US demand to lift India’s lab-made diamond exports to $8 billion

Lab-grown diamonds
Lab-grown diamonds

India, which cuts or polishes about 90% of the diamonds sold in the world, is ramping up sales of laboratory-made gems as demand from the US surges and they become more accepted in other markets.

Exports of polished lab-grown diamonds may double in the current financial year started April 1 from $1.3 billion in the prior year, Vipul Shah, vice chairman of the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council, said in an interview. “We have a huge potential to grow exports to $7 billion-$8 billion in the next few years on the back of US demand and acceptability in the UK and Australia,” he said.

“It is going to be treated as a fashionable jewelry, which is affordable to the youngsters, and that’s the way the market is going to shift,” Shah said.

Diamonds grown in labs represent a small portion of the market currently — India shipped nearly $24 billion of polished diamonds mined naturally last year. Still, the much cheaper variety has been growing its share as it has the same physical characteristics and chemical makeup as mined stones, with experts needing a machine to distinguish between synthesized and mined gems.

Lab-made diamonds are developed from a carbon seed placed in a microwave chamber and superheated into a glowing plasma ball. The process creates particles that crystallize into diamonds in weeks.

Exports of polished lab-grown diamonds from India jumped about 70% in the April-July period to $622.7 million, while those of cut and polished mined diamonds fell around 3% to $8.2 billion during the same period, GJEPC data showed.

One advantage of the man-made gem is that it has a tracking system that helps monitor the supply chain and maintain consumer confidence in the gems.

“Commercial gem-quality earth-mined diamonds are being replaced completely by lab-grown diamonds,” said Ritesh Shah, director at ALTR, one of the first global lab-grown brands to start business in India. The product’s affordability, low carbon-footprint, size and fine quality offer a big draw for buyers, with the US the front-runner in the shift in consumer behavior, he said.

From a handful of companies growing diamonds in labs in the mid-2000s, there are now about 25 such growers in India, he said. The country contributes about 15% of the global production of lab-grown diamonds, according to the GJEPC.

By Swansy Afonso

Mumbai Exchange Mulls Lifting Synthetics Ban

Bharat Diamond Bourse

Mumbai’s Bharat Diamond Bourse (BDB) is considering allowing synthetic-diamond trading on the exchange premises, its president told Rapaport News.

Some members have asked management to reconsider its 2015 ban on selling lab-grown diamonds anywhere in the BDB’s vast office complex, Anoop Mehta said this week. The bourse will consult with members after the Diwali vacation season, and could call a vote in the first quarter of next year, he added.

“One of the prime reasons [for outlawing lab-grown diamonds] was that detection was a major problem at that time,” Mehta explained. “Detection has come a long way, so we will relook at it.”

Most diamantaires are unlikely to back the change as it would damage their business, according to a trader at a member company, who was not aware that the matter was on the table.

The bourse expects to brief members in informal meetings in December once traders have returned from Diwali, Mehta said. It will also use those events to discuss the issues and ensure voters make an informed decision, he added.

The BDB declared the bourse a “natural-diamond zone” in October 2015, claiming it was the first exchange to do so.

Which exchanges allow trading in laboratory-grown diamonds?

Antwerp’s bourses admit companies that trade synthetics, provided that they give full product disclosure.

Dubai: The Dubai Diamond Exchange doesn’t track whether traders are dealing in natural or lab-grown diamonds, but members must comply with its bylaws and make appropriate disclosures.

Hong Kong: The Diamond Federation of Hong Kong, China, does not currently admit lab-grown-diamond companies to its membership.

India: The Bharat Diamond Bourse banned synthetics from the entire complex in 2015, and is now considering requests to change that.

Israel: Members can’t deal in synthetics on the Israel Diamond Exchange trading floor, but the rule doesn’t apply to offices in the bourse building.

US: The Diamond Dealers Club of New York had not confirmed its policy to Rapaport News at press time.

Sources: Bourse and organization spokespeople