Can’t afford diamonds? Then grow one in the laboratory
Would the head of the most famous diamond company in the world consider buying a lab-grown diamond for his wife?
“Not if I want to stay married,” says Al Cook, chief executive of De Beers, a company that can claim to have given gemstones a lot of expensive mystique.
However, lab-grown diamonds are becoming increasingly popular. Experts say 2023 was a pivotal year with sales of lab-grown gemstones making up 17 percent of the total diamond market compared to just 2 percent five years ago.
Sales are expected to continue to boom. Lab-grown diamonds are up to 90 percent cheaper and are being hailed as the future of jewelry by retailers, including Pandora, which Pamela Anderson advertises.
But for traditionalists like Cook, there is a limit to how far diamonds can be democratized without losing their magic. De Beers sold £300m worth of diamonds last month despite a difficult economic backdrop that has left many leading luxury brands struggling.
CACHE: Lab-grown diamonds are up to 90 per cent cheaper and are being hailed as the future of jewelery by retailers including Pandora, announced by Pamela Anderson (pictured)
The company’s “Diamonds Are Forever” slogan, dreamed up in the 1940s, is credited with inventing the modern concept of the engagement ring. The whole point of diamonds is not that anyone can have them, but that they are aspirational, tempting, and seen as one of life’s ultimate luxuries.
An iconic cinematic moment featuring Marilyn Monroe in a pink dress singing “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in the 1953 classic film “Guys Prefer Blondes.”
Richard Duffy, chairman of London-listed mining company Petra Diamonds, questions the relevance of man-made stones. “I have three daughters,” he says. “I’m not sure if one of them is going to get married and she showed me a five-carat lab-grown diamond that I would highly consider her new husband.”
However, more young people are buying lab-grown engagement rings for their fiancées than ever before – and this trend is upsetting traditional mining giants. According to price tracker and expert Paul Zimnisky, affordability is the deciding factor for most people considering purchasing an engagement ring.
For one-carat stones – which feature in many engagement rings – the cost now stands at $5,035 (£4,000) for a mined stone, while a man-made equivalent costs just $1,325.
Fan: Leonardo DiCaprio invested in a San Francisco jewelry startup
Some couples prefer to save on the ring. Younger buyers are also attracted to the green, lab-grown credentials and the fact that there are no uncomfortable questions about whether it was extracted by children or whether proceeds from sales finance Warlord.
Celebrities like Taylor Swift and Emma Watson are fans. Ironically, actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who invested in a San Francisco jewelry startup, starred in the movie Blood Diamond.
“With lab-grown diamonds, you can get something of exceptionally high quality for a dramatically lower price,” one analyst said. The younger generation doesn’t care if it’s grown in a lab.
But it’s not always the case that lab-grown products are greener, as production requires huge amounts of energy that doesn’t always come from green sources.
The diamond industry resists the binary perception that mining is bad and making it in a lab is good. Petra Diamonds and De Beers – which have their own division of the lab called Lightbox – are working on their own technology that will allow customers to trace the origin of stones from their mines. “We live in a world where people want to know where their cheese comes from and where their coffee comes from,” Cook adds. “They want to know where the diamonds come from.”
It’s clear that the industry is going through turmoil, but – for now at least – real diamonds remain a girl’s best friend.
(tags for translation) Daily Mail