How Lab-Grown Diamonds Are Shifting The Idea of Luxury
Paul Zimnisky, independent diamond industry analyst discovers that Lab-created diamond is the sustainable new jewellery market slated to grow to US$15B by 2035
contributed reporting by Bailey Hopp
From the exclusive, limited edition footwear drops to rare, antique designer handbags, luxury comes in many forms and means something different to every person. What happens, however, when our luxury purchases are significantly impacting communities, wildlife and most importantly, our planet? Do we change our ways or do we continue down the same path with finite, dwindling resources?
This has recently been a topic of debate surrounding the diamond industry, especially with the influx of lab-grown diamonds and lab-grown diamond jewellers over the past few years. When the earth is simply not producing as many rough, natural diamonds and the mines are getting emptied, does that change our idea of luxury? Do we create an entirely new, conflict-free and ethical version of luxury that supports lab-grown diamonds? Consumers are shifting away from the long-standing idea that owning rare, unique diamond jewelry is the only way to achieve luxury every day.
How Lab-Grown Diamonds Are Shifting The Idea of Luxury
In 2018, it was reported in Business Insider Australia that Australia’s biggest diamond mine, Argyle Diamonds, which produces approximately 95% of Australia’s natural diamonds, will cut production by around 10%. Production for lab-grown diamonds however, has significantly increased with one of the top lab-grown diamond producers, Diamond Foundry, securing a new production factory in Washington State. This is said to scale their production from roughly 100,000 carats (of lab-grown diamonds) per year to upwards of 1 million carats per year.
In a 2019 Gizmodo article, GIA’s James Shipley said that advancements in the lab-grown diamond industry have only substantially taken off in the last five years, when the mainstream jewelry sector began really paying attention. The International Grown Diamond Association (IGDA), a non-profit organization formed in 2016 by a group of 12 lab-grown diamond producers and retailers, has grown to nearly 50 members now, according to IGDA Secretary General, Dick Garard. When the IGDA was first created, lab-grown diamonds were estimated to represent only about 1 percent of the $14 billion rough diamond market. This year though, industry analyst Paul Zimnisky estimates they account for 2-3 percent of the market. He expects that share will only continue to grow as factories in China that already produce millions of carats a year for industrial purposes start to see an opportunity in the fine jewelry market. Zimnisky also estimates that lab-created diamond market shares in the fashion jewelry market are on trend to grow to almost 7% by year 2035.
Who says you can’t have that expensive, luxury look of fine jewelry at a fraction of the cost and without the environmental issues associated with sourcing and creating it? Many lab-grown diamonds and lab-grown gemstones have an appeal that is comparable to their earth-mined counterparts and unless you are a certified gemologist, you wouldn’t be able to visually tell the difference between the two. One might argue that the simple fact that because earth-mined diamonds are finite and rare signifies luxury and desirability in itself, but when the availability dwindles and prices continue to skyrocket, consumers must have alternative luxury options that align better with their lifestyle choices, their budget and what they want to pass on as an heirloom piece to future generations.
According to a San Francisco Chronicle article, Tom Chatham, CEO of Chatham Gems, says that there are two main reasons lab-grown diamonds are the future for consumers. “One is that the major five producers of natural diamonds speculated that there will be no natural diamond production after 2050 because they’ve run out of profitable deposits. Reason two is that for the last 10 years, we’ve been sought out by people, millennials, who want to buy something that doesn’t come out of the earth, who care about the earth and the damage we’ve created,” he added.
Young, savvy, conscious shoppers and couples are completely changing the idea of luxury. Luxury is pop culture trends and shopping on social media. Luxury is being a conscious consumer and actively doing what we can to save and repair our planet. When it comes to fine jewelry, luxury is lab-grown diamonds. According to a recent article from Forbes, consumers today are demanding environmental and social responsibility from the industry, most especially the Millennials and GenZ consumers who are the primary target market for engagement diamonds.
For couples who are looking for fine lab-grown diamond jewelry and engagement rings that align with their values and ideals, MiaDonna was founded with a single objective in mind: to offer all consumers a beautiful, ethical and affordable diamond alternative which in turn, would support The Greener Diamond Foundation to help free children oppressed by the active conflict diamond mining industry and offer alternative resources for their career and livelihood. With every order placed at MiaDonna, at least 10% of net profits are given back to The Greener Diamond to fund projects and initiatives that help local communities thrive and succeed in countries such as Sierra Leone, Togo and Liberia. MiaDonna isn’t here to just sell consumers lab-grown diamonds. They’re here to rebuild the lives and land damaged by diamond mining and provide safer and more sustainable options for those who would otherwise be involved in working within the conflict diamond industry. In November 2019, MiaDonna also became a Certified B Corporation, which evaluates the company’s overall social and environmental performance and how its operations and business model impact not only their own employees, but also the community, environment and customers.