The natural diamond trade should welcome the establishment of the International Grown Diamond Association (IGDA) announced last week even though it may actually serve as a wake-up call for the industry.
For years, the diamond-industry leadership bemoaned a lack of formal communication with their counterparts in the synthetic – or lab-grown – space to resolve issues that weigh down both sectors. Chief among the list of concerns is the threat of undisclosed synthetics being mixed into parcels of natural diamonds. Hopefully, the IGDA will provide such a forum.
In a recent email to Rapaport News, Ernie Blom, president of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB), stressed that the WFDB has no problem with the lab-grown diamond product as long as they are clearly disclosed. “Our overriding concern is that synthetics do not cause damage to consumer confidence,” he said. “They must be clearly marked and sold as such.”
One can only hope the IGDA will self-regulate as much as the natural diamond industry does, and incorporate the requirements for disclosure and documentation into its mandate. After all, a synthetic diamond found to be sold as a natural diamond also diminishes consumer confidence in its product.
For now, there is no indication that the IGDA will take on such a role. A spokesperson explained to Rapaport News that the group is not a policing body. “We are a group of like-minded people in the grown diamond industry and have formed the association based on certain best practice principles,” the spokesperson said. “All members would have to follow these and disclosure is a central part of this.”
In a statement February 4, the group outlined that it aims to represent the lab-grown diamond industry, promote grown diamonds as a new choice and educate customers about the unique qualities and applications of grown diamonds. The IGDA seeks to serve as the central point of communication, education, development and growth of the industry, the statement read.
In that sense, the natural diamond industry should take notice. As synthetic producers become more organized, so will awareness of their product. Ultimately, their aim is to increase market share in the diamond jewelry space.
Certainly, the appeal of synthetics is well known. They’re marketed as ethically-sourced and environmentally friendly gems, while arguing that natural diamond mining harms the environment and has a history of funding conflict and human rights abuses. Lab-grown diamonds are also more affordable than their natural counterparts. The IGDA might also argue that synthetics are a necessary product that will compensate for the expected long-term decline in natural diamond supply.