, and as a result, fewer and fewer people are listening to him,” Hurwitz said.

“There is a consumer revolution happening because of lab-grown diamonds. As an industry, we must embrace the change and give consumers a choice.” he continued.

“Rapaport just wants to tell everybody that this product is good and that is bad. But the only voice that matters is the consumer. And the consumer is organically and very virally embracing this new product.”

Source: Pamela N. Danziger

World’s top jewellery maker Pandora ditches mined diamonds

Pandora jewellery
Pandora jewellery

Pandora, the world’s biggest jeweller, is launching a collection using exclusively lab-made diamonds in the US and Canada as part of the company’s strategy to eliminate mined gems and create more affordable products with less associated emissions.

The Danish company, which plans to make its operations carbon neutral within three years, said the collection is the first one crafted with 100% recycled silver and gold.

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“This brings greenhouse gas emissions of the collection’s entry product – a silver ring with a 0.15 carat lab-created diamond ($300) – down to 2.7 kg CO2e, which is equal to the average emissions of a t-shirt,” Pandora said.

The flagship product, a one carat lab-created diamond set in a 14 carat solid gold ring and sold for about $1,950, has a footprint of 10.4kg CO2e, which is less than the average emissions of a pair of jeans.

The jeweller, best known for its charm bracelets, has committed to craft all its pieces from recycled silver and gold by 2025.

Pandora launched its first Pandora Brilliance collection using only man-made diamonds in the UK last year.

“Lab-created diamonds are just as beautiful as mined diamonds, but available to more people and with lower carbon emissions,” chief executive officer Alexander Lacik said in the statement.

World’s top jewellery maker Pandora ditches mined diamonds
The Danish company, best known for its charm bracelets, already doesn’t include mined diamonds in most of its pieces. (Image courtesy of Pandora.)
While producing diamonds is energy-intensive, Pandora said its gems would be made using only renewable energy.

Since 2011, when prices peaked thanks to China’s younger shoppers, diamonds have faltered. Lab-grown stones, initially priced confusingly close to the real thing, posed a challenge.

Top diamond makers reacted to the new kind of diamonds, widely embraced by young consumers as they look identical to mined stones, by launching a joint marketing campaign.

Under the motto “Real is Rare”, the Natural Diamond Council (formerly the Diamond Producers Association), which groups the world’s leading diamond companies, launched a series of film-like spots targeting millennials — those born between 1981 and 1996.

Failing that, they begun selling man-made diamonds themselves. Anglo American’s De Beers created the Lightbox brand to sell alternative diamonds for a fraction of the price of the mined ones.

Ethical concerns
Despite the establishment of the Kimberley Process in 2003, aimed at removing conflict diamonds from the supply chain, experts say trafficking of precious rocks is still ongoing.

Miners and world famous jewellers including Tiffany & Co, have come up with innovative ways of certifying their stones as ethically mined, mostly based in blockchain technology.

In 2020, the New York-based company began providing customers with details of newly sourced, individually registered diamonds that trace a stone’s path all the way back to the mine.

Source: Mining.com

Disruptor’s Dilemma: Has Lightbox Legitimized Lab-Grown?

Lightbox

When De Beers first introduced its Lightbox lab-grown jewelry brand in 2018, the diamond world sat up and took notice. The mining giant had long been outspoken about its belief that synthetic stones were neither special nor unique. And despite having entered the field itself, the company still holds by that sentiment. Since first making waves throughout the trade, it has done its utmost to create a clear distinction between the two types of stones, touting natural diamonds as a higher-value, engagement-worthy offering, and positioning Lightbox’s products in what brand CEO Steve Coe delineates as “the accessibly priced fashion-jewelry space.”

But a look at the market four years on suggests that this message may have been lost in translation.

The opening gambit

After the initial shock of the Lightbox announcement wore off, the general theory in the natural-diamond industry was that the brand was De Beers’ strategy for negating the perceived threat of lab-grown. Understood but unspoken in its marketing was that Lightbox aimed to create an alternative stream for synthetics — one that wasn’t bridal and wasn’t in that price range.

“I think there was a great opportunity for lab-grown diamonds that De Beers didn’t want to pass up,” says Dick Garard, president of the International Grown Diamond Association (IGDA). “They thought they had a marketing strategy there…. They came out with a pricing structure, and the intent was to drive the pricing down to that point. I think their overall intent was to help augment their mined-diamond business.”

Jewelry consultant Pam Danziger also took Lightbox’s debut as a warning shot to synthetics — a way of reframing them as a lesser alternative to natural stones, not as a luxury product.

“De Beers tried to tell the consumer what lab-grown diamonds were for,” she says. “They said it’s for fashion, not for anything serious. It was like they were trying to exert market control and keep lab-grown in a separate lane.”

Of course, a company as big and well-known as De Beers can’t rock the boat without creating some far-reaching ripples, and it did — just not necessarily the ones it may have been expecting.

Stamp of approval?

If De Beers’ subliminal strategy was to create an invisible barrier around the space where lab-grown was supposed to reside, the plan did not unfold as it was meant to. Rather than decreasing interest in synthetic diamonds as a viable alternative to natural, the company’s move into the space solidified lab-grown’s legitimacy among trade members and consumers alike.

“[De Beers] kind of heightened the awareness and desire for lab-grown diamonds,” explains Adrienne Fay, vice president of Warren Buffett-owned jeweler Borsheims. “Maybe it was an unintended consequence, rather than a misstep, that by trying to point out that this is a product inferior to mined diamonds, it sort of highlighted the fact that it’s actually a product very similar to mined diamonds, and that there is a demand for it.”

The De Beers name on lab-grown jewelry became the ultimate stamp of approval for customers, agrees Eileen Hopman, owner of Hopman Jewelers in Elkhart, Indiana. Whenever she saw doubt from shoppers about the validity of synthetics, she says, she would whisper the magic words: “Even De Beers is selling lab-grown.” From there, the purchase was usually a fait accompli.

Traders, too, have taken the De Beers move as an endorsement, reports Mark Clodius, owner of Clodius & Co. Jewelers in Rockford, Illinois.

“It certainly prompted overall approval throughout the industry, and quite dramatically,” he says. “It achieved so much publicity that it was hard for jewelers to ignore it.”

“What De Beers has…been successful at is having price consistency among diamond growers.”

Adrienne Fay
Vice President, Borsheims

The bridal boom

Fay, Hopman and Clodius are among the jewelers that were already carrying lab-grown diamonds before the launch of Lightbox. From the brand’s debut in 2018 until a year later, the retailers saw a big jump in growth, with sales doubling or better every year after that.

Consumer surveys appear to support this trend. The number of bridal shoppers who feel a natural diamond is important has gone down, according to a 2021 survey from wedding website The Knot. Nearly one quarter of all engagement ring purchases last year featured a man-made center stone, it found — an increase of 11% over two years. Another study, this one by jewelry insurance business Brite & Co., confirms that lab-grown is gaining on natural when it comes to bridal appeal: The market share of synthetic-diamond engagement rings grew to more than 28% in 2021 from 19% the year before, while average spending rose 9%, not far behind the 12% increase that mined stones enjoyed.

Despite the data, however, De Beers insists it will not hop on the lab-grown engagement train and says it still sees synthetics functioning most promisingly in fashion. The lower price point of that segment “opens up a very exciting opportunity for a much higher level of repeat purchases,” says Coe. “There are some retailers out there that are pushing the [engagement] avenue very strongly…but we see the big opportunity for lab-grown elsewhere.”

Still, by setting a bar and sticking to it, Lightbox might be missing out. The bulk of lab-grown sales at Borsheims are for bridal, and synthetics make up approximately 60% of engagement ring purchases at Clodius. Hopman, who first began carrying them as an alternative to natural stones, says they’ve become her bread and butter, making up 90% of all engagement center stones she sells. The lab-created gems have become so popular with her buyers that she has stopped carrying natural diamonds unless they’re preset in a piece she really likes.

“Like De Beers, we were initially promoting them more for fashion jewelry versus engagement rings,” she explains. “But more people came in and wanted bigger diamonds, and as the prices for mined diamonds began to increase, they were stuck settling for either a smaller diamond or a lesser-quality stone. And we began showing them the lab-grown. Once we let them know the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had sanctioned them as real diamonds, they took off.”

“There are some retailers out there that are pushing the [engagement] avenue very strongly…but we see the big opportunity elsewhere.”

Steve Coe
CEO, Lightbox

The price is right

One thing De Beers has managed to do, Fay believes, is contain the price of lab-grown, though not at the $800-per-carat level that Lightbox charges. Not even at the $1,500-per-carat price tag of its Finest line, which includes synthetic stones with a higher color range of D to F.

“De Beers, because they’re such a behemoth, they’re going to have an impact,” asserts Fay. “I think what De Beers has managed to disrupt, and been successful at, is having price consistency among lab-grown diamond growers.”

The figures seem to prove her right. Within six months of Lightbox’s arrival on the scene, the average discount for a 1-carat lab-grown diamond grew to 42% of the equivalent natural stone — up from 29% in January 2018, just before the De Beers brand launched, according to data that Reuters cited from industry analyst Paul Zimnisky. Meanwhile, wholesale prices for synthetics fell 13.3% from 2019 to 2020, according to online marketplace Virtual Diamond Boutique.

Clodius and Hopman are currently selling lab-grown engagement rings at approximately 50% to 70% of their natural counterparts’ prices, depending on the cut and carat weight of the stone, and the price they pay their lab-grown suppliers has dropped since 2018. However, they’re a bit more hesitant to attribute the latter development to Lightbox. So is Zimnisky.

“I believe it’s the overall fundamentals of the market that are pressuring lab-grown diamond prices — particularly the supply side of the equation — not Lightbox per se,” Zimnisky says. “Perhaps the Lightbox launch a few years back has accelerated this trend, but when you really look at the supply fundamentals of the space, how many new producers have entered the space in the recent past, I think it’s more production growth and production improvements that have accelerated supply [and] most heavily weighed on prices.”

“It was like [De Beers was] trying to exert market control and keep lab-grown in a separate lane.”

Pam Danziger
Jewelry consultant

Down the line

What does the future hold for lab-grown, and will De Beers play a role in how it gets there? The answer depends on whom you ask.

“Will lab-grown diamonds fall into fashion? Yes,” says the IGDA’s Garard. “But will they also still fall into bridal and high-end? Absolutely. And supply is too tight to meet demand currently, so to have a carat sell for $800? I think that’s a bit low.”

Zimnisky disagrees: “Ultimately, I think the Lightbox price point is the right level for the lab-grown diamond product in general. Sometimes I think it’s too low, and sometimes I feel that it’s too high, so that’s probably a sign that it’s just about right — for now, at least. However…in five years’ time, this price point will probably seem too high. I think we’ll see $500 per carat or less in 10 years’ time. Longer-term, I think the price point is what will ultimately relegate the product to more ‘fashion’-oriented — more so than marketing efforts.”

Source: Diamonds.net