Diamonds are Forever but what about Lab Diamonds?
Lab-grown diamonds have seen a huge surge in popularity over the past decade. Physically, chemically and aesthetically they are the same as Earth-mined diamonds. Today, lab grown diamonds account for 1-2% of the diamond jewellery industry as a whole.Typically Lab grown diamonds cost about 40% less than their Earth-mined equivalent.
The discount can be even larger for stones over 1ct.
As more and more lab-grown diamonds enter the market, the cost is likely to drop. The worry is if the cost drops too much, it could devalue lab-grown diamonds in the eyes of consumers.
Diamonds of course have traditionally been seen as a luxury, however can something man-made and available in abundance be seen as a luxury? It is of course hard to say as luxury is relative and the concept of luxury varies from one person to another. The luxury goods industry however has been quite clear on their view of lab diamonds.
In an interview, De Beers Chief Executive Bruce Cleaver said:
“There is a perfectly legitimate market for lab-grown diamonds but it is fashion, not luxury.”
Andy Hart, SVP of Tiffany & Co. agrees:
“Our position is lab-grown diamonds are not a luxury material. We don’t see a role for them in a luxury brand. They have their use and they have their place, but I think luxury consumers will continue to desire the rarity and amazing story of natural diamonds.”
Nicolas Bos, chief executive of Van Cleef & Arpels also agrees:
“It is definitely not an option that we would consider for our jewellery. We do not use synthetic stones.”
Indeed, these views are shared among many in the jewellery industry. For years, the allure of diamonds has been in their rarity and their natural beauty. It is hard to replace this romantic allure with created diamonds that lack a story and are anything but rare. That said, lab-grown diamonds do indeed have their ethical and sustainable credentials and this is a choice that more and more consumers are seeking out.
If we look at pearls, the process of producing cultured pearls began over 100 years ago and has been hugely successful. Today, more than 99% of all pearls sold worldwide are cultured pearls. Natural pearls are now incredibly rare and can typically sell for millions.
Cultured pearls can also command very high prices, especially in the larger sizes. This may also be the trajectory for lab-grown diamonds, however pearls and diamonds are very different. The general concensus is that the choice between mined and lab-grown diamonds is very much a matter of personal taste. Some will argue that Earth-mined, natural diamonds will always be the better choice and some will counter that argument in favour of lab-grown diamonds. A great many people however, agree that the two, although chemically identical should never be compared, especially in terms of value and uniqueness. In conclusion, the unique allure of natural diamonds is still beyond compare, while lab-grown diamonds may be neither as valuable or precious, they have their own special appeal.
As for the future, it remains to be seen!