The world’s largest diamond miner, De Beers, is finally selling human-made diamonds. After 130 years of mining the precious jewels from the ground, the diamond company has entered the world of lab-created gems, recanting their previous vow to never go synthetic.
Marketing themselves as Lightbox, De Beers chief executive Bruce Cleaver said in a statement, “Lightbox will transform the lab-grown diamond sector by offering consumers a lab-grown product they have told us they want but aren’t getting: affordable fashion jewellery that may not be forever, but is perfect for right now. We see an opportunity that’s been missed.”
Lab diamonds, created in high-pressure, high-temperature chambers that mimic conditions in the earth’s crust, have the same physical and chemical features as mined stones. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two without a machine. And unlike mined diamonds, which can have a slew of concerns when they are mined irresponsibly (land erosion, loss of biodiversity, human trafficking, child labour and slavery), these diamonds don’t risk that dreaded ‘blood’ prefix.
But if you think this Lightbox was spawned from De Beers’ concern with the environment or ethics, you’d be wrong. David Prager, De Beers executive vice president, says Lightbox’s advertising will not contain De Beers name, nor will the brand be marketed as eco-friendly or conflict-free.“We don’t agree with that positioning,” he said.
According to JCK magazine, the brand will not be competing against De Beers’ mined diamonds either. “It fits a different space, a different consumer need,” said De Beers veteran and jewellery marketing expert Sally Morrison. “We believe that this brand is different. That’s not unfavorable. It is just something else.”
The big draw to Lightbox? Cost. At $200 for a quarter-carat, $400 for a half and $800 for a carat, they’re definitely priced more competitively than other diamonds, mined or lab. A one-carat mined diamond can go for $8,000, whereas lab-created diamonds at other jewellers fetch about half of that at $4,000. With Lightbox one-carat diamonds coming in at only twenty per cent of that — that’s a pretty big price drop.
But De Beers is not the first established diamond company to go the lab route. Canadian jewellers Spence Diamonds also features its own Artisan Created Diamond Collection. Unlike De Beers, however, Spence does position itself as environmentally conscious, with the collection being touted as “ethically responsible and environmentally sustainable.”
To us, Lightbox simply seems like a smart business move — one that targets the less affluent, yet luxury-hungry Insta-generation (just imagine the influencers getting behind this one). But if more lab-created diamonds means less ecological imprint and more truly conflict-free diamonds, then we’re for it.