Rapaport Magazine

Rapaport Town Hall Debates Synthetics

An open discussion on lab-grown diamonds.

By Shuan Sim
Rapaport broached the topic of lab-grown diamonds at the Rapaport Breakfast, and followed up the discussion at the Rapaport Town Hall meeting the next day. The highly animated open roundtable, moderated by Martin Rapaport, brought together proponents and opponents of lab-grown diamonds and allowed for fears, concerns and explanations regarding the topic to be aired.
   “We should stop throwing rocks at each other,” said Thomas Chatham, CEO of Chatham Diamonds. He agreed that the natural mined diamond industry is undergoing a slump but natural diamond dealers attacking lab-grown diamond supporters as disingenuous would not change the industry’s stagnation.
   Points that proponents raised as they tried to dispel what they saw as misconceptions of lab-grown diamonds include:
  • Lab-grown diamonds can fill shortages in supply where natural mined diamonds could not always deliver.
  • Retailers should not pass judgment on what jewelry consumers want. If consumers demand lab-grown diamonds, retailers should fulfill that demand.
  • The scale of lab-grown diamonds is currently so small that it does not have the negative impact on the natural mined industry that opponents claim there is.
  • Lab-grown diamonds simply have a better profit margin, benefiting retailers who feel that as long as everything is adequately disclosed, the sale of lab-grown diamonds is not dishonest.
  • Pricing of lab-grown diamonds is not solely pegged to the cost of production, but is also determined by the levels that consumers will bear.
   Opponents were not convinced, and their concerns focused on dishonest players and pricing uncertainties:
  • Lab-grown diamonds, being a man-made product, have the potential for unlimited supply, which undermines the value of the product.
  • The seemingly low barrier to entry could spell a situation where producers in China could keep growing diamonds endlessly, flooding the market.
  • Even if lab-grown diamonds were inscribed and disclosed, dishonest players could always easily polish off the inscriptions and pass off these diamonds as natural.
  • Confidence in the melee market today has been shattered as many in the diamond industry view all parcels they accept with inherent suspicion about the mixing of natural diamonds with lab-grown stones. Opponents of lab-grown diamonds fear a similar trend for larger stones should the lab-grown diamond trade grow.
   As technology improves, it must only be logical that the cost of production would decrease, thereby leading to successively falling prices of lab-grown diamonds and subsequently undermining prices of natural diamonds.
  At the conclusion of the Town Hall event, many opponents of lab-grown diamonds did not seem to be dissuaded from their original stance. However, both sides agreed that the discussion was fruitful and that being able to hear what disagreeing voices had to say was valuable. 
   “I think it is great that those who oppose lab-grown diamonds finally have a chance to hear what we are about,” said Lindsay Reinsmith, founder and chief operating officer (COO) of Ada Diamonds, a jeweler dealing only in lab-grown diamonds. “Very often they have their own views on the topic and would never have the chance to hear about the other side. They need to know we’re not out there to compete with them because we’re trying to cater to a different market,” remarked Reinsmith at the end of the discussion.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - July 2016. To subscribe click here.

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Tags: Shuan Sim