De Beers, which almost single-handedly created the allure of diamonds as rare, expensive and the symbol of eternal love, now wants to sell you some party jewelry that is anything but.
The company announced today that it will start selling man-made diamond jewelry at a fraction of the price of mined gems, marking a historic shift for the world’s biggest diamond miner, which vowed for years that it wouldn’t sell stones created in laboratories. The strategy is designed to undercut rival lab-diamond makers, who having been trying to make inroads into the $80 billion gem industry.
De Beers will target younger spenders with its new diamond brand and try to capture customers that have been resistant to splurging on expensive jewelry. The company is betting that it can split the market — with mined gems in luxury settings and engagement rings at the top, and lab-made fashion jewelry aimed at millennials at the bottom.
Unlike imitation gems such as cubic zirconia, diamonds grown in labs have the same physical characteristics and chemical makeup as mined stones. They’re made from a carbon seed placed in a microwave chamber and superheated into a glowing plasma ball. The process creates particles that can eventually crystallize into diamonds in weeks. The technology is so advanced that experts need a machine to distinguish between synthesized and mined gems.