This question has been playing on my mind for the past few months. Who might buy jewelry set with a synthetic diamond? What are the arguments that—really—hit the mark? How about me: given everything that I know about natural diamonds, would I personally buy a synthetic diamond?
These are really legitimate questions: how are we to understand the vague impulses to buy such and such a product if we don’t try to put ourselves in the place of potential buyers?
I asked around to find out if buying synthetic diamond jewelry was conceivable and the answers were as varied as the people I spoke to… Nobody categorically said no.
However, two keywords always came up: “the buying occasion” and “natural”. Other words and arguments joined these and, put together, will either motivate the buying decision or not:
Let’s be honest, design will never be pushed to the background. Whoever buys a piece of jewelry is inevitably motivated by the desire to either wear it or to see it worn. If the person for whom it is intended does not like it, then the purchase is worthless or shouldn’t have taken place. And, in this case, all of the arguments below are null and void.
In terms of synthetic diamond jewelry, what do we have to get our teeth into?
There is, of course, Lightbox on the American market. There are others, but let’s take a moment to look at this start-up launched by De Beers. Being supported by one of the biggest names in the natural diamond industry paradoxically gives Lightbox credibility. Here is a company that is mastering their range in the diamond sector.
I subscribed to the newsletter and I receive one very week; the company does its job well in terms of keeping itself in my thoughts and stimulating the desire to buy. The website is functional and pleasant, the photos of the jewelry worn are beautiful and inviting, and we could easily buy into that concept… As for design, in the strict sense of the term (driven by the image conveyed and the staging of the pieces), it is traditional, simple and extremely accessible. I am not overwhelmed by their offerings, but I think that they will successfully appeal to many people. Synthetic diamond jewelry here really is akin to the purchase of fashion jewelry, without drowning in an overabundant offer, meaning you can continue to associate this synthetic diamond jewelry with a certain level of quality or excellence for want of rarity. The simple white diamond stud earrings are seriously convincing…
Others are positioning themselves in a niche that offers very modern jewelry, resolutely in the spirit of the times; they are even teasing fine jewelry and drawing inspiration from it, offering jewelry set with synthetic diamonds at prices that are lower (by around 30% to 40%) than those of natural diamonds.
The collections display a demeanor that is trendy and ethical right up to the choice of names. The models are designed to be easy-going and to appeal to young women wishing to treat themselves: better than an it-bag (more discreet) and longer lasting!
So yes, these designs are inviting and will find their audience.
On the websites of 12Fifteen (which does not mince its words against the natural diamond industry!) and Diamond Nexus, which offer synthetic diamond solitaires, rings, necklaces and earrings, I read the following arguments:
- “Nexus Diamonds cost approximately 70 – 90 percent less than mined diamonds.”
- and “Prices change because the diamonds change. The stone gets bigger and/or more perfect, it costs more. Metal costs change on the daily.”
Simple, to the point, irrefutable. The 4Cs are not as easily understandable and accessible for everybody. One needs to cross-reference information, compare the price per carat, check the setting, the metal, the size, the certificates… in short, it’s not as easy to buy a natural diamond and understand its price for those not versed in the matter. When I wrote this article, I could buy 1.03 carat cushion-cut stud earrings for $243.70 (Black Friday Week) on Diamond Nexus or a 1/4 carat solitaire pendant for $300 on Lightbox. This means you can get a piece of fashion jewelry, of simple workmanship, effortlessly wearable, with a very fine stone and without stretching your budget.
So yes, price is certainly an excellent argument.
This is the sledgehammer argument of synthetic diamond producers! As far as I’m concerned, though, it seems to be the least convincing argument.
What bothers me in this argument is that it is given in opposition to the natural diamond industry. It’s the argument that pits “entirely clean” against “entirely dirty”—which is already ethically* debatable!—as well as being unfair. It is simply not tenable. Every industry has an environmental cost and, thus far, nothing enables us to accurately compare that of synthetic diamonds with that of natural diamonds.
We are not going to hold forth on the importance of the diamond industry for the economic development of certain African countries either.
However, presenting ethics as a selection criterion for synthetic diamonds is not an aberration in itself. Far from it!
Some people do this by talking of “an ethical and ecological alternative to traditional jewelry.” Or by emphasizing the high-tech prowess that means nature can be replicated with a clear “conscience”, in compliance with social and environmental criteria.
In short, the discourse here is positive, not very developed (feel free to put your opinion here) and appeals to everyone’s values without challenging the natural diamond industry. There is no aggression, just “another” offering.
So yes, ethics, in this sense, is an argument.
Occasion (reason for buying)
Or, ultimately, a lack of occasion?
For the time being, we tend to assume—it’s what is shown in certain studies—that natural diamonds keep their prominent place in people’s hearts for “special occasions”: engagements or weddings. A symbol of “eternal” love. This is good news for the natural diamond industry, which is trying to ensure that this state of mind (driven by a genius communication campaign at a given time…) endures. It is necessary for natural diamonds to attempt to better represent love in all of its complexity.
Synthetic diamonds can take a large place without intruding on that of natural diamonds—moreover, there is no reason to say that they won’t find their place in the field of engagement and wedding celebration, since synthetic diamond jewelry producers have already positioned themselves in this niche (with the exception of Lightbox, all of the synthetic diamond jewelry websites that I explored have engagement and wedding sections.)
Nevertheless, there are thousands of occasions to buy jewelry for yourself, have it bought or buy it for someone else: a promotion, a new contract, a big birthday, an exam success, a 10-year wedding anniversary, etc. And if you want to associate it with the beauty of a stone yet not spend a fortune… then synthetic diamonds have their place. In this niche, they could join semi-precious stones which, adorned with a thousand virtues, have been adopted by many inventive creators to offerings that are delicate and popular with influencers.
So yes, the occasion or lack of occasion is an argument.
Quality – perfection
It’s hard to fight synthetic diamonds on the quality level. If they are type IIA, how can we demand this level of systematic perfection from nature? This therefore depends on what we mean by “perfection”. A gemologist or a connoisseur will favor a natural diamond, imperfect perhaps, even if very well placed on the 4Cs scale, but nevertheless EXTRAORDINARY. A perfect synthetic diamond will never be extraordinary.
Nonetheless, the quality of synthetic diamonds can still be an argument.
A natural diamond is by definition imperfect, rare and therefore extraordinary. This argument is unbeatable… It’s a precious object. A synthetic diamond no longer has this image of a precious stone (if it ever did?). Semi-precious, maybe; beautiful, undoubtedly. But, although it replicates nature, it does only that: replicates it. Our epoch, which is ever searching for meaning, is increasingly turning towards the natural, towards authenticity. Towards controlled consumption. Yet synthetic diamonds can be mass produced and identically replicated, which gives us no guarantee of controlled and exclusive production.
In this aspect, natural diamonds win the battle hands down.
What conclusion may we draw from all of this? It would be prejudicial to our industry and naïve to believe that the battle between natural and synthetic diamonds will be won by synthetic diamonds… or by natural one. Moreover, is it really a battle? The supply of natural diamonds is going to fall in the coming years, which will add to their rarity and their value. For all that, gem-quality synthetic diamonds, which are still at an early stage, will find their place. There is a market for this offering.
They are simply two different products. The public just needs to continue thinking this. And it’s up to us to ensure that they do.
Source Rubel & Ménasché
* According to the Oxford English Dictionary, besides its philosophical aspect, ethics brings together the “moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour.” QED!