In a recent interview with ground-breaking Lab-grown diamond company, Clean Origin, we spoke with CEO, Alexander Weindling, about the impact of Lab-created diamonds and where he believes the industry is headed.
BDI: Where do you think the lab-grown diamond industry is headed? Is it going in the direction of De Beers’ ‘Lightbox’ positioning of Lab-grown diamonds becoming a fashion accessory or will Lab-grown diamonds become a sustainable alternative to mined diamonds?
Alexander Weindling: The lab-grown industry is destined for large growth in 2019 as consumer awareness broadens. Our focus is the bridal consumer, which has always been distinct from fashion jewelry. However, I don’t think it’s about picking one over the other — both fashion and engagement will thrive due to the benefits of these diamonds.
Fashion will have a non-certified offering with a distinct distribution channel that will include Lightbox, Macy’s, JCPenney and other online and offline discount retailers. The certified, curated, and customized lab-grown diamond engagement ring business will remain separate and grow as an alternative to mined diamond engagement rings.
Engagement products have never shared distribution channels with fashion. The fashion business is a mass market assembled by a merchandiser for the masses. The diamond engagement experience of the future begins with the customer, his/her budget, desires and tastes, and works FOR the customer to deliver a bespoke product.
BDI: There is some debate going on about prices of Lab-grown diamonds, with experts claiming that they have plummeted pushed by Lightbox’s pricing strategy. Is this a real scenario or just half truth?
Alex: Simply put, Lab-grown diamond retailers have the ability to price their diamonds 20-30% less than mined diamonds due to the reduced supply chain. We see this as one of our biggest selling points. However, as we just discussed, fashion jewelry (such as Lightbox) and engagement rings are two separate entities, so comparing their pricing strategies is not apples to apples. Lab-grown diamond prices are stable and scarcities exist in places dependent on size and color.
BDI: In the past couple of years numerous retailers, traders and manufacturers have jumped on to the Lab-grown diamond bandwagon. Is this primarily driven by hype or the consumer demand for Lab-grown diamonds is really expanding?
Alex: Great retailers anticipate their customer demands. Good retailers respond to their demand. There are a lot of good retailers emerging. There’s also just a lot more educated consumers these days. With access to so many resources, customers are doing their own research, learning about the benefits of lab-grown and deciding to purchase. I think a lot of people know that our environment is in danger, but they’re always so curious as to what they could do to help. Buying a Lab-grown diamond, although it might be slight, is helping to move us away from the detrimental effects of mining for diamonds. Consumers, especially millennials, want to be a part of that.
BDI: Considering that various factions of industry including media still continue to use terms like ‘natural’ and ‘synthetic’ in spite of US FTC ruling of changes in diamond definition, how helpful has been FTC’s ruling to the Lab-grown diamond sector? What more is required from governments and other stakeholders to ensure a level-playing field for Lab-grown diamonds?
Alex: It takes time for old notions and prejudices to die. The FTC ruling mitigated the attempts of the mined constituents to spread misinformation to confuse customers. As Gandhi once said: “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”
As for other stakeholders, I think there’s power in numbers. If enough individuals call out or address a misrepresentation or misuse of the word ‘synthetic’ or other FTC regulations, the word will start to spread and the rhetoric will begin to change.
BDI: There are obviously people out there who believe that lab-grown diamonds are inferior to mined diamonds. What would you say to that?
Alex: Well first I think we’d need to define ‘inferior’. Because if we’re looking at the this from a scientific standpoint, there are no differences other than the point of origin. But, if we’re looking at if from a social standpoint, I’d argue that mined diamonds are actually the inferior choice. On one hand (with a mined diamond) you have detrimental environmental impact, the possibility of unethical work practices and a much higher price tag. On the other hand, you have a 100% ethically sourced, eco-friendly stone that’s 20-30% less expensive. When large companies are nervous about a breakthrough, competing product, they go on the defense. Our products speak for themselves…there’s no need for us to go on the offense.
BDI: What do you think are the biggest challenges in front of the Lab-grown diamond industry?
Alex: The time it will take for truth to surface through the confusion created by legacy mining constituents. Education is key and we’re looking to our customers — and our products — to help us spread the word about lab-grown diamonds and their key benefits.
Today, thanks to advances in technology and popularity, the Lab-grown diamond market has grown at a significant rate. Going from just about 300,000 in 2015, the current production is now over 2 million.
You can learn more about Clean Origin at cleanorigin.com and continue to stay up-to-date on Lab-grown diamond news at betterdiamondinitiative.org/category/lab-grown-diamonds