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Shining Bright: Unveiling the Evolution of Lab-Grown Diamonds in 2023


Redefining Luxury: The Rise of Lab-Grown Diamonds in 2023

Editor’s This article was originally published by The Business of Fashion, an editorial partner of CNN.

In the heart of New York City's famed Diamond District on 47th Street, where traditional gem shops and appraisers dominate, a new narrative is emerging. Approximately 40 blocks south, Pandora, known for its affordable charm bracelets, has redefined the diamond landscape with a groundbreaking concept — the "lab-grown diamond district." During New York Fashion Week in September, the jewelry retailer commandeered Astor Place, transforming it into a hub for a high-profile event attended by fashion insiders and celebrities like Pamela Anderson, the latest face of the brand.

While Pandora wasn't a major player in traditional diamonds, with a brand built on accessible charm bracelets, the escalating popularity of lab-grown stones has provided an opportunity for even budget-friendly brands to enter the world of serious luxury. Beyond Pandora, lab-grown diamond brands like Brilliant Earth experienced a remarkable 15.7 percent net sales increase in 2022, reaching $440 million. Dorsey, an exclusively lab-grown jewelry brand, achieved sales surpassing a million stones in the past year.

These brands are reshaping the jewelry industry, blurring established categories based on materials and pricing. Traditionally, diamonds were the epitome of luxury, with a trade dominated by bespoke businesses or iconic brands like Tiffany and Cartier. However, lab-grown diamonds are challenging these norms. First developed in the 1980s, they mirror the structure of mined diamonds, produced by subjecting pure carbon to high heat and pressure in a metal cube. Virtually indistinguishable from their natural counterparts, lab-grown diamonds have prompted the diamond industry to embark on marketing efforts aimed at creating distinct categories in consumers' minds.

Despite these efforts, particularly for price-conscious consumers, the distinction remains blurred. A Tiffany tennis bracelet commands upwards of $20,000, while a similar lab-grown carat bracelet from Brilliant Earth is priced at $3,450. As the debate continues, the question looms: Can lab-grown diamonds truly replace the allure of the real thing?

Shifting Paradigms: The Meteoric Surge of Lab-Grown Diamonds in 2022

In a transformative wave reshaping the jewelry industry, lab-grown diamonds have witnessed an unprecedented surge, becoming a formidable player in the market. According to renowned jewelry industry analyst Paul Zimnisky, sales of these synthetic diamonds have skyrocketed from under $1 billion in 2016 to a staggering figure of just under $12 billion in 2022. Remarkably, they now constitute over 17% of the overall diamond market, as reported by diamond research firm Edahn Golan. The growth trajectory is staggering, with lab-grown diamond sales experiencing a remarkable 38% increase from 2021 to 2022.

This seismic shift is reverberating across the industry landscape. Brands like Pandora, traditionally known for affordable charm bracelets, have significantly adjusted their sales outlooks, raising them twice in the past year. The brand's share price has more than doubled, showcasing the tangible impact of the lab-grown diamond phenomenon. Contrastingly, even stalwarts like De Beers, the world's largest diamond producer and distributor, are compelled to cut prices of mined stones by up to 40% due to the dwindling demand for traditional diamonds.

Mary Carmen Gasco-Buisson, Chief Marketing Officer at Pandora, noted in an interview with the Business of Fashion, "For most people, a diamond is a diamond, and what you want is the wonderful sparkle and the beauty and the meaning that you can put into a diamond." This sentiment encapsulates the evolving consumer mindset, where the allure of lab-grown diamonds lies in their comparable aesthetics and lower cost.

The savings generated from choosing lab-grown diamonds are not only translating into more substantial engagement rings but also fueling a growing trend of self-purchase among consumers. Megan Strachan, Founder of Dorsey, points out that the technology has brought more shoppers into the market for personal acquisitions rather than waiting for traditional gift-giving occasions.

Recognizing this paradigm shift, brands are adapting their marketing strategies. While traditional diamond ads often targeted men purchasing for their partners, the new narrative is broader, appealing particularly to women shopping for fashion items. Sayed Haider, COO of Diamond Nexus, emphasizes that lab-grown diamonds are not in competition with mined diamonds but serve as a complement, offering an array of aspirational pieces beyond engagement rings.

While lab-grown engagement rings are gaining popularity, the real growth is observed in non-bridal jewelry. The industry is witnessing a dynamic evolution, where lab-grown diamonds are not merely an alternative but a catalyst for redefining the very essence of luxury in the world of jewelry.

Dorsey's Dazzling Ascent: Redefining Everyday Luxury with Lab-Grown Diamonds

In a dynamic departure from traditional jewelry norms, Dorsey, founded in 2019, has emerged as a trailblazer in the realm of lab-grown diamonds, focusing on everyday elegance rather than the conventional bridal market. The brand's strategic shift towards selling items like tennis necklaces, vintage-inspired earrings, and bracelets stems from a deliberate effort to fill a perceived gap in everyday jewelry.

Megan Strachan, the visionary force behind Dorsey, notes that this decision not only caters to a broader audience seeking accessible luxury but also fosters repeat purchases, a contrast to the singular nature of bridal acquisitions. "Every time I went into a jewelry store in the past, I always felt like I couldn’t afford it," she reflects. The advent of lab-grown diamonds, according to Strachan, is democratizing a realm once deemed exclusive to the wealthy, making luxury jewelry accessible to a wider demographic.

Dorsey's success story is striking, with sales witnessing a remarkable 600 percent growth from 2021 to 2022. The brand, profitable and driven by word-of-mouth marketing, particularly from influencers enamored with its products, is on track to double sales yet again this year. Bucking the trend of declining engagement ring sales in the industry, Dorsey has carved its niche by redefining how lab-grown diamonds are marketed.

In a departure from the prevailing narrative, Dorsey's marketing strategy transcends the traditional, opting for editorial-like spreads reminiscent of Vogue. Strachan highlights the brand's Instagram feed, adorned with sleek images of well-dressed women, including renowned figures like Bella Hadid and Justin and Hailey Bieber. The approach mirrors the meticulous choice associated with selecting shoes, emphasizing that jewelry is an extension of personal style—a facet Strachan believes has been overlooked in conventional marketing.

While other brands, such as Pandora, echo the sentiment of accessibility with campaigns like "Diamonds for All," their strategic moves in the fashion sphere, such as hosting events during fashion week and partnering with influential figures, demonstrate a broader industry shift. Legacy jewelry brands, however, have been slow to adapt to this new landscape. Even De Beers, a stalwart in the industry, dipped its toes into the lab-grown diamond space in 2018 with the sub-brand Lightbox. However, the CEO, Bruce Cleaver, positioned it as "affordable fashion jewelry that may not be forever, but is perfect for right now," revealing the lingering hesitancy within legacy brands to fully embrace the changing tide of competition.

Luxury Evolution: High-End Brands Embrace the Rise of Lab-Grown Diamonds

In a marked departure from tradition, high-end companies are cautiously venturing into the realm of lab-grown diamonds, signaling a paradigm shift in the jewelry industry. This month, Fred, a jeweler owned by luxury conglomerate LVMH, has been discreetly unveiling a new collection featuring man-made stones to their high-net-worth clientele, presenting a bold experiment to test the waters with affluent shoppers. In a strategic move to distinguish the lab-grown line from their mined offerings, the diamonds in the new assortment are uniquely blue, showcasing a creative approach to capture attention.

This trend is becoming increasingly undeniable for legacy jewelry houses, compelling them to acknowledge and engage with the growing demand for lab-grown diamonds. According to industry analyst Paul Zimnisky, the sales of lab-grown stones are projected to maintain a robust annual double-digit percentage growth rate in the coming years. What initially may have been met with skepticism or seen as potentially embarrassing has now transformed into a source of pride within the industry.

Amish Shah, the founder of J'evar, a lab-grown jewelry brand, captures this sentiment succinctly: "It's the diamond of the future." The evolving perception of lab-grown diamonds from skepticism to pride underscores a transformative moment in the industry, where innovation and sustainability are becoming defining factors in shaping the future of luxury jewelry.

Editor’s This article was originally published by Business of Fashion, an editorial partner of CNN.

A Diamond Revolution Unfolding in Luxury Jewelry

The landscape of luxury jewelry is undergoing a seismic transformation as high-end companies cautiously embrace the ascent of lab-grown diamonds. The recent unveiling of a new collection by LVMH-owned jeweler Fred, featuring distinctive man-made stones in a unique blue hue, exemplifies a bold step into uncharted territory. This move, driven by the need to cater to evolving consumer preferences, marks a pivotal moment for legacy jewelry houses who can no longer afford to ignore the growing demand for sustainable and innovative alternatives.

As projected by industry analyst Paul Zimnisky, the trajectory of lab-grown diamonds indicates a continued surge in sales, maintaining an annual double-digit percentage growth rate in the foreseeable future. What was once met with skepticism or hesitation within the industry has now evolved into a source of pride, exemplified by Amish Shah, founder of J'evar, who aptly describes lab-grown diamonds as "the diamond of the future."

This shift signifies not only a change in consumer mindset but a broader acknowledgment within the industry that sustainability, creativity, and innovation are becoming defining pillars of luxury. As high-end brands navigate this transformative landscape, the traditional boundaries between mined and lab-grown diamonds are becoming increasingly blurred, paving the way for a new era in the world of luxury jewelry.

Editor’s This article was originally published by Business of Fashion, an editorial partner of CNN.