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Lab-grown diamonds are glimmering

Thursday, 29 November 2012 - 7:00am IST | Place: Mumbai
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The market for lab-grown diamonds is getting more exciting, with new players entering the fray and the market finding traction.

The latest one to enter is Washington Diamonds Corp, which hopes to produce every month around 150 stones, each of the size of 1 carat (ct) or larger “We hope to capture a fraction of 1% of the market for diamonds, but expect our growth to accelerate in the coming years,” said Uzi Breier, CEO of the company.

“Even that is large considering the size of the total diamond market at $15 billion,” said Breir. “It is a new market. There are several players, and we think of ourselves as one of the best. We have a technical tie-up with the Carnegie Institution of Washington which has one of the largest physical laboratories in the world.

Like Steve Lux, MD of Gemesis, the world’s largest lab-grown diamond producer, Breier believes the market for lab-grown diamonds is likely to grow rapidly.

“There is a market for such diamonds that are eco-friendly, and are not blood diamonds,” he said.
The somewhat obvious reference is to the taint that the earth-mined diamonds industry has earned over the years by the manner in which it exploited labour, and even hired thugs to beat up the competition. The manner in which some major diamond producers have constantly tried to malign certain black-governed countries in Africa as promoters of ‘blood diamonds’ hasn’t helped either, as it has in turn highlighted how even De Beers adopted violent means to shore up its market share, as has been documented in a book by Edward Jay Epstein..

Producers of lab-grown diamonds have also been looking at customers who are wary of diamonds that scar the earth through extensive mining. After all, lab-grown diamonds -- which replicate the heat and pressure that Mother Nature uses to convert carbon into diamonds -- do not scar the earth.

Finally, there are customers who are squeamish about blemishes in earth-mined diamonds, which can be avoided in lab-grown diamonds, making them auspicious for such people.

“All our diamonds are made in the US. None of them is outsourced,” Breier told DNA. “We will focus on high-quality, beautiful colours.”

In order to pre-empt players like De Beers, which has been laser-marking some of its diamonds to differentiate them from lab-grown diamonds, both Gemesis and Washington Diamonds are also getting their own diamonds certified and laser-marked. Washington Diamonds gets its diamonds certified by American Gem Society Laboratories, while Gemesis gets its done by International Gemological Institute, unlike De Beers, which often goes for the Gemological Institute of America.

Interestingly, De Beers too has begun working with lab-grown diamonds through its affiliate, Element Six, though this company claims to be focused on diamonds for cutting, grinding, drilling, mining, polishing, optics and semi-conductors, among others.

Going forward, Washington Diamonds also wants to look at these industry segments, as indicated on its website.

“But for now, we are looking only at the jewellery segment, like engagement rings,” said Breier. “We think we have a special product to offer, and want to tell our customers that we are lab-grown.”




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