The Future of Diamonds: Lab Grown Diamonds
They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend; but the process of producing them has been notoriously controversial.
Mining diamonds have less negative impacts than say mining gold or coal because no harmful chemicals are used. But the negative impacts on the environment, and the human rights infringement that have an impact on the local miners are issues that can’t be ignored.
Environmental impacts can be seen most glaringly with the resulting soil erosion in the mined areas - otherwise rich top soil is stripped away, along with the vegetation and ecosystems in the area. This land degradation means that neither agriculture or forestry can occur in the area. Despite a lack of complete data, Better Diamond Initiative gives an excellent estimate of the effects of mining a carat of diamonds on the environment.
Thankfully, conflict diamonds in particular had a lot of big press with movies like DiCaprio’s Blood Diamonds bring the mass human rights infringements to the public domain. The infamous Marange diamond fields in Zimbabwe is a clear example of this - from corruption in the Presidency and other government offices, to cattle dying and human ailments after drinking water from a nearby river, to over 200 deaths of artisanal miners after the government forcibly cleared the fields.
In response, the international certification scheme ‘The Kimberley Process’ was put in place and now you’ll be hard pressed to find stores selling diamonds that aren’t proclaimed ‘Conflict Free’.
But because rough diamonds exchange hands in a long and often obscure supply chain, many in the industry recognise that the Kimberly Process really falls short. And so the journey for more sustainable diamond mining continues…and ushers in ‘Lab Grown Diamonds’.
In a Bain-AWDC report, lab grown diamonds was mentioned as one of three trends in the 2018 diamond industry. They said that it’s here to stay! But what exactly does it mean? Lab-grown diamonds are…diamonds that are cultured in a laboratory rather than mined. And believe it or not, these diamonds are look exactly the same as those that are mined (both optically and chemically). Currently, these diamonds consist of up to 3% (2.3 to 4.2 million carats annually) of all diamonds in the market and it’s growing at up to 20%.
Many top players such as Swarovski have started to introduce lines of lab-grown diamonds. Significantly reduced production costs, dropping retail costs (29% - 42% of mined diamonds), expected depletion of existing diamonds mines, and the lack of environmental pollution staining the diamonds are some of the factors encouraging more players.
New players such as British diamond brand Lark & Berry have also wholeheartedly embraced the trend. They pride themselves as ‘consciously disrupting the diamond industry’ and focus on only these lab grown diamonds.
So what do you think? Do lab-grown diamonds have the potential to take over at least 50% of the market? We believe they do given that consumer trends are changes as the population becomes younger (and would spend differently) as a whole and more environmentally conscious.
Images from Lark & Berry