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14 june 2021
jiang_jiang_liu_xx.pngAs the founder of the Diamond Little Star® brand, Liu Jiangjiang is actively involved in various business activities. He founded the Lab-Grown Diamond Research Centre and the Lab-Grown Diamond Club in China. At the same time, he is also the General Counsel of the X Diamond® brand of the Singapore Investment Group.

Liu Jiangjiang has obtained the “PRC’s Professional Qualification Certificate for Jade Jewellery Quality Inspector”, which is the highest-level qualification certificate in the field of gemology in China. Natural diamonds come from the earth, and lab-grown diamonds (LGDs) are the result of developments in science and technology. At present, human society has entered the stage of highly developed science and technology, and people study the balance between nature and technology. The harmonious coexistence and joint development of the natural diamonds representing nature, and lab-grown diamonds representing technology, is the first problem the people dealing with both categories should resolve.

In his exclusive interview with Rough&Polished, Liu Jiangjiang expresses his plans for the future with confidence.

Some excerpts:

When and where in China was your company ‘Diamond Little Star’ incorporated; and what growth rate have you witnessed to date? Also, any other companies or associations you are active in? Please give details.

Diamond Little Star was founded in July 2019 in the jewellery capital of China, Shuibei, Shenzhen. 2019 is the first year of the commercial retail sales of lab-grown diamonds in China. It was symbolic that the lab-grown diamond lots were at the centre of the traditional Chinese jewellery supply chain, on the same stage where the natural diamonds were.

After two years of the company’s development, it has an over 50 per cent average annual growth rate; especially over the past six months, the company’s business has almost doubled, mainly due to an increase in the company’s main product categories, which also indicates the large development of the lab-grown diamonds in the country within the framework of diversification.

As an industry player, the founder of the Diamond Little Star company actively organizes offline and online workshops for the industry companies and sole proprietors to share the experience and resources; he uses very popular online media channels such as public WeChat accounts and short videos and provides an objective consumer promotion and advertising of the lab-grown diamonds.

Liu founded the Lab Grown Diamond Club in China based on a membership system. The main members are the institutions and individuals involved in the lab-grown diamonds sector. The club organizes offline events for all its members from time to time. Liu also serves as General Adviser of the X Diamond® brand of the Singapore Investment Group and uses his expertise and resources to consult on the brand’s cross-border development.

How successful is your brand in China now? Do you have a presence in other countries? Please give details.

With a ‘gold’ age of only over ten years, China’s jewellery industry has started to develop quite recently, so we have a tough job to catch up with the major brands that enjoy high popularity and recognition abroad. Objectively speaking, there are not many jewellery brands in China that can be called successful. Now, the vast majority of the Chinese jewellery brands are still developing, they are moving along the way of homogenization and expanding the scale of activities and so far, they cannot receive a sufficient brand premium. At present, Diamond Little Star is positioned primarily as a supplier and customer of a vertical category, which - to some extent - can guarantee the brand’s premium. But it cannot influence the entire industry and consumers yet. In this sense, we cannot yet say that our brand is highly successful.

Nowadays, Diamond Little Star is mainly entering the domestic market and does not have branches abroad. Depending on the development of the international business, we will open a branch or a representative office in North America in the next two or three years.

                                                Image credit: Diamond Little Star

Does your company have its outlets currently in China, or other countries?

Diamond Little Star is an independent physical corporation based in Shuibei, Shenzhen. It has both various offices and also the research, development, sales departments that hold meetings with the organizations or individuals who come to have negotiations or exchange their experience. Due to the different domestic and foreign business models, as well as logistics, cross-border payments, and other objective factors, we do not yet have a plan to open brick and mortar stores in other countries.

Are the company products, both loose LGDs and jewellery available on e-commerce platforms? How successful are your online businesses, if any? What is your opinion on e-retailing jewellery as a viable business?

Diamond Little Star strongly believes that in the current epidemic situation, e-commerce is the most reliable in terms of investments and sustainability. China’s e-commerce platforms are developing fast. Now, besides the traditional e-commerce platforms like Taobao, and Vipshop, there are also new e-commerce platforms like Xiaohongshu, TikTok, Kuaishou and Pinduoduo. With the fast development of e-commerce in the form of live streaming in China, they represent the fastest way for the growth of new businesses. Diamond Little Star’s goods are promoted on Taobao, Taobao live streaming, WeChat small shop, Weibo live streaming, and other platforms. In the future, they will be launched on the platforms visited by the company’s target consumers.

Currently, the online business has only been existing for six months, but it has grown quite fast - from our initial loss to the profit: the number of consumers and the transactions’ revenues has increased significantly. This is currently equivalent to the transaction number of a small offline jewellery store.

What is the current scene in terms of lab-grown diamond jewellery demand from the millennials in China, given that other luxury items are vying for a piece of their purchasing power?

The biggest trait of the Chinese millennials is that they want to accentuate their individuality through the consumption process. In different situations, they wear different accessories to show their status and character, to express their preferences and clearly distinguish each circle of trends. The millennials don’t pay much attention to the materials the jewellery is made from and pay more attention to the ideas and design styles expressed by the jewellery pieces. Therefore, the Chinese millennials prefer lab-grown diamond jewellery as compared to other population groups. They have their attitude towards what they buy, highly value the goods that are made of environmentally friendly and renewable materials, as well as the high-tech goods.

Any plans to expand further into other consumer markets, globally? Do you expect the current trade war between the US and China to negatively affect your business? Your thoughts.

The Diamond Little Star company believes that globalization is the only way to ensure future development. The lab-grown diamonds are a new type of jewellery, and they draw the attention of the whole world. When the product differentiation in the foreign markets begins, the company will use the resources existing abroad to export competitive stones and pave the way for the supply chain. When the company takes a certain market share, it will officially enter the global market.

The China-US trade war is mainly caused by the ideological differences between the Orient and the West. With the development of the trend towards global economic integration, any behaviour that raises obstacles for international cooperation and trade will gradually weaken. And the development model based on mutual understanding, cooperation and mutual benefit will ultimately be the best choice for all parties. The trade war is a counter-example. It only means that in the process of human development, there are situations when people resort to a trial-and-error method, and the trade war will exist just for a relatively short period. Our company has not yet officially started its business abroad, and the first step will be to develop trade with India, which is closer to China, so the China-US trade war will not have a great impact on the current and future development of the company.

What steps are you taking to keep millennial interested in LGD & jewellery? What level of growth are you looking at for your LGD jewellery business in the next few years?

The Chinese have been living frugally since ancient times. Although the current economic situation in China has improved significantly, the data show that consumption of several high-end luxury goods is very high, but the number of buyers in the total consumer segment is very small. The advent of lab-grown diamonds has given a new choice to ordinary millennial consumers, giving them more opportunities to appreciate and own the beauty of diamonds at a lower cost. At the same time, by creating an atmosphere of live communication and discussion of hot topics of the day, it is possible to attract the attention of a larger number of potential jewellery consumers to lab-grown diamonds.

Relying on the development of the market supply of synthetic diamonds in China, our company is mainly engaged in the sale of lab-grown coloured diamonds and high-quality large-size ones. It currently holds the leading position in the domestic diamond industry. In future, with the development of the end-user market, the company will participate in the supply chain of some medium and large brands, become part of the commercial diamond supply chain, cover a certain market share, and become one of the well-known lab-grown diamond companies in China.

Aruna Gaitonde, Editor in Chief of the Asian Bureau, Rough&Polished