Indian Lab-Grown Diamond Manufacturers Keep Growing

Stephen Rego

A combination of factors is driving growth in the industry despite the precipitous drop in prices across the board.

Mumbai—India, which has for long worn the mantle of the world’s largest manufacturer of polished natural diamonds, is well on its way to becoming the largest grower and manufacturer of lab-grown diamonds. 

The country’s growing capacity has increased in leaps and bounds, perhaps 10 times in about five to seven years, and polished exports have soared.  

Growth continued over the past year despite the major decline in lab-grown diamond prices, which fell as much as 70-90 percent in many categories, according to industry analysts. 

Smit Patel, a director of Greenlab Diamonds and organizer of the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council’s Lab-Grown Diamond Subcommittee, said, “The lab-grown diamond industry in India is clearly a rapidly expanding segment from whichever angle you look at it.  

“There is all-around positivity reflected in the significant rise in the number of lab-grown diamond growers and reactors, as well as in number of people employed by the cutting and polishing segment too.”  

Export data compiled by GJEPC underscores this.  

In 2023, exports of polished lab-grown diamonds increased by more than 50 percent in volume terms to 6.45 million carats (2022: 4.28 million carats), even as they dropped by almost 20 percent in value terms to $1.38 million (2022: $1.72 million).  

Imports of lab-grown rough followed a similar pattern.  

In 2023, imports of lab-grown diamond rough rose by 31 percent in volume terms to 31.7 million carats (2022: 17.7 million carats), while in value terms they fell by 24 percent to $1.12 billion (2022: $1.47 billion). 

It is widely acknowledged that most new entrants to the market had anticipated the price fall and factored it into their plans. 

“The price changes have brought the high-profit phase based on ‘low-hanging fruit’ to an end,” Patel said.  

“Yet, growth has continued as improvements in technology coupled with manufacturing at scale means that well-managed operations deliver satisfactory margins even at the lower price levels that now prevail.” 

Vijay Desai, a committee member of Surat’s Lab-Grown Diamond Association, said, “Lab-grown diamond manufacturing in India is primarily focused on gem-quality goods for jewelry, and this market has shown significant growth and enormous potential. The city has seen major investments over the last two to three years and there are at least 8,000 machines in operation today.” 

Manish Jiwani of Ecolight Diamonds, which set up a production unit in Mumbai a little over a year ago, pointed out that apart from Surat, there are also lab-grown diamond growers in Mumbai and Jaipur.  

Those associated with the industry believe that India currently has anywhere between 8,000 to 10,000 reactors, predominantly producing diamonds using the chemical vapor deposition, or CVD, process.  

This is double the 4,000 to 5,000 machines observers estimated were in operation about two to three years ago. 

This rising rough production (and increasing imports) is being easily absorbed by cutting and polishing units due to a decline in the output of polished natural diamonds.  

It is widely estimated that almost 90 percent of companies that earlier cut only natural diamonds have now entered the lab-grown diamond space.  

Larger players have bifurcated their units and shifted some part of capacity to polishing lab-grown diamonds while many smaller companies have moved their entire operation to lab grown.  

Nirav Jogani of Surat-based Lemon Consultech, a leading consultancy to the industry, said the lab-grown diamond industry has grown into a fairly distinct vertical.  

“It is no longer a small, dispersed industry. Consolidation has taken place and there are perhaps 10 or so major player groups, with many of the smaller investors aligned with one or the other,” he said. 

The decline in retail prices has not affected sentiment in India, Jogani pointed out.  

“Capacity is increasing. CapEx plans are usually drawn up with a horizon of two to three years, so investors do not react to short-term price changes.   

“Alterations do take place, so expansion that was planned for, say, a 12-month period may now be spread over a longer time span. Moreover, though the phase of runaway profits is over, current price levels still deliver reasonable margins. This and the enormous latent potential means that the industry remains bullish.” 

Kira Diam, which describes itself as the world’s largest grower of CVD lab-grown diamonds, has more than 2,000 reactors at its 700,000-square-foot facility in Surat, set up within the last year.  

Mehul Vaghani of New York based Kira Jewels Inc. said, “We maintain an inventory of over 20,000 certified stones which are available for overnight delivery to the U.S. and a total selection of over 75,000 stones from 0.18 carats to 15 carats, round to all fancy shapes in colorless to fancy color range.”  

The company will be launching its new jewelry line at the Las Vegas show this year. 

Greenlab, an early entrant to the lab-grown diamond segment and another of the larger players, said that it has had “impressive top-line figures” this year as demand is growing significantly.  

“The U.S. remains the largest market by far, but there are exciting developments in India, where we receive inquiries from new retailers almost every day, the Middle East and Far East,” Patel said.  

Greenlab, which already has a U.S. presence, has recently opened offices in Dubai and Hong Kong. 

Many believe the current figures reflect only a small portion of the market’s huge potential.  

In addition to the impact of inevitable improvements in technology, there are embryonic signs of maturity with some development of specialized niches.  

Patel said in Surat, there are units doing only smaller sizes and others that mainly do large, while a few are focused on special colors and cuts.  

All this remains mostly within the lab-grown diamond jewelry space.  

The next frontier could be the fashion accessories segment, Patel contends, “which the industry is just beginning to understand. Its requirements are totally different—large quantities of unique sizes, cuts, colors—and more than a few players are already involved in R&D geared towards this sector.” 

Jogani, who stressed that natural diamonds fit better into the luxury segment while lab-grown diamonds are more suited for the fashion jewelry space, pointed out that the industry has to undergo a major mindset change.  

“Lab-grown diamond manufacturers must not ‘mimic’ the natural diamond industry or focus on competing with it. It must become an independent pipeline and embrace innovation,” he said. 

Both Patel and Jogani also believe that industrial applications in electronics, mining, or high-end industries like space exploration are other areas with potential to drive growth in the future.  

Picture : Kira Diam, which bills itself as the largest grower of CVD lab-grown diamonds in the world, installed a 25 megawatt solar plant to power its growing operations. It is one of a number of Indian companies investing in the lab-grown diamond segment despite the stones’ declining price.

Source National Jeweler