Diamond giant De Beers for years promoted gemstones as precious and pricey, but this week said it would start selling diamonds made in the lab that cost less than a tenth of what a mined gem costs.
This new line of blue, pink and white lab-grown diamonds, that De Beers will sell under the brand Lightbox Jewelry, has been designed to persuade the shopper to think of the synthetic diamond as being a piece of fashion jewelry rather than a lifelong investment, said company executives. Prices start at $200 in order to appeal to another generation of shoppers.
The Lightbox Jewelry general manager Steve Coe said the company believes this will open up new occasions for gifting where maybe a natural diamond would be too expensive or say too much. It is something you might purchase for your best friend or a Sweet 16, added Coe.
The shift by De Beers to synthetic is quite unexpected for the largest diamond miner in the world. It has for several decades relied on a perceived scarcity of diamonds that are mined to drive up the values and railed against the synthetic diamonds, calling them one of the industry’s biggest threats.
However, now after more than 70 years of telling their consumer that a diamond is forever, the company is rethinking that message.
The CEO of De Beers Group Bruce Cleaver said that the line of lab-made diamonds might not be forever, but right now it is perfect.
The less expensive jewelry is equally about changing habits as well as preferences of consumers as it is economics, say experts in the industry.
The twenty- and thirty-somethings of today are carrying heavy debt loads from student loans and have stagnant wages therefore their buying power is less than that of their predecessors, but their values have changed as well.
A just completed study by the diamond miner found that millennials prefer to splurge on weekend getaways, overseas holidays and electronics rather than on diamonds.
Diamonds grown in the lab, which over weeks are created in pressurized, hot chambers rather than billions of years sitting underground, are increasing in popularity as people in the U.S. spend less money on the traditional diamond.
The stones are being marketed more and more to the younger shopper as a less expensive and ethically sourced choice to mined diamonds.