A timeless manifestation of opulence, the diamond is what luxury is weighed in. According to Bain & Company’s 2018 Global Diamond Report along with The Antwerp World Diamond Centre, approximately 147 million carats of diamonds were mined last year. The same report also recognised the two million carats of lab-grown diamonds that were produced in 2018. Interestingly, the report predicts a 15 to 20 per cent growth in the production of the lab-grown diamonds, amounting to ten million carats in the next decade.
The consumers now have the option to choose between the stunning mined diamonds and environment-friendly lab-grown diamonds. LuxeBook speaks to both proponents about the demand, production process, environmental and ethical aspects, price points and consumer perception of these diamonds.
For lab-grown diamonds
Pooja Sheth, Founder & Managing Director, Limelight Diamonds
“This is the year of lab-grown diamonds, owing to the ever-increasing consumer demand and acceptance. The diamond industry has recognised lab-grown diamonds as the next big thing, starting with the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and Federal Trade Council (FTC), officially removing the word ‘synthetic’ from the description of lab-grown diamonds. Millennials especially are opting for engagement rings made using man-made diamonds.
According to Marty Hurwitz, CEO of MVI Marketing, “Millennials are telling the jewellery industry that this is a product they are interested in and will come into the store to look at. To ignore that opportunity, which is, both, profitable to the trade and valuable to the consumers, is a huge mistake. For an industry struggling to get millennials through the door, the answer is right in front of their eyes.”
It indeed is. As millennials want environment-friendly options, man-made diamonds are the answer. The process of Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD), used to make diamonds in the lab, exactly replicates the creation process of the natural diamonds, which occurs below the surface of the earth. The two processes are analogous to the concept of test-tube babies and naturally born babies; the process differs but the outcome is the same. Depending on the size of the diamond, the CVD process can take anywhere between one and two months to produce the rough diamonds. The diamond is then removed, cut and polished. The first-ever seed that was used to create a CVD diamond was a natural diamond seed. Following that, every seed is replanted from the CVD diamond production.
They are also classified by institutes such as The Gemological Institute of America and International Gemological Institute as the purest type of Type IIa diamond, composed almost entirely of carbon, devoid of any major chemical impurities, and shines significantly brighter than any other type of diamonds. The world’s most famous natural diamonds have been classified as Type IIa – Koh-i-Noor (105 carats), Elizabeth Taylor Diamond (Krupp Diamond, 33 carats) and the Graph Venus (heart-shaped, 119 carats).
The only differentiation between natural and CVD diamonds is that the latter is free of huge mining and extraction costs. This is ultimately passed on as the benefit to the end consumer.
The CVD process was invented in the 1950s. It was initially used to make diamonds that could be used for industrial purposes. Producing gem-quality diamonds is a very recent trend, developed by a handful of diamond industry players across the globe. Interestingly, the Bhatwari Group (that backs Limelight) has self-built the entire technology including its machinery, design and development.
One of the greatest advantages of these diamonds is that they are a sustainable alternative to mined rocks. To put it in perspective, one carat of a rough CVD diamond saves:
• 410 litres of water
• 10,193 sq. ft. of forest land
• 1.5x lesser carbon emissions
• At least 50 per cent of a client’s money
Lab-grown diamonds are devoid of ethical conflicts as they do not rely on an ambiguous supply chain or cause any kind of hazards, which usually occur during the mining process. For most millennial shoppers, not knowing the source of the real diamond is a deterrent. But thanks to technology, lab-grown CVD diamonds are free of such conflicts.
Hence, the companies producing these diamonds have attracted a young, loyal clientele that is aware of his/her purchase’s consequences. They support a brand for what it stands for. Lab-grown diamonds have gained immense popularity in the US. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio has invested in a CVD diamond growing company and actresses Meghan Markle and Emma Watson have been spotted wearing these rocks frequently.
The environment conscious millennials want to make responsible purchases and are driving the sales of lab-grown diamonds
In India, the diamond industry is facing a challenging time due to several reasons, including huge investments in natural diamond inventory, long credit cycles, liquidity crisis, limited support from the government and loss of consumer trust and confidence in the product category. I think lab-grown diamonds can be a solution, and, in my opinion, every retailer should sell these to open their doors to a bigger customer base.”
For mined diamonds
Jignesh Mehta, Founder & Managing Director, Divine Solitaires
“Natural diamonds have been an aspirational product for ages. Everyone from royal families to common people desire it. Today, the number of people buying natural diamonds is growing. Even people from Tier III and IV cities and lower-income segments are buying diamond engagement rings, especially solitaires. Those who bought diamonds to hide or park their illegal wealth can’t do so now. That has resulted into a visible drop in the demand for natural diamonds
The source of a diamond has always been a matter of concern. The aware consumers of today want to know the entire product story – its source, environmental impact, process. To win the trust and confidence of our clients, we have installed a unique digital system through which a consumer can access information about the quality, price and source of the diamond, with the help of a UID number, which is also inscribed on the rock. Moreover, under the Kimberley Process, a global agreement between all the countries with companies and manufacturers of diamonds, the industry players can only deal in ethically and responsibly sourced diamonds. Another concern in the market is the depleting number of diamonds.
I think that from the mines discovered by humans, 70 to 80 per cent of diamonds have been exploited.