DURBAN - After 130 years of being in the business of diamonds, De Beers will sell diamond jewellery that has been made in a lab for the first time.
The shift towards selling man-made diamonds is a historic one, as the company has vowed for years to never sell diamonds that were made in labs.
The man-made diamonds will be sold in the United States under the name Lightbox, a fashion jewellery brand.
These new diamonds will be sold at a fraction of the price of mined diamonds.
The strategy will create a large price gap between mined diamonds and the diamonds that are theoretically man-made. It will also put pressure on rivals that specialise in synthesised stones.
The selling price of a 1 carat man-made diamond is $4 000. While the selling price of mined diamond that is similar to a 1 carat man-made diamond would cost about $8 000. The new lab diamonds from De Beers will sell for about $800 a carat.
Bruce Cleaver, the CEO of De Beers said that the Lightbox will change the lab-grown diamond sector.
According to Cleaver, their research suggests that consumers see diamonds that are grown in a lab as a fun, pretty product that should be inexpensive.
There is also growing concern in the diamond industry that diamonds that are expensive do not interest millennial customers who instead will spend their money on expensive electronics or vacations.
Diamonds have also been under attack for their environmental and human-rights concerns that are linked to mining communities in poor African communities.
Man-made diamonds are different from imitation gems like cubic zirconia because they have the same physical characteristics and chemical makeup of mined diamonds.
The man-made diamonds are made from a carbon-seed that is placed inside of a microwave chamber and then superheated into a glowing plasma ball.
The above process makes particles that can ultimately crystallise into diamonds in 10 weeks. The technology used to make the man-made diamond is so advanced that experts need a machine to differentiate between a lab diamond and a mined diamond.
According to Diamond Nexus, man-made diamonds are preferred because of environmental and ethical concerns.
According to Miadonna, the science of perfecting the man-made diamond has only been successful in the past decade. Miadonna, an eco-diamond company said that lab-created diamonds are physically, optically and chemically identical to diamonds that are mined without the environmental cost and can cost up to 50% less.
- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE