Wearables

De Beers relents and starts shilling "not special, not real, not unique" lab-grown diamonds

De Beers relents and starts sh...
Lab-grown diamonds - indistinguishable from the real thing, provided you don't make them pretty colours, inscribe them with special logos, or carry a spectrometer around with you
Lab-grown diamonds - indistinguishable from the real thing, provided you don't make them pretty colours, inscribe them with special logos, or carry a spectrometer around with you
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Lab-grown diamonds - indistinguishable from the real thing, provided you don't make them pretty colours, inscribe them with special logos, or carry a spectrometer around with you
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Lab-grown diamonds - indistinguishable from the real thing, provided you don't make them pretty colours, inscribe them with special logos, or carry a spectrometer around with you
The Lightbox model offers simple pricing for lab-grown diamonds, whereas "real" diamonds rise stratospherically in price as the size increases
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The Lightbox model offers simple pricing for lab-grown diamonds, whereas "real" diamonds rise stratospherically in price as the size increases
Lightbox Jewelry: affordable, lab-grown diamond jewelry from De Beers
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Lightbox Jewelry: affordable, lab-grown diamond jewelry from De Beers

They said they'd never do it, but De Beers has started selling lab-grown diamonds through a subsidiary called Lightbox Jewelry. And it's hilarious to watch how they're both selling and disparaging this new, far cheaper product line.

The myth and mystique surrounding diamonds is largely the work of a single company and its horribly insidious (or positively brilliant, depending on your perspective) advertising. De Beers, in conjunction with New York advertising agency N. W. Ayer, managed to convince 1940's America – and later, the world – that any man who was serious about his romantic intentions would seal them with a diamond.

A diamond is forever? That's De Beers. Gentlemen should spend at least two months' salary on an engagement ring? De Beers. Combining relentless marketing with what's been called "the most successful cartel arrangement in the annals of modern commerce," De Beers turned a solid form of carbon into a universally recognized symbol of status and romantic devotion.

Having concocted a billion-dollar magic aura around these pretty, but essentially worthless gems, De Beers has fought hard against a rising tide of far cheaper lab-grown diamonds, which are now so close to the real thing that – no joke – you need a portable spectrometer to tell them apart from the ones De Beers digs up in Botswana and Namibia.

De Beers' entire business model, worth upwards of six billion dollars a year, would crumble if customers twigged to the fact that there's nothing particularly special about these stones. And yet, De Beers has set itself up with quite a nice little side business manufacturing the "fake" ones. Named Element Six, De Beers' lab diamond production operation has turned out to be the world's lowest cost producer.

Until now, though, they haven't had to face the ignominy of selling them essentially side by side.

Claiming to have identified "an opportunity here that's been missed by lab-grown diamond producers," De Beers has decided to launch Lightbox Jewelry, a lab-grown diamond jewelry company dedicated to undercutting competitors on price.

And it's almost uncomfortable to watch the marketing team twist itself in knots trying both to sell the new product, but make it damn clear that the magical aura of the company's "real" diamonds most certainly does not apply to these ones.

Just listen to the disdain dripping off the press release: "affordable fashion jewelry that may not be forever, but is perfect for right now" ... "A fun, pretty product that shouldn't cost that much" ... "Sparkle and colors, at a very accessible price."

Lightbox Jewelry: affordable, lab-grown diamond jewelry from De Beers
Lightbox Jewelry: affordable, lab-grown diamond jewelry from De Beers

The press release bemoans customer "confusion" about what lab-grown diamonds are, and the fact that customers can't work out why they're not as special and magical as "real" diamonds despite, I'll remind you, looking so similar that you need a spectrometer to tell them apart.

To combat this, De Beers says that any lab-grown stone bigger than 0.2 carats "will carry a permanent Lightbox logo inside the stone. Invisible to the naked eye, but easily identified under magnification, the logo will clearly identify the stone as a lab-grown."

The company is also refusing to give the stones a traditional diamond rating, CEO Bruce Cleaver telling Australia's Financial Review "lab grown are not special, they're not real, they're not unique … we don't think they deserve to be graded. They're all the same."

Yes, De Beers, they are all the same. Sparkly, ostentatious trinkets that your advertising minions have been convincing people to buy for roughly 80 years.

Source: De Beers

13 comments
aksdad
Wonderful commentary on DeBeers, dripping with sarcasm and truth. Well done.
myale
This is quite an old story - you can read similar concerns from 2015, which includes the fact that no new diamond mines have been discovered and prices are rising. Man made diamonds are typically purer than a natural one - so in reality they are potentially purer in having less impurities - so can actually outshine natural diamonds - and as they have the same chemical structure - they are diamonds
BanisterJH
It was amusing for me to note that in your phrase "which are now so close to the real thing," you didn't put the quotes around the word "real" that you used later on in the article. In my opinion, both are the real thing. I suppose one could say "human grown" and "earth grown" to differentiate. It seems pretty obvious to me that De Beers are trying to put other manufacturers of human grown diamonds out of business so that they don't lose value on their huge reserves of mined stones. It would be quite amusing if it backfires and only causes other humans to innovate even cheaper ways to grow diamonds. There could be lots of value to industry for larger dirt cheap human grown diamonds, even as there now is lots of industrial value in diamond abrasives made with dirt cheap human grown tiny diamonds.
Grumpyrelic
I wonder why, with all the carbon emissions being attacked by the pseudo-ecology police, the wanton removal of carbon diamonds safely buried in the ground hasn't popped up on their radar? I see this as a missed golden opportunity to reap scads of money from these polluters who are adding significant carbon into the environment under the guise of love and affection. Valentines will never be the same.
zr2s10
"The company is also refusing to give the stones a traditional diamond rating, CEO Bruce Cleaver telling Australia's Financial Review "lab grown are not special, they're not real, they're not unique … we don't think they deserve to be graded. They're all the same."" Incorrect. Element Six diamonds are not the best synthetics available, that's probably why he's so whiny about it. Impurities and polishing issues. They can be unique, because like real diamonds they can, and often do have these imperfections. So a true pure one is better and not as easy to get.
Tom Lee Mullins
DeBeers have had a monopoly on diamonds. I wonder why no one has really done anything about it? I guess they decided to profit from it instead of fighting it? Like gas companies deciding to sell non-petrol based fuels and alternative energy sources?
Gregg Eshelman
DeBeers used to have a market for the majority of diamonds that were less than gem quality. The abrasives and machining industries. They'd crush them into abrasive powders and sell larger crystals to be shaped for cutting hard metals and abrasive composites. The invention of cheap synthetics like sputtered diamond films, diamond powders of more uniform size than possible with crushing and sieving natural stones, polycrystalline cutting points and diamond based materials not possible to make with natural crystals has all but eliminated that part of DeBeers' market. Those dirt cheap diamond grit grinding points with 1/8" shafts, available at places like Harbor Freight, are just a small part of synthetic diamond's pinch on the bank accounts of DeBeers. So they've been pushing colored diamonds like "chocolate" and "champagne". In other words high-grading their junk bins for stones flawless in every way except color. Pure Grown Diamonds (formerly Gemesis) is one of the synthetic diamond companies DeBeers has in their sights.
Rusty Harris
Ron White once said in his stand up routine... Diamonds...yeah, that will shut her up! Carbon, under pressure for millions of years, pulled out of the ground, then the "monopoly" of De-Beers, HORDES the diamonds, keeps them locked up and only allowing a few to hit the market, keeps the price artificially high.
Daishi
This is De Beers building a moat. They figure if there is going to be a market for synthetic diamonds they might as well own it. The alternative is that if a different company finds success selling synthetic diamonds that are both better in quality and less expensive than real ones they could also fight De Beers head on in marketing too. They could market their man made diamonds as having a more humane creation process than the under-paid diamond miners De Beers uses. If they own a synthetic diamond company they can fight others head on and help control the marketing narrative about how "real" diamonds are better too. If I were their competition I would build a diamond lab in Botswana and Namibia and pay the engineers enough to buy big houses and then run ads comparing the quality of life for my Botswana lab engineers to the ones working in Da Beers diamond mines. A PR story about diamond miners laboring away and suffering until they got hired to work in a better paying diamond lab and got proper health insurance would be a nightmare for Da Beers and their "real diamonds" narrative. You could create "social responsibility" companies where you pay 2x the cost for your synthetic diamond ring but it subsidizes expensive jewelry for couples in 3rd world countries with a slogan like "everybody deserves a diamond". Then people could walk around with their man made diamonds they paid extra for so they could help the poor people and shame real diamond wearers for their tone deaf and uncaring ways that went out of style a decade ago. All is fair in love, war, and marketing.
Trylon
I notice they don't specify what is a "very accessible price." Is it 50% off the cost of natural stones? 80%?