De Beers Reinvents Itself in the Face of Chinese Synthetic Diamonds

De Beers has abandoned its 130-year history of focussing on mined diamond.  It is now selling jewelry with lab-grown stones. This was a shocking turn of events for the entire diamond industry. Not to mention, a game-changer.

They had stuck by this rule for many decades and even invested millions into trying to suppress the synthetic diamond industry.  De Beers spent more still into tools to reliably identify differences between mined and lab created diamonds. 

However, Chinese synthetic diamonds began to flood the market. About five years ago, interest grew for a gemstone that was guaranteed to be conflict-free. 

Now synthetic diamonds and stones are being sold at an affordable price – significantly cheaper than mined diamond. Further, synthetics are also being marketed as conflict-free, and environmentally sustainable alternatives to natural diamonds. Not surprisingly, synthetics including Chinese synthetic diamonds continue to gain in popularity for all occasions, including engagements. 

As Chinese synthetic diamonds flood the market, De Beers enters the fray. Find out why buyers are in for a treat with the next generation of fake diamonds.

De Beers Goes Synthetic

Since beginning to brand synthetic diamonds that are grown in De Beers’ Element Six labs in Britain, the risk of undermining real diamonds became apparent. Synthetic diamonds aren’t as rare or precious as real gemstones. However, they are more affordable and for some a more humane choice.

When De Beers’ entered the market, synthetic diamonds cost around $4,200 a carat. This made them almost as expensive as the real thing. De Beers’ has been working to widen the gap of cost between the two. This gap in cost will raise the prestige of natural gemstones.

De Beers plans to flood the market further by opening up a $94 million factory in Oregon (USA) in 2020. It is expected to create 500,000 carats of lab-grown rough gems a year. Interestingly, De Beers are positioning synthetics for ““lighter” moods and moments” i.e. specifically not for engagements.

The average consumer though is likely to overlook this distinction and be indifferent to provenance.  The attraction is a stone that is chemically a diamond but sans the usual diamond price point.   

Chinese synthetic diamonds are competing with De Beers Lightbox products

Image Above:  The 0.26-carat lab-grown Lightbox diamond (left), and as seen through DiamondView imaging technology, with the inscription visible (right).  The laser-inscribed Lightbox logo (2 equilateral triangles base to base with an isosceles triangle in the middle) under the table – large enough to be easily visible with a microscope.   Lightbox is a trademark of Lightbox Jewelry Limited. Source:  Robison McMurtry/Sally Eaton-Magaña / GIA

New Diamond Definition

The announcement of De Beers’ launch of its lab-made diamond sparked a new definition for diamonds everywhere. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) dropped “synthetic” as a recommended description of the human-made diamonds.

Since the stones are chemically diamonds, they determined that they should be called diamonds. The word “cultured” is now recommended. Cultured differentiates between diamonds mined from the Earth and those made in a lab.

This further created a gray area between what is real and what is fake. 

Chinese Synthetic Diamonds Dominate the Market

When Chinese Synthetic Diamonds hit the market, they started gaining traction with consumers. Now that De Beers has also joined in the fray, we can expect to see some steep competition.

At first, Chinese synthetic diamonds were being created for industrial purposes. The country has been producing well over 10 billion carats of diamond annually for almost a decade.  However, most of the products have gone to industrial use such as in abrasives or machinery used in drilling.

As competition intensified and technology matured, companies, mainly based in central China’s Henan province, have ventured from abrasives to jewellery.

The increase in the production of these synthetic diamonds began to threaten other businesses. These alternatives to the real thing were almost identical and cost a lot less.

De Beers’ first response was to put tens of millions of dollars into research to determine the key differences between their diamonds and the synthetic ones. This was important for retailers across the world who were worried that they may not be buying the real thing. 

Alternative Stones Gain Popularity

Even though man-made gemstones weren’t always a popular choice, in more recent years as their quality improved they have become a common alternative. This may be because they not only look like the real deal, but they are also chemically and physically identical to their natural counterparts.

By one account, the man-made diamond jewellery market will grow 22 per cent annually from US$1.9 billion to US$5.2 billion by 2023.

This is not without problems. While man-made diamonds might cannibalise sales of mined diamonds – the bigger concern is false labelling.   GIA and other diamond grading agencies are routinely identifying lab diamond being labelled as natural.   

Lab-made diamonds of today are impossible to detect by the naked eye. De Beers had to invent advanced technology to determine the difference. 

Simulant vs. Synthetic

Simulant and synthetic diamonds are sometimes incorrectly used interchangeably, but they are actually very different.

Simulants are stones that have similar attributes as diamonds but are not diamonds. These include stones like cubic zirconia and moissanite. 

Synthetic diamonds are created using a process called chemical vapor deposition (CVD) along with high pressure and heat. The cultured diamond is grown from a seed diamond using this method.

We have written an article entitled Diamonds Simulants & Synthetics – Differences Explained to demystify.

Simulant vs. Synthetic diamonds - Luxuria

Photo 1:  A 2.04 carat solitaire white diamond simulant engagement ring from the Luxuria® jewelry brand.  A diamond simulant is a stone that looks similar to real diamond and shares some of its characteristics.  This artificial solitaire ring uses a very high grade diamond simulant.  

There are many reasons why synthetic or simulant jewelry is an excellent alternative to the real thing. One great example is travel. When traveling, you may not want to worry about your real diamond ring getting lost.

In this case, having a less expensive ring that is either synthetic or a simulant would be your safest choice.  It can reduce stress over keeping track of your more expensive ring throughout your trip.

Another purpose for purchasing an alternative to a real diamond is if someone wanted to buy a ring to propose with but doesn’t want to buy something their partner will hate. A less expensive option is better, knowing that the ring or stones can be replaced later on.

Discover Your Perfect Jewelry

Although it started with Chinese synthetic diamonds, everything changed after De Beers took the plunge. Now more and more people are taking advantage of an alternative to the high prices of real diamonds. This includes simulant diamonds as well. 

Now, you don’t have to just dream of your perfect settings that glitter. You can afford those beauties now. Jewelry that sparkles isn’t just for the elite. If you’re interested in finding your perfect match in both style and affordability, then head over to our site for a variety of flawless diamond simulate rings.

Still unsure about the benefits of fake versus real diamonds? Check out our blog to learn more and weigh your options.

Want to learn more?

In this comprehensive article Diamonds Simulants & Synthetics – Differences Explained we answer common customer questions about simulants and synthetics.

In this post we outline five reasons why fake diamond rings are gaining popularity and are deliberately chosen by some to make a marriage proposal with.


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