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De Beers U-turns, jumps into synthetics

MBONGENI MGUNI
Lightbox Jewellery
World-leading diamond producer, De Beers, will invest US$94 million into producing 500,000 carats of "lab-grown" diamond, a significant about turn from the decades the diamond giant spent fighting against synthetics.

De Beers previously singled out synthetic or lab-grown diamonds as the biggest threat to rough diamonds, as players in the former industry pushed out countless carats, at low input costs, while marketing these as natural. 

By not only labelling its lab-grown diamonds, but also cutting their prices and flooding the market with them, De Beers is hoping to force “rogue” synthetics producers to toe the line and market their products distinctly from the natural variety.

This morning, De Beers’ executive vice-president, commercial and partnerships, Alessandra Berridge told journalists that the move was due to strong consumer demand and the need to take a market lead in clearing the “confusion” between synthetic and natural diamonds.

De Beers’ has established Lightbox Jewellery which, from September, will begin marketing a new brand of lab-grown diamonds at prices up to 75% lower than other synthetics in the market. De Beers, in which the Government of Botswana holds 15%, will establish a

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factory for the lab-grown stones in Oregon, USA, investing the US$94 million over four years.

“We are seeing an opportunity to launch a lab-grown business quite different from our natural-grown business to meet the demands of our consumers,” she said.

“Our research shows that there is space for the lab-grown, at lower prices, fun, fresh, pretty and fashionable jewellery that will be quite distinguishable from our natural grown, which are marketed more for life events such as marriages and other momentous occasions.”

De Beers’ CEO, Bruce Cleaver said: “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 jewellery that may not be forever, but is perfect for right now.” 

De Beers executives said the Government of Botswana had been extensively consulted in the last 18 months on the project and was not only supportive, but had been “helpful” in launching Lightbox.



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