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  • DPA’ s former CEO Jean-Marc Lieberherr
  • The processing plant at Orapa Mine, Botswana
  • Each year more than 2,000 children participate in Alrosa’s children’s camps, and more than 10.000 adults recharge their batteries in the company’s health retreats.
  • Assorted rough diamonds from De Beers
  • Rough diamonds from Alrosa

DPA’s review & outlook on diamond promotion

Luxury goods consumption in China in 2018 accounted for 32 percent of the global share. When it comes to polished diamond consumption, however, it only represented 16 percent of global demand, the Diamond Producers Association (DPA) observed. The figure indicates the vast opportunity for the growth of the diamond industry in the country on one hand; on the other, it shows that the diamond industry should gear up for more education about and promotion of natural diamonds for younger generations. DPA’ s former CEO Jean-Marc Lieberherr talked with Hong Kong Jewellery in September 2019 on their China initiatives, the modern mining reality and the laboratory-grown diamond issues.


Market potential

According to DPA’s 2019 China Diamond Market Insight, over 40 percent of consumers in China bought or received jewellery set with natural diamonds in 2018, a nearly 11-perent increase from the precious year. The research says that diamond jewellery outperformed other jewellery types such as platinum and pearl that accounted for 33 percent and 32 percent respectively in 2018. It is believed that diamonds are gaining momentum in China’s jewellery market.


The survey brings us to the fact that 55 percent of consumers in China in 2019 expressed their intention to buy or anticipation to receive diamond jewellery in the next two years, marking a three-percent increase over 2018. A breakdown shows that both 2018 and 2019 saw a stable 34 percent of female consumers who expected to receive diamond jewellery as gifts in the next 24 months; however, the percentage of female respondents who would purchase diamond jewellery has gone up five percent from 45 percent in 2018 to 50 percent in 2019. Self-purchase male consumers also witnessed a four-percent up from 2018 to 45 percent.


“It is more dependent on bridal than more matured markets like the United States where occasions are a lot more diversified,” said Jean-Marc Lieberherr when analysisng the factors behind the demand for diamonds in China. “The fashion jewellery segment is a new thing in China. Small diamonds at low price points are something hardly existed five year ago. The diamond market is diversifying. Fashion jewellery is growing; self-purchase market is catching up as well,” he added.



DPA has launched extensive market research over the past two years for a better understanding of Chinese consumers’ perception and knowledge on natural diamonds, ensuring the market especially the younger generations are well-informed on the modern reality of diamond mining as well as the main attributes of natural diamonds - preciousness, rarity and a symbol of authentic relationship.


According to the association, a growing number of Chinese consumers have realised that natural diamond is rare and is a symbol of authentic relationship, with the number increasing from 53 percent (2018) to 59 percent (2019) and 55 percent (2018) to 57 percent (2019) respectively, while the percentage of another feature “preciousness” slightly dropped from 60 percent (2018) to 59 percent (2019).


In a bid to build a deeper emotional connection and nurture the precious love of relationships of natural diamonds, DPA has launched a series of integrated campaigns to educate and engage younger consumers. For instance, a social platform established in 2018 has now over 40,000 followers who are constantly updated on the real facts of the diamond industry. The digital platform can also engage with the trade to offer training to deepen their understanding and discovery of the diamond journey from mine to market.



A large number of global studies have confirmed that millennials would rather spend on experiences and meanings than things. Jean-Marc Lieberherr sees great opportunity for natural diamonds in China from the phenomenon.


“Chinese consumers are no longer repeating conspicuous consumption pattern of their parents. The whole status symbols, the luxury, the jewellery and the ritual are becoming less important. The look for things with meanings, like travel, not materials, but something you can cherish forever.


“We think it’s good for diamonds because diamonds have an extraordinarily meaningful story to tell. The story of time, of billions of years of true preciousness. Diamond is the oldest thing you will ever touch. It has the strongest link to the earth. It is the strongest thing for your loved ones. We think China’s consumers are ready for that kind of much more intimate, inciteful and personal marketing as opposed to the past luxury brands and flashing stuff. This is the transition we are going through,” he said.


Modern mining

For years, the diamond mining industry is thought to be connected with environment destruction, human rights abuses, exploitation, etc. To tell the “reality of modern diamond mining”, DPA launched a report in May 2019 titled The Socioeconomic and Environmental Impact of Large-Scale Diamond Mining probing into the contributions of DPA’s members to the socioeconomic and environmental benefits and impacts.


Key findings of the report include:



Eco-friendliness is an important part of the laboratory-grown diamond pitch. Lieberherr sees otherwise. “This is one of the biggest attempts to manipulate misinformed consumers and media,” he said.


“What they say is that they don’t dig holes, so they are eco-friendly. What that don’t say is the huge energy used to produce laboratory-grown diamonds. The earth uses huge level of temperature and pressure to create diamonds. When we re-produce the same phenomenon in a matter of days in a reactor, imagine the quantity of energy used.


“What we do is to extract it. We try to make it as clean as possible. We don’t hide that we have to make a hole to dig. But our footprint is very small and narrow. However, the estimated CO2e associated with laboratory-grown diamonds is nearly three times greater than mined diamonds,” he elaborated.


Technological advancement and the subsequent cost down are believed to give a boost to the popularity of laboratory-grown diamonds in the market. According to Lieberherr, lab-grown diamonds’ penetration in the jewellery industry will grow, but not in the diamond industry because they are of different markets.


“Natural diamond is for fine jewellery, lab-grown is for fashion jewellery. It will probably grow in the fashion jewellery market because as costs go down, it has a better value proposition than moissanite and cubic zirconia, and a better-looking product than simulants. It will take shares away from the simulants and artificial coloured stones. But it will be a separate segment from the natural diamond fine jewellery,” he said.


Communication focus

In view of the main objectives of DPA’s global communications for 2020, Lieberherr says: “We have to make consumers rediscover that a diamond is not just a sparky and expensive stone. Natural diamond has a unique symbolism and value that it is an old nature product from billions of years ago. It is a precious treasure of the earth. That is where it gets its power from. It is very important that the trade is able to convey this message to consumers.”


Another objective, according to Lieberherr, is to ensure that consumers and the trade understand well the reality of the impact of the diamond industry today. “A lot of people are still left on the antique idea of about the diamond sector. The reality is that the large-scale diamond mining is really what dominates the modern sector and we have a huge positive impact. We provide livelihood to 10 million people worldwide, while creating wealth for local communities. Ten billion dollars of wealth every year is creating by diamond mining. We are very responsible custodian of the environment. We follow very strict environmental standards and guidelines in the way we mine,” he said.


To keep the trade and consumers well-informed about the difference of natural diamond and its lab-grown counterpart is vital as well. Lieberherr said: “We should make people see what lab-grown diamond is. It is not a carefully cultured diamond in some kind of greenhouse. It is an industrial product produced in reactors over a matter of days or weeks. Consumers need to know.”


Most powerful media

Lieberherr believes that the trade serves as the best media in the industry to tell the natural-diamond story to consumers. “The trade is in contact with millions of consumers every single day. They are the most powerful media who can train the sales people, reward them when doing well, and provide them with the right materials. Today, I’m sure there are Chinese selling people who are concerned about being asked about lab-grown diamonds because they don’t know what to respond. We need to make sure every single salesperson in China who sells diamonds can stand out with pride and say this is a lab-grown diamond, this is why what it is worth; this is a natural diamond,” he said. 


DPA was formed in May 2015 as an international alliance of the world’s leading diamond miners representing 75 percent of world diamond production, aiming to educate, protect and promote the integrity and reputation of diamonds and the diamond industry. (Photo courtesy: DPA)

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