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Would you propose with a synthetic diamond?

Can anyone really predict the future of synthetic diamonds? COLEBY NICHOLSON asks: Do lab-created diamonds carry the same romantic notions of a natural diamond, or are they shrouded in stigma?

I gave up predicting the future a long time ago; I wasn’t very good at it. I don’t remember the exact date but it was around the time that I said, “Pet Rocks are a dumb idea and no one will be stupid enough to buy them!”

Well, around 1.5 million people proved me wrong and the dumb concept made the creator a millionaire.

My other predictions that have proved wrong include: “No-one will take World Championship Wrestling seriously,” and, “Intelligent adults will not dress up as superheroes, anime and video-games characters and attend comic festivals” … though my definition of “intelligent” probably means I am yet to be proven wrong on the latter!

Anyway, you get the idea: attempting to predict human behaviour is almost futile. With that in mind, I find the latest debate about synthetic diamonds interesting.

I am not willing to predict whether there will be an immediate and significant change to the diamond industry, but it’s fair to say that De Beers obviously thinks this will be the case otherwise it would not have entered the synthetic diamond market.

I also think it’s fair to say that synthetic-diamond manufacturers had been quietly going about their business a little like that not-quite-right cousin at Christmas lunch – everyone knows he’s there but no one takes any notice.

We all knew lab-grown diamonds existed and that the technology was improving; however, it had pretty much been business as usual, meaning business without lab-created diamonds, for the jewellery industry.

"Some say that lab-grown diamonds might be okay for ‘cheap’ jewellery but ask: do they truly signify love and romance?"

All this changed when De Beers recently announced it had entered the synthetic diamond sector with new company Lightbox Jewelry. The move by the diamond giant was perhaps not so surprising to industry observers, but what came next certainly caught many by surprise.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) made a new ruling on diamond nomenclature in which the word “natural” was omitted from its definition. Furthermore, the regulations for marketing diamonds had also been altered to allow the use of the previously banned words “gem” and “gemstones” when marketing synthetic gems.

These new rules change the game a little in favour of synthetic-diamond manufacturers, though there are analysts who believe that Lightbox Jewelry is a De Beers strategy to force the price of lab-grown diamonds down so as to maintain a price differential between them and the natural products.

In saying that, there’s no doubt the lab-grown market has gained momentum in the past 12 months and much of this momentum can be attributed to Millennial and Gen Z consumers. If you believe the promotional and public relations activity, young diamond buyers are socially conscious and value quality and integrity.

Indeed, a recent De Beers study found that the two demographics account for two-thirds of diamond demand, and while Millennials make up the largest group of diamond consumers now, Gen Z will be an even-larger customer base in the near future.

If lab-grown diamonds are not only on par with mined diamonds – or even better, some might argue, because of the ethical issues that cloud the mined diamond sector – a powerful question is being asked: Would you propose to your future spouse with a synthetic diamond?

It’s a fair point. Do lab-created diamonds carry the same romantic notions of a natural diamond, or are they still shrouded in stigma?

The tradition of a man buying a woman a diamond ring is a 70-year marketing story that connects connotations of rarity and preciousness with love … but it’s still a story and it still relies on the support of De Beers and the DTC to tell it effectively.

Some say that lab-grown diamonds might be okay for ‘cheap’ jewellery but ask: do they truly signify love and romance?

After all, would you propose with a synthetic diamond? Or, if you’re a woman, what would you think if you subsequently discovered your engagement ring held a man-made stone which came out of a factory, rather than from ‘mother earth’?

Maybe new generations of diamond buyers will still care enough about tradition to pay a premium for a natural stone even though science can achieve the same result ethically and at a more desirable price.

Who knows?

And I’m not about to make a prediction about the future. I have failed too many times before ... my friend still has her Pet Rock!











ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Coleby Nicholson • Managing Editor

Managing Editor • Jeweller Magazine


Coleby Nicholson is publisher and managing editor of Jeweller magazine. He has covered the jewellery industry for more than a decade and specialises in business-to-business aspects of the industry.









Thursday, 13 December, 2018 08:06pm
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