Promoters of synthetic diamonds often argue that if all diamonds are grown in a lab, that would eliminate blood diamonds. The problem with that logic, which is recognized by most NGOs active on this issue, is that it would wipe out the market for good diamonds, too. As most of the industry is well aware—even if most of the outside world is not—diamond mining has turned Botswana into one of the most prosperous and stable nations in Africa. The movie Blood Diamond caused considerable anxiety in that country, as its economy is largely dependent upon diamond revenue. (Diamond-related revenues constitute at least a third of its GDP.)
The other claim that synthetic diamonds proponents make is that they would loosen De Beers’ stranglehold on the industry. Of course, De Beers has a rather successful synthetic diamond division — Element Six. It produces diamonds for industrial, rather than gem, uses, and De Beers has repeatedly said that E6 does not intend to enter the synthetic gem market.
With synthetic diamonds still a minor part of the overall industry, there’s no reason to doubt that. De Beers is a diamond miner, and lab-grown diamonds are a threat to its business model.
[two_third]But if they ever do become more than a real factor in the business, De Beers might be tempted to reverse its plans. It might even feel it has to. For one, it could advertise them in a way that is less hostile to mined stones. (Right now most lab-grown producers bring up the conflict and environmental issues.) It could also institute procedures to ensure disclosure, about which some lab-grown producers have professed ambivalence. De Beers’ entering the synthetic market could, at least in theory, help protect the natural diamond market.[/two_third][one_third_last]
“But if they ever do become more than a real factor in the business, De Beers might be tempted to reverse its plans.”
And of course it would be a formidable player. De Beers not only knows how to mass-produce synthetic diamonds, it’s actually done it (which not every company making noise in this sector can say). It has a research institute that understands the science behind, and has produced, synthetic gems; and it understands the diamond market and, most importantly, diamond marketing. Company officials have even said privately, “We could do synthetics better than anyone.”