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De Beers pumps US$94 million into lab made diamonds

Publishing Date : 04 June, 2018

Author : REARABILWE RAMAPHANE

Global Diamond producer, De Beers Group, a company which operates and mines one of the most valuable diamonds deposits in the world including Botswana’s major pits, on Tuesday announced a watershed entrance into the synthetic diamonds market.


Synthetic diamonds are basically man made gems produced through an artificial process, as opposed to natural diamonds, which occur on geological mineralization processes. De Beers which is 15% and 85% owned by Government of Botswana and Anglo American respectively will enter this market under the operation of a new subsidiary called LightBox Jewelry.


To support Lightbox, De Beers Group is investing a total of US$94 million over four years in a new Element Six production facility near Portland, Oregon, US, adding to Element Six’s existing UK-based facilities. Once fully operational, the plant will be capable of producing upwards of 500,000 rough carats of lab-grown diamonds a year.


According to the leading diamond producer the LightBox Jewelry line will bring something new and innovative to the jewelry sector, featuring pink, blue and white laboratory grown diamonds in a selection of accessibly-priced earrings and necklace designs. Commencing this September, the new retail brand will offer consumers high-quality fashion jewelry designs at lower prices than existing lab-grown diamond offerings. Lightbox lab-grown diamonds will retail from US$200 for a quarter-carat stone to US$800 for a one-carat stone.


“Lightbox will transform the lab-grown diamond sector by offering consumers a lab-grown product they have told us they want but aren’t getting: affordable fashion jewelry that may not be forever, but is perfect for right now,” Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group was quoted as saying in international media.


Cleaver says his company makes this move informed by an extensive research that signals consumers regard lab-grown diamonds as a fun, pretty product that shouldn’t cost that much. “We see an opportunity here that’s been missed by lab-grown diamond producers. Lab-grown diamonds are a product of technology, and as we’ve seen with synthetic sapphires, rubies and emeralds, as the technology advances, products become more affordable,” he said.


The move is a historic shift for the company which vowed for years that it wouldn’t sell stones created in laboratories. The strategy is designed to undercut rival lab-diamond makers, who having been trying to make inroads into the $80 billion gem industry. The biggest diamond miner reported on Tuesday that the move followed decades of investment into extensive Research & Development.  “While it will be a small business compared with our core diamond business, we think the Lightbox brand will resonate well with consumers at the same time provide a new, complementary commercial opportunity for De Beers Group,” observed the Group CEO.


The General Manager of the new company, Steve Coe highlighted that Lightbox Jewelry will offer consumers something new, sparkle and colors, at a very accessible price. He said in addition to a deep understanding of what consumers want, Lightbox brings innovation and a commitment to transparency to the lab-grown diamond sector.


“We’ve learned from our research that there is a lot of confusion about lab-grown diamonds – what they are, how they differ from diamonds, and how they are valued. Lightbox will be clear with consumers about what lab-grown diamonds are and will offer straightforward pricing that is consistent with the true cost of production.” Coe added that his company will introduce more designs and colours as the range evolves, and the technological efficiency of the proprietary production process.


Lightbox will launch in the US and will initially be available to US-based consumers through the Lightbox e-commerce website, with retail partnerships to be announced in due course. As subsidiary of De Beers Group, Lightbox will be the only jewelry brand to source lab-grown diamonds from De Beers Group’s Element Six business,


Any Lightbox lab-grown diamonds of 0.2 carats or above 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 lab-grown and also serve as a mark of quality and assurance that it was produced by Element Six.


THE SYNTHESIS OF LAB GROWN DIAMONDS

Unlike imitation gems such as cubic zirconia, diamonds grown in labs have the same physical characteristics and chemical makeup as mined stones. They’re made from a carbon seed placed in a microwave chamber and superheated into a glowing plasma ball. The process creates particles that can eventually crystallize into diamonds in weeks. The technology is so advanced that experts need a machine to distinguish between synthesized and mined gems.

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