In a world where transparency is more and more the standard, our business must address the lab grading issue willingly

Jeweler-Designer Arnaud Flambeau started his career in the jewelry business in 1993 at European Gold Company CLAL as Key Account Manager for the Jewelry Division, where he was in charge of international brands like Cartier or VCA and their subcontractors...


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Zimnisky on De Beers’ Lightbox: It’s a strategic, bold move that will benefit the entire natural diamond industry

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Real and "real"

07 november 2017

Exactly one year ago we wrote a review titled "Information warfare for millennial’s wallet." It made quite a splash visually proving to industry players how aggressive were marketing campaigns waged by producers of synthetic diamonds.

We have repeated the experiment and have to admit that something has changed over the past year. Synthetic producers continue their pro-active (and sometimes even aggressive) promotion of their goods, however noticeably changing the emphasis.

First of all, their "ecological" rhetoric has noticeably subsided. Previously, a consumer who planned to buy diamonds, was immersed into the cruel world of tortured nature immediately after hitting the search button on his or hers very first visit of the Internet. Heartbreaking texts about mercury puddles and cut down trees, compilations of infographics and exposing analyses closely adjoined with appeals to refuse from purchasing natural diamonds in favor of environmentally friendly lab-grown ones.

Each more or less meaningful fact was extracted by marketers from the sea of ​​information and carefully faceted in favor of synthetics. For example, such a picture as shown below and carrying a meaningful reference to a report of Frost & Sullivan made one think about his or hers own role in the accumulation of greenhouse gases:


(The mentioned value of "57,000 grams" seems frightening exactly up to the point, where the reader comes to know that an ordinary passenger automobile produces (according to the US Environmental Protection Agency) nearly 5 tons of carbon dioxide per year. And here it will not be out of place to compare the carbon footprint of an eco-oriented manager using personal transportation means to come to the office with that left by his pedestrian neighbor, who bought a one-carat ring for his bride).

But a year passed, and this rhetoric somehow disappeared being replaced by modest mentions that synthetics are eco-friendly. We can only guess why this happened. Either someone from the industry got after all worried about the legal side of the issue, or maybe consumers were simply bored with the talk about environmental protection, which they have been listening to every day for several decades.

Right now, the adherents of synthetics are busily communicating quite other arguments to consumers. The bulk of their advertising is devoted to proving that synthetic diamonds are no different from the real ones.


The ideologists of this marketing strategy are turning their attention to the chemical and structural properties of stones, emphasizing that they are identical in both physical and optical attributes. The attack is now focused not only on natural diamonds, but also on zirconium, which - ironically as it may be – is called a ‘simulant’ by synthetics producers. This is not surprising: consumers are so confused by the abundance of externally similar products on the market that gradually cease to distinguish them. While visiting social networks and forums you can often find comments like "I was offered to buy a synthetic diamond. What is it? Is it zirconium or is it glass?" Currently, synthetic diamonds have to fight not only for a share in the market for diamonds, but also in the market of "almost diamonds."

In addition to identity talk, there is a price argument put into gear. "Why overpay for a real diamond, if there is a purely grown laboratory stone?" social networks ask. You can get the same sparkle, clarity and cut, and at the same time spare your budget. And if for the older generation the high cost of a wedding ring was an indisputable indicator of true intention, it is not so for millennials. They value impressions, not things, and for them saving on jewelry does not mean demonstrating neglect, but rather a great opportunity to buy something else in addition to a beautiful ring. #affordablediamonds is, by the way, a new popular hashtag in social networks, and it is used exclusively in relation to synthetic stones.

There is still another option suggested by synthetic adherents: you may brush aside your saving intentions and buy a bigger stone using the money you wanted to stash away.


Some slyness is in that the price difference between the cost of mining and cultivation is ridiculous - according to Morgan Stanley, it was only $ 24 per carat in 2016. In addition, we still remember our survey of prices for synthetic and natural stones in retail, which proved that jewelry carrying synthetics is often more expensive for the consumer, while its manufacturers pocket the difference in the cost price. However, one can promise the moon in advertising trying to snatch a share of the jewelry market.

So far, synthetics were lucky to "snatch" about 1% of it, but the same Morgan Stanley predicts the figure is to grow to 15% within an optimistic scenario. Scientists happily report of successes in obtaining ever more massive and higher clarity samples, and although the market for truly large diamonds has not yet been harnessed by synthetics, the desire of their promoters to enter it cannot be underestimated. As well as their desire to sell more and more.

And for this end they need new arguments designed for a new audience.


The last quote is from an article posted on a women's website and dedicated to the role of independent female designers in the jewelry market. The June report of De Beers, which highlighted the new role of women as buyers of diamonds, clearly indicated the direction for further advertising efforts of jewelry brands. In 2016, women spent more than $ 18 billion on diamond jewelry in each of the four main consumer countries (the United States, China, Japan and India). And in Hong Kong, more than half of all sold diamonds were bought by women for themselves.

The modern interpretation of femininity is more closely connected with strength and independence, and purchasing of jewelry by the fair sex is an expression of self-confidence and pride in personal achievements. In most cases, the motivation lies in the delicate field of emotions, and therefore the marketing experts promoting lab-made brands are not yet hurrying to intrude into the world of gender rhetoric. Moreover, according to the study issued by the Diamond Producers Association (DPA), female millennials are eager to acquire authentic things: nine out of ten of them chose real diamonds when it came to jewelry. Perhaps, it will sound exaggerated, but when decisions are made at the level of the limbic system of the brain, arguments lying in the practical plane lose their weight. It is useless to tell a woman about the structure and properties of a synthetic stone if she wants to wear a real one. No technical report will make her feel truly beautiful and desired in a necklace of "diamonds identical to natural".

But there is another topic that cannot leave most women indifferent: children. Please re-read the passage above. It is not dedicated to workers who are paid small wages. Not even to hard female labor. No, it's children. And this is not an isolated case, but a trend.


After reading such a heartbreaking text, only few people will think that the problem of using child labor in emerging countries is systemic and it should not be solved by discarding jewelry, but by creating jobs for the parents of these children. And the more so, only few people will think that most synthetic diamonds are produced in China, and China is believed to be one of the leaders in the use of child labor.

Synthetic manufacturers understand this perfectly, as well as the fact that the DPA, according to Forbes, announced a fourfold increase in the marketing budget in the US - which means that the average man in the street will become (and already becomes) much more aware of all the features of the diamond business, be it the Kimberley Process, rehabilitation of spent mines or contribution to the economic development of diamond-mining countries. And in these conditions, "synthetic" brands will have to come up with new "arguments" for the jewelry segment, and do it more and more aggressively. Because otherwise they will remain zirconium substitutes.

Olga Tretyakova and Elena Levina for Rough&Polished


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