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News, Feature Stories, The Great Diamond Debate













Sorting through the fact and fiction

Diamonds can’t be made; they are part of Mother Nature. ERNIE BLOM says synthetic stones are akin to making widgets on a factory production line.

The issue and debate surrounding natural diamonds and synthetic stones has increased in recent years due, in part, to improvements in the quality of lab-grown diamonds coupled with the large increase in production volume.

We can expect the production of lab-grown diamonds to continually rise not only in higher production levels but also the number of manufacturers. We should always remember, and stress, however, that lab-grown diamonds are like any other manufactured product; their prices will fall as manufacturing processes improve and production costs decline.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe that consumers fully understand this truism. Do jewellery buyers really want to buy a synthetic diamond today only to find that it has negligible or no re-sale value only a few years from now?

This is why I believe the decision by De Beers to enter the lab-grown market by producing product for its Lightbox collection is so important. At US$800 for a one-carat diamond, it shows clearly the value of such stones.

Another unfortunate side-effect of synthetic diamonds is that it is forcing midstream diamond suppliers/dealers to regularly examine their stocks at the time of buying to ensure they are not mistakenly passing on synthetic stones to their clients.

"Synthetic stones have their own niche in the market, as do diamonds, however; synthetics must be ethically traded and sold, and in this respect, I believe it is critical that synthetic manufacturers advertise their stones in an ethical manner, not at the expense of natural diamonds."

This burden adds to the supplier’s administration costs as well as the need to purchase new testing equipment at a time when profit margins are already paper-thin. That said, I’m happy to report that the cost of lab-grown testing equipment and devices is reasonable, however it’s a constant battle to stay ahead of the curve.

I would stress that the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB) does not object to the sale of synthetics diamonds as long as they are fully disclosed as lab-grown.

Synthetic stones have their own niche in the market, as do diamonds, however; synthetics must be ethically traded and sold, and in this respect, I believe it is critical that synthetic manufacturers advertise their stones in an ethical manner, not at the expense of natural diamonds.

It is unfortunate that synthetic diamond suppliers typically claim that their factories manufacturers’ product in an environmentally friendly way and it’s not tainted as conflict diamonds.

This ignores the enormous efforts of the industry to stamp out conflict diamonds via the Kimberley Process, as well as the many corporate social responsibility and sustainability practices, which natural diamond suppliers and other members of the pipeline, have initiated over the past 15 years.

We should also not ignore the enormous amount of power and energy used by the synthetic companies to keep their factories operating around the clock. That is not exactly environmentally friendly.

It goes without saying that the synthetic stone manufacturers never mention the benefits that natural diamonds offer poor communities across the world. It is a fact that artisanal miners put food on the tables for millions of people across Africa which is certainly not the case concerning factory-made stones.

It is disingenuous to promote one product by dubiously denigrating another.

I would be more than happy to meet with the producers of synthetics in order to create a healthy dialogue between us.

We believe that diamonds can’t be made; you have to find them. Each one is unique and this sums up perfectly the difference between mined diamonds, and lab-grown stones manufactured in a factory production line.


 

The former involves ancient history, uncertainty and fascination while the latter is akin to making widgets in a massive industrial plant.

Unfortunately, we have witnessed a number of instances of deliberate and cynical mixing of undisclosed synthetic stones with natural diamonds and that is a major concern for the WFDB. We will have zero tolerance for this practice because the damage it could cause to consumer confidence in diamond jewellery is immense.

The WFDB’s overriding concern is to ensure that synthetics suppliers do not cause damage confidence across the wider jewellery industry. They must be clearly marked, identified and sold as lab-grown stones. People and/or companies conducting themselves illegally will be removed as bourse members where it is found to be the case, and prosecuted for fraudulent activity.

The WFDB’s Charter “on disclosure of synthetic, treated natural and natural diamonds” obliges traders to include a statement on their invoices providing a proper description and declaration attesting to the nature of the diamonds sold: namely, that all the goods sold are guaranteed to be natural and also untreated.

The WFDB, as an organisation, does not hold a position on the policies of its affiliated bourses regarding the trading of lab-grown diamonds within their own bourses.

For example, the Israel Diamond Exchange does not allow the trading of synthetic stones on its trading floor, while the Bharat Diamond Bourse forbids the trading of such stones anywhere on its premises. Each exchange is free to decide its own policy.

In closing, I would like to sum up the arguments as I see them. We have a rare product that was created deep in the earth by Mother Nature billions of years ago. It is an exceptional story of value and can be passed on across generations in the knowledge that it retains a high value

Diamond mining puts food on the table for hundreds of thousands of people across Africa

And finally, do people really want to gift and pass on to family members a stone that was created in a factory and which is being made ever more cheaply and thus has little, if any, inherent value?

 


 

'The Great Diamond Debate' Contents » 

Innovation vs Disruption: Spectators don't win games
Coleby Nicholson, managing editor of Jeweller
 
Diamonds and Youth: Millennials and Gen Z drive sales
Predicting a synthetic future
Garry Holloway, owner Holloway Diamonds
Lab-created diamond jewellery market to grow to US$15B by 2035
Paul Zimnisky, paulzimnisky.com - indepdendent analyst

 











ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ernie Blom

President • World Federation of Diamond Bourses


Ernie Blom is president World Federation of Diamond Bourses and chairman Diamond Dealers Club of South Africa.









Sunday, 16 December, 2018 07:26am
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