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Helzberg Reports Roaring Sales of 2ct. Lab-Growns

Mar 9, 2022 5:39 AM   By Joshua Freedman
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RAPAPORT... Helzberg Diamonds’ lab-grown products saw strong growth last year as the lower prices let consumers buy larger stones, according to the company’s CEO.

The 2-carat lab-grown diamond has become “the new 1-carat mined diamond,” Beryl Raff said in a panel discussion at the recent Dubai Diamond Conference.

“In 2021, we sold, in units, 50 times more 2-carat labs than we sold 2-carat mineds,” Raff continued. “That customer took the average ticket up with it: Where they would have been a $4,000 to $6,000 customer, they became a $7,000 to $9,000 customer, because the difference [in price relative to the size] is enormous.”

A spokesperson for the US jeweler declined to elaborate or provide sales data, but said the introduction of the synthetics category had “expanded the marketplace and opened it up for more consumers.”

Helzberg, which sells lab-grown for bridal and fashion jewelry, lists several 2-carat, man-made solitaires on its website for around $9,000. Many of these have a minimum color of I and a minimum clarity of SI2, according to the specifications on the page. By contrast, it lists a round, 1-carat natural-diamond engagement ring with “high” color and I1 or better clarity at $5,499.

Helzberg, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, began testing lab-grown around nine years ago, Raff said in the February 21 session titled “The New Consumer and Lab-Grown Diamonds.” While that didn’t initially work out, the company returned to the category later with a focus on the fashion segment.

“Intuitively, [fashion] made the most sense to us,” the executive recalled. “It has not turned out that way…As we tested bridal product, it way outperformed anything in our wildest imaginations — way outperformed fashion.”

Raff’s comments prompted a debate with Stephen Lussier, executive vice president for consumer markets at De Beers, which operates a synthetics line — Lightbox — alongside its core natural business. The US has just seen the strongest period of natural-diamond sales in history, Lussier pointed out, noting that the entire lab-grown industry was tiny compared with the mere growth in natural sales.

In addition, synthesis costs are falling while mining remains an expensive business, he said on the panel.

“You can get, at wholesale, a lab-grown diamond for $600, of good quality,” Lussier continued. “So for how long are you going to be able to sell it for $6,000?”

Image: Pieces from a new lab-grown collection created by designer Jenny Packham in partnership with Helzberg. (Helzberg Diamonds)
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Tags: Helzberg, Helzberg Diamonds, Joshua Freedman, lab-grown, lab-grown diamonds, retail, Synthetic diamonds, Synthetics
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