Economy

De Beers to Begin Selling Lab-Grown Diamond Jewelry

De Beers to Begin Selling Lab-Grown Diamond Jewelry

The move is a historic shift for the world's biggest diamond miner, which vowed for years that it wouldn't sell stones created in laboratories. De Beers said prices will start at $200 for a quarter carat, and increase to $800 for a full carat stone.

It says this will offer consumers high quality fashion jewellery at a more affordable price.

Lab-grown diamonds have a very similar appearance to mined diamonds.

The man-made diamonds will be sold in the United States under the name Lightbox, a fashion jewellery brand.

De Beers will target younger spenders with its new diamond brand and try to capture customers that have been resistant to splurging on expensive jewellery.

De Beers, whose price-fixing diamond monopoly was busted in 2000, initially tried to persuade buyers not to purchase lab-grown diamonds - going as far as marketing an "inexpensive" $4.5k ultraviolet detector to separate real stones from synthetic ones. The diamonds will be available in white, pink, and blue and made in a facility in Portland, Ore., that De Beers plans to sink almost $100 million into.

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"From our perspective, synthetic diamonds are diamonds", Stephen Morisseau, a spokesman for the Gemological Institute of America, a nonprofit organization that oversees the global diamond grading system, told The Washington Post a year ago.

This year, De Beers reported seeing a 6 percent sales decline in rough diamonds.

The Anglo American's unit has stepped up efforts in recent months to lead the industry quest for a way to verify the authenticity of diamonds and ensure they are not from conflict zones where gems may be used to finance violence.

"Lightbox will be clear with consumers about what lab-grown diamonds are and will offer straightforward pricing that is consistent with the true cost of production", said Steve Coe, Lightbox Jewelry's general manager, in a statement.

"De Beers' focus is on natural diamonds", Simon Lawson, the current head of research and development at De Beers, told Bloomberg in 2015, CNN Money reported. Lab-grown diamonds have reached a level where even trained gemologists are unable to tell the two apart without highly specialized equipment. De Beers said the logo won't be visible to the naked eye, but it will make the stones easily identifiable as lab-grown. 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.

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 process creates particles that can eventually crystallize into diamonds in 10 weeks. The technology is so advanced that experts need a machine to distinguish between lab-made and mined gems.


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