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It's been said by many important historical figures that ‘the first casualty of war is the truth’ and the conflict between ‘natural’ and lab-created diamonds supporters has been no exception to this rule. | Source: Pixabay
It's been said by many important historical figures that ‘the first casualty of war is the truth’ and the conflict between ‘natural’ and lab-created diamonds supporters has been no exception to this rule. | Source: Pixabay

Voices of reason rising above the diamond melee

The heated debate about the future of the international diamond industry continues unabated. ANGELA HAN reflects on recent calls for civility.

It's been said by many important historical figures that ‘the first casualty of war is the truth’ and the conflict between ‘natural’ and lab-created diamonds supporters has been no exception to this rule.

Which matters more: preserving the reputation of diamonds as a scarce resource worthy of luxury, or providing consumers with more options when it comes to jewellery?

If the chemical makeup is the same, does it matter if one gemstone was formed over millions of years deep within the Earth, and another is created in a factory in India?

The raging ‘diamond debate’ is fought over semantics, science, and philosophy and at stake is a multi-billion dollar per year industry.

It’s been an important few weeks for the diamond industry, with calls for civility between the ‘natural’ and lab-created factions gaining significant momentum.

The future of the lab-created market dominated headlines in June after Lightbox Jewelry, the De Beers Group’s brand, began trialling engagement rings.

“Which matters more: preserving the reputation of diamonds as a scarce resource worth of luxury, or providing consumers with more options when it comes to jewellery?”

The collection features 16 items ranging between $AU895 and $AU8,950. CEO Antoine Borde said the decision to undertake the trial was based on consumer demand. Naturally, reception to the decision was divisive and indeed many came out in support of Lightbox.

The detractors were quick to draw attention to statements from De Beers leaders in 2018 – when Lightbox was launched – suggesting that the brand would not offer engagement rings because there was no ‘emotional value’ to the product.

In a special presentation at the Jewellery and Gem ASIA Hong Kong trade show, Zulu Ghevriya, CEO of Smiling Rocks, said it was a decision that was years overdue.

Smit Virani, managing director of Ethereal Green Company, joined Ghevriya on stage and the pair discussed the significance of India’s prime minister Narendra Modi presenting the US first lady Jill Biden with a 7.5-carat green lab-created diamond.

Virani said he couldn’t imagine a larger ‘stamp of approval’ for the industry – and it’s hard to disagree!

Hybridisation is coming

Each year, Pranay Narvekar and Chaim Even-Zohar release a detailed review of the international diamond industry across the previous year.

This year’s report – Embracing Reality: The Inevitable Rise of Hybrid-Diamond Jewellery – is a doozy! The pair detail the increasing significance of jewellery which features both natural and lab-created diamonds.

The report predicts that in the future, retailers will offer three distinct types of diamond jewellery – natural, lab-created, and hybrid. Hybrid diamond jewellery is jewellery that features both natural and lab-created diamonds.

The popularity of hybrid diamond jewellery may steady the expansion of lab-created diamonds and offer a transparent in-between alternative. Perhaps the most significant impact this ‘blending’ of categories may have will be arresting declining consumer faith in the diamond industry.

“The day when consumers no longer aspire to own a diamond, if it ever comes, would be the death of the diamond dream,” the report dramatically concludes.

Can’t we all just get along?

Prominent voices in the jewellery trade have called for peace between the two fractured factions for many years.
Among them is the new president of the International Grown Diamond Association (IGDA), Joanna Park-Tonks, who this month signed a new partnership with the World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO).

As part of the agreement, the IGDA will become a member of CIBJO’s Laboratory Grown Diamond Committee.

"The raging ‘diamond debate’ is fought over semantics, science, and philosophy and at stake is a multi-billion dollar per year industry."

This committee aims to define lab-created diamond trading practices to improve consumer education and confidence, something which I’m sure both ‘sides of the fence’ can agree is a good thing.

Park-Tonks said the purpose of this agreement was to send a ‘clear signal’ to the international jewellery industry that it’s time to abandon personal agendas and egos and work for the best interest of the trade.

She drew attention to the decision by some to deride natural or lab-created diamonds and said that approach is not conducive to improving consumer education.

During our research for an upcoming project, a member of the diamond industry told Jeweller that he hasn’t seen the industry ‘feeling so lost’ in a very long time. The panacea to this issue is leadership, and it’s pleasing to see representative organisations like CIBJO and the IGDA coming together to send a clear message.

Meeting in the middle

Approaching the issue from a different perspective is David Kellie, who features in this month’s Soapbox column as president of the Natural Diamond Council.

While Kellie and Park-Tonks undoubtedly share different visions for the future of the diamond industry, it’s interesting to note the areas in which the pair are in agreement.

Kellie agrees that the most important ‘frontier’ for the industry to traverse is the education of consumers.

Indeed, despite the considerable ‘evolution’ of the industry in recent years, many myths about the diamond trade persist and the wider public still knows very little about where jewellery ‘comes from.’

He suggests that these myths and the lack of clarity around the industry create an erosion of trust in the businesses behind diamond jewellery, which is a poor sign for the road ahead.

Kellie also says that natural and lab-created diamonds both have a part to play in a prosperous jewellery industry; however, in order to reach such a future protecting the integrity of the industry is vital.

This sentiment is becoming more widespread – that there is room for both natural and lab-created diamond products and that each will soon find its niche.

The bottom line? Consumers are gifted with a chance to get more creative with their designs, and jewellers are also afforded a chance to boost their income.

It’s a shame that the road to this new hybridised market has been filled with much vitriol and mud-slinging; however, when there are potentially billions of dollars at stake – who can blame the factions for getting a little hot under the collar?

The jewellery industry has never been accused of being impassionate!

“Which matters more: preserving the reputation of diamonds as a scarce resource worth of luxury, or providing consumers with more options when it comes to jewellery?”

More reading:
What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other word, would smell as sweet.
We cannot direct the wind - but we can adjust the sails
Gratitude is an attitude – so don’t forget to say thanks
Don’t wait for the storm to pass,  learn to dance in the rain
When the window of opportunity opens,  don’t pull down the shade
One part water, one part soil and sharp scissors

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angela Han

Publisher  • Jeweller Magazine


Angela Han has more than a decade’s experience in the jewellery and luxury goods industry, having worked in all sectors from retail and manufacturing to design and supply. She has been with Jeweller for over ten years and has extensive experience in print and digital media publishing, business-to-business communications and strategy. 

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