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It's our responsibility to capture the imagination of future generations towards diamonds

As CEO of Beverly Hills-based Grand Metropolitan - a privately-held luxury goods holding company with a 130-brand portfolio - Vin Lee carries the burden rather lightly on his shoulders. Having migrated from Canada as a baby, it did not take long for...

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Any color diamond is a great investment

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The System of Warranties (SoW) in the diamond industry dates back to 2002, when the World Diamond Council (WDC) in team with the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB) and the International Diamond Manufacturers Association...

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Information warfare for millennial’s wallet

17 october 2016

According to the Diamond Insight Report recently released by De Beers, global sales of diamond jewelry reached $ 79 billion in 2015, of which one third or $ 26 billion was spent by millennials, the generation born in the 1980s - 1990s.

Anyone in the diamond business will tell you that the future belongs to millennials. There are about 220 million people in this age cohort having an approximate annual revenue of $ 60,000 in the four major diamond-consuming countries only (the US, China, India and Japan). They are already becoming the main actors in the consumption economy spending not less than people from older generations on jewelry purchases.

It is a matter of course there is a no trifling struggle unfolding for the millennial's heart and wallet. This struggle involves not only classic jewelry brands, but also manufacturers of synthetic gems dreaming to snatch their piece of the pie. And any war, as we know, is not the field for fair play only.

Contemporary marketing experts find it much easier to do their job than their predecessors. In the time of baby boomers, it was completely unclear how and where to advertise jewelry goods, as part of the audience was hooked on the radio, some watching TV, some ignoring all the mass media and used to go to the movies only, while others got lost in public libraries. Nowadays, it’s quite another thing! Most millennials spend much of their time on the Internet reading news, listening to the radio, watching movies and talking to friends. One third of millennials have their own blogs, almost half of them regularly communicate on the forums or in focus groups. And 92% of millennials are looking for information about diamonds in the Web before going to a jewelry store, according to the already mentioned Diamond Insight Report.

Now imagine that a millennial intent to buy a ring goes online and sees this:

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Or that:

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Or that:

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In my previous review it was said that synthetic diamonds should not be underestimated and considered to be some "separate niche market with its own range of consumers." Young "synthetic" brands do not save on marketing expenses and are waging very aggressive advertising campaigns to redirect customers from natural to synthetic diamonds. Confirmation to this effect may be found on the above photos taken from popular social networks - this is what users get while browsing for "diamonds."

Fighting to win consumers, synthetics manufacturers manipulate all the fears and stereotypes that are associated with diamonds. The first and key one is the fear of accidentally buying a “blood stone.” Few ordinary people are aware of the work performed and success achieved by the Kimberley Process, but all of them saw the movie called "Blood Diamond" with Leonardo DiCaprio, and after that they consider themselves actual experts on human rights violation in diamond mining in Africa. Ten years ago, when the film was just released, many customers began to associate diamonds exclusively with crimes and slave labor. Today, sellers of synthetic stones are gradually awaking this old association in people.

The Kimberley Process may exert enormous efforts and spend millions of dollars to ensure the legal diamond trade. But it will not make any difference to consumer confidence in the market, while Facebook users see only such advertising:

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(Strictly speaking, an advertiser would be prosecuted by antimonopoly authorities in many civilized countries for such a poster not corresponding to reality and directly discrediting competitors. But the trouble is that this picture does not affect the interests of any particular diamond mining company, whose team of lawyers could rush to collect papers and make a claim. And this is also certainly embraced by manufacturers of synthetics.)

Good intentions and deceived expectations

Millennials have a different value system compared with their predecessors. “The symbols of success for millennials are no longer focused on conspicuous wealth, but on experiences and products that reflect their individuality,” the Diamond Insight Report says. “Millennials’ high degree of connectivity with peers and other groups finds an expression in heightened social concerns, such as balancing inequalities around the world and making the world a better place through joint efforts of all of society.”

Dreaming of a better world, many young people are seriously concerned about the environment and its protection. They choose electric cars or bikes so as not to pollute the air and buy farm food and clothing from organic materials. Similarly, they bother about "greener" jewelry and this is commendable. But unfortunately, like many people who sincerely try to achieve some kind of global justice, millennials are easy to deceive. For example, the way it is done below (this is an excerpt from an article about "ethical jewelry" published by the eLuxe Magazine):

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Strictly speaking, diamond mining can be considered to be one of the “cleanest” industries particularly in the mining sector. Ore is extracted by purely mechanical means (excavators scoop and load it into dump trucks). To dress diamond ore, miners do not apply chemical agents, but instead use physical properties of diamonds (their specific gravity or their ability to fluoresce when exposed to X-rays). Diamond mining requires neither chemical electrolysis (as for example in the production of aluminum) nor melting furnaces emitting sulfur clouds (as in the production of nickel or iron). And all the more so, there is no arsenic or mercury treatment there resulting in “water and soil contamination that affects … the plant and animal life.” If the consumer is so worried about the harm done to the environment, then why, for example, not to boycott the purchase of iPhones, the bodies of which are made of aluminum?

Of course, any mining operation is producing some impact on the environment one way or another. Huge holes in the ground look scary and seem dangerous to those who are not versed in the technologies of production. But ads of “eco-friendly jewellery” do not say that mining companies spend annually millions on land reclamation, development of animal and plant populations and that all the water used in factories circulates through pipes in a closed system and is not released into the environment or that excavated open pits are later backfilled or turned into lakes where you can even go fishing.

Instead, such ads are painting apocalyptic pictures or even may show a dog with sad eyes looking into which consumers feel it is impossible to disbelieve this pet.

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Millennials are no less concerned about social justice: decent work, decent pay, no discrimination. It would seem that the diamond mining business can be a role model in this area. Diamond companies form the budgets of regions and whole countries, create jobs, allocate billions of dollars to support local communities, they build schools and hospitals. But all this knowledge remains somewhere on the pages of their annual reports, while consumers read online the following (which is an excerpt from the article on synthetic diamonds in theGuardian):

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We can only guess how many office clerks are trilling their way to work (among them copywriters and social media marketers producing such ads). However - and this is another problem – it is very convenient to talk about the ethics of diamond mining living in a country with the highest GDP per capita and low unemployment. The position of such a person will probably be different from the position of a resident of Botswana, a country occupying the 120th place in the world in terms of economic development, where every fourth citizen is left without work. Just try to tell a Botswana miner that his work on the diamond field is unethical and he should immediately stop doing it. The advertising, which promotes synthetics, does not say anything about the fact that diamond production is the only way to earn money for many people in Africa. Instead, synthetics producers will tell you that they have bought a few books for African schools, calling this social responsibility and contribution to the development of local communities.

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This parade of pictures and articles could be continued for quite a long time. And it demonstrates the threat hanging over the diamond market much more clearly than any lengthy descriptions.

Speaking about the threat, I do not mean the substitution of natural diamonds with artificial stones. According to experts, the share of synthetics in total consumption is currently less than 2% and it is unlikely to increase by a multiple factor in the near future.

The problem is much more serious. Advertising their products in an aggressive manner and cultivating negative stereotypes, the manufacturers of synthetics are demolishing the remnants of consumer confidence in diamonds as a whole. While the DPA is trying to tell millennials that diamond is a symbol of true feelings, synthetics advertising tells them that behind any natural diamond there is real suffering. And this is also adding genuine confusion, because sometimes it is impossible to distinguish the truth from "artistic exaggeration" in the huge flow of information. Perhaps it is this tactic that allows manufacturers of synthetics to attract additional attention to their products. However, it is much more likely that this barrage of negative coverage will eventually make consumers turn away from any diamonds – both natural and synthetic. Trying to understand the difference between them may be deemed too tedious and customers will find it much easier to buy a new smartphone, for smartphones have never been called “blood gadgets,” that’s for sure.

And, frankly, if consumers will opt for "anything, but not natural diamonds," it will be hard to rebuke them. While the DPA is promoting diamonds as an emotional symbol and jewelry brands are advertising their design and style, the Kimberley Process and the World Diamond Council, being multilateral organizations, are focused on the interaction with each other and internal issues. The result is that all of them seem to talk about the industry, but no one succeeds in bringing their vested interests to the notice of end consumers. For example, the fact that a diamond means not only pure feelings, but also clean production.

Elena Levina for Rough&Polished

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