| Hong Kong Jewellery 香港珠寶
News & Highlight


  • Diamond growing seeds at Element Six, synthetic diamond production company of De Beers
  • 88 synthetic diamonds supplied by Ada Diamonds form the infinity symbol underneath a clock mounted on the Rolls-Royce Adamas’dashboard
  • Fashion pendant by Chatham Created Gems & Diamonds
  • Bridal ring by Chatham Created Gems & Diamonds
  • Vintage Engagement Ring by MiaDonna
  • Advertisement of MiaDonna’s ethical diamond engagement Ring

Time will tell the future of synthetics

The world’s largest diamond producer by value De Beers, who supplies over 40 percent of the world’s rough diamonds reversed its decades-old policy of selling natural diamonds for jewellery propose and ventured into the synthetic diamond business by debuting fashion jewellery brand Lightbox Jewelry in May 2018. Its white, pink and blue diamond jewellery weighing from 0.25 to one carat are available at US$800 per carat, with a vision to offer jewellery at an affordable price and enhance the understanding of differences between natural and synthetic diamonds. A total of US$94 million will be invested in the new synthetic diamond production facility in Oregon which is expected to be operational in four years while US$10 billion will be spent in natural diamond business over the coming years. The diamond giant sees natural and synthetic diamonds as “distinct product categories that offer consumers different things”. 

Within a year after the introduction of Lightbox, De Beers announced that the wholesale price of synthetics has fallen by 60 percent. De Beers commented: “As technology develops, manufacturing costs for mass produced items, like LGDs (lab grown diamonds), tends to decrease. We have seen this happen before with flat screen TVs which were very expensive when they first came to the market but are now widely available quite cheaply.” It says the appealing price of synthetic diamond jewellery will not harm the natural diamond market. “Consumers are still choosing to mark their most significant occasions in their lives with natural diamonds, such as engagement, wedding, anniversary and birth of child,” says De Beers’ spokesperson Bianca Ruakere. 

A different story

San Francisco-based Ada Diamonds, who supplies synthetics diamonds for the clock mounted on the dashboard of Rolls-Royce’s Adama collection. The company’s co-founder, Lindsay Reinsmith told Hong Kong Jewellery that the wholesale price of synthetic diamonds from 0.25 to 1.5 carats by month from January 2018 to March 2019 remained steady, unlike the statics shown by De Beers. There was even a jump in the wholesale price due to synthetics shortage.

Tom Chatham, CEO of Chatham Created Gems & Diamonds told Hong Kong Jewellery that De Beers’ announcement of synthetics wholesale price decline before the JCK show was disruptive. Some customers canceled orders after the announcement was made when Chatham failed to meet the US$800 per carat pricing ‘standard’ set by De Beers. However, Lightbox only offered diamond jewellery under one carat back then. He suspected De Beers was selling below cost as the diamond growing equipment is not inexpensive. The price setting for Lightbox has undercut the synthetic diamond jewellery market instead of lower manufacturing costs. 

Beyond fashion

Numerous new players, big or small, have entered the synthetic diamond industry. According to Paul Zimnisky Diamond Analytics, synthetic diamond jewellery market was worth US$1.9 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow 22 percent annually to US$5.2 billion by 2023 and US$14.9 billion by 2035. Morgan Stanley forecasted the annual sales of synthetic diamonds will account for 7.5 percent of the total diamond sales by 2020 from the present less-than-one percent share. 

Distant from the view of De Beers who assumes customers would prefer natural diamonds for non-fashion jewellery and celebrating milestones of their lives to synthetic diamonds, Martin Rapaport, chairman of the Rapaport Group said: “Most of the (synthetic diamond jewellery) producers are not in the fashion jewelry business; they are going after the engagement ring market.” “The most important thing to understand is that wherever and however De Beers promotes and sells synthetic diamonds, they will be competing with natural diamonds,” he added. Amish Shah, president of ALTR Created Diamonds stated that 80 percent of their sales were in the bridal category.

Demand for synthetic diamond bridal jewellery grew in 2017 thanks to the millennials and Generation Z who combined accounted for two-thirds of global diamond jewellery sales. A survey conducted by Berenberg Research interviewed 2,000 female millennials and found that 53 percent would happily accept a synthetic diamond engagement ring - with acceptance ranging from 62 percent in Japan to 56 percent in the United States and 40 percent in China, three of the largest diamond jewellery consumption countries. 

All about values

The younger generations’ preference for jewellery is not just fashion-driven. Their concerns about the provenance and environmental sustainability of the products and the ethical practice of suppliers are known facts. Mined diamonds come with a slew of ethical concerns. It is said that even the most environmental friendly diamond mines are still environmental destructive. In addition to only one in four mines are well regulated while leaving 75 percent of the mines plagued with human rights and environmental abuses. The 2018 Conscious Consumer Spending Index stated that 59 percent of people bought goods or services from a socially responsible company and 32 percent of Americans are planning to spend more on companies that are socially responsible.

Anna-Mieke Anderson, founder of MiaDonna which aspires to offer ethical diamond alternatives that would help free children oppressed by the active conflict diamond mining industry, said environmental impact of synthetic diamonds is seven times lesser than that of traditional mining activities. To go beyond, MiaDonna only uses recycled metals and to offset the emissions caused by shipping. They plant a tree with One Tree Planted for each purchase made. 

Over 80 percent of millennials have a positive opinion of synthetic diamonds once they understand that they share similar chemical and physical properties as natural diamonds but come with no human rights issues and environmental harms. With a retail price of 30 to 70 percent lower than natural diamonds, the synthetic diamond market is seeing a promising future.

Russia's Alrosa, the world's largest diamond miner by volume backs De Beers’ view on synthetic diamonds. The company’s head of strategic projects and analytics Dmitry Amelkin said technological advancement in synthetic diamonds has reduced the production costs succeeded by the retail price, which has gone down by half in two years. Alrosa as a natural diamond giant sees room for a double-digit growth for synthetic diamond jewellery thanks to progressive technology development. The diamantaire further explains price reduction will transform synthetic diamond jewellery into a niche product as fashion jewellery but never a luxury item while natural diamond will stay as a distinctive product category. Synthetic diamond has existed for more than half century with limited influence on the natural diamond market. Both markets can co-exist the same way as natural and synthetic coloured gemstones which have lasted for more than a century without invading either market. Natural diamond jewellery will be the main stream with love and romantic events as the major driver among all traditional emotional moments for its sales. 

A survey by Diamond Producers Association (DPA) pointed out that over 53 million Americans, account for 21 percent plan to purchase a diamond between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. More than seven in 10 interviewees are more likely to buy a natural diamond over synthetics diamond. For the millennials and Generation Z, Alrosa said they saw rosy prospects for natural diamonds because they bring about opportunities for the whole diamond industry and concluded the younger generations focus more on design and the story behind gemstones. 

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