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The future of synthetic diamonds may seem bleak but it cannot be completely written off
A natural diamond is the only diamond, but the silent synthetic revolution cannot be brushed under the carpet observes Vijetha Rangabashyam
By: Diamond World News Service
Mar 11 2017 2:03PM
Reference: 13984  

CVD-grown cut and polished synthetic diamonds
CVD-grown cut and polished synthetic diamonds
The curious case of CVD (chemical vapour deposition) more commonly known as ‘synthetic’ diamonds still remains curious. Their composition may be born out of pure science and may be clear-cut (no pun intended!) to understand, but their viability in the market still seems to be extremely murky. Much has been discussed about CVDs – they have successfully infiltrated the ‘natural’ diamond market much to the industry’s dismay. Jonathan Kendell, President of IIDGR says, “There are very few synthetic diamonds in the pipeline today. If a retailer sells one piece of jewellery with one small diamond, that is the end of their reputation. There is no consumer demand for synthetics which is why they are coming into the pipeline undisclosed.”

In September 2015, Bharat Diamond Bourse (BDB) reprimanded the traders and manufactures who dealt in synthetic diamonds, ousting a handful of them to a different venue. Their support till date has been with the natural diamond manufacturers - something as pure as diamond, is a thing of rarity and has to have come from beneath the earth after being there for eons, and the very idea of simulating it in a laboratory is nothing short of blasphemy. But in reality, these synthetic diamonds, initially created for industrial purposes cost 40 per cent lesser than the natural ones.

The synthetic market of other precious gems like rubies and emeralds is thriving and today it is way bigger than its natural counterpart, but the same can’t be said about diamonds. Manufacturers maintain their pessimism; they say that the production cycle of a synthetic diamond is time consuming, which causes the prices to fluctuate making the market rather volatile. Recently, around 15-20 synthetic diamond units shut down and only 15 players around the world were seen selling these lab-grown diamonds in the recent Hong Kong Show in March.

“Manufactures are opening up new units to produce synthetic diamond is an odd thing because there is no demand. How are they going to create this demand? First of all, they need hundreds of millions of dollars to create a new category,” Jonathan adds. It was not until 2013 that the world’s largest (1.29 ct), whitest E color, VVS2, emerald-cut diamond was produced by Pure Grown Diamonds (Gemesis). Even with that technological advancement, the CVD manufacturers are in no position to sell these diamonds at the same price at which a synthetic emerald or ruby could be sold. So, even with the competitive pricing and improved distribution, synthetic diamond market may not see the light of day, not tomorrow anyway.

So what’s the catch then? Asia Pacific remains to be the largest market for synthetic diamonds “due to increase in end-use applications in the region” and accounted for more than 50 per cent of the global synthetic diamond market in 2014 reports Transparency Market Research. The increase in demand has given rise to many a laboratory which are indeed doing path breaking work in manmade diamond that is so difficult to differentiate from the natural ones. One such start up synthetic diamond laboratory is LA based Diamond Foundery founded by Martin Roscheisen which has garnered about $100 million in funding and is backed by the likes of Leonardo Dicaprio. Manmade diamonds might account for a mere 1 per cent of this glamorous $14 billion industry but companies like Diamond Foundery are certainly on the rise.

To the optimists who are enraptured by the sheer genius behind man-made diamonds, creating diamonds in the lab of such high quality, perfect colour and clarity is no easy feat. It is not as simple as procuring synthetic crystals in the market or purchasing the necessary equipment. The process needs precision with several scientists being involved at the same time and the amount of time and research that goes into creating such diamonds is enormous, not to mention the operational costs. The stone may not have soiled in the earth for millions of years but the process of creating diamonds in the lab is still very complex.

The truth is, globally, the economy is going through a phase of turmoil and the luxury goods market is facing the brunt of this crisis and diamonds aren’t getting any special treatment. Moreover, the excessive production of diamonds as witnessed in the past few years has added fuel to the fire. In a report furbished by Morgan Stanley, diamonds feature way below iron ore, steel, coal and aluminum in the list of most preferred commodities. All this has given rise to a general apathy amongst the buyers in the industry and in turn has opened a substantial window of opportunity for the synthetic diamond market.

Today the demand for synthetic diamonds comes from the environmentally and ethically conscious customer – predominantly the millenials who believe in buying diamonds with just a click. The young ones believe in questioning and one of the very pertinent questions they are asking is, “Where is my diamond coming from?” While the purchase of a diamond at large is still sentimental and needs to be one of a kind for the consumer, buying a conflict diamond is harder on the conscience today than it was a few years ago. And for those who can’t afford a natural diamonds, price trumps provenance any day.

However, at present, no jewellery retailer is subscribing to CVD studded jewellery. Until there is a constant demand in the market from the ultimate buyer (customer), lab-grown diamonds will continue to be sold as natural diamonds, which is causing havoc within the industry. It is true that people want to buy ethical diamonds and the price is a factor, but when it comes to diamonds, most of us still want the real deal. So, is a thriving market for such lab-grown diamonds even a possibility? Only time will tell.

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