Industry initiatives for responsible sourcing and supply chain integrity came under the spotlight at the JCK Las Vegas show on Thursday. The problem, many sessions concluded, is that people don’t know about the tremendous strides the industry is making in this regard.
That became all too apparent as one of the “JCK Talks” panels debated whether Lab-grown diamonds are a “threat or opportunity” for the natural diamond trade. While the lab-grown industry is marketing itself as an ethical alternative to natural diamonds, the undertone is that the natural diamond trade is not ethical.
Maarten De Witte, master diamond cutter at Diamond Foundry, a California-based producer of lab-grown diamonds, stressed the perception among consumers about the natural industry is negative given the conflict diamond issue and the environmental damage the mines cause. For that reason, he said, millennials in particular are interested in the Foundry, where currently “demand is far outstripping supply.”
They don’t necessarily ask about conflict diamonds when buying a diamond. But because they’re aware of it, they’re very interested in the lab-grown story, he explained.
Jean Marc Lieberherr, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Diamond Producers Association (DPA), argued for the ethics of the natural trade. He stressed the mining companies are working with communities affected by their operations to provide jobs, social programs and ensure minimal environmental damage results from the mine.
He disputed that lab-grown – or synthetic – diamonds have an “ethical” selling proposition over natural stones. Rather, consumers are being drawn to lab-grown diamonds because of price, Lieberherr said. De Witte argued the lab-grown industry can make a claim of responsible production the natural diamond industry can’t necessarily make.