De Beers Breaks Ground on Diamond Growing Facility

SourcingJun 28, 2018

De Beers Breaks Ground on Diamond Growing Facility

It’s located outside Portland, Oregon, and is expected to be operational by 2020.

A rendering of the 60,000-square-foot Element Six facility now under construction in Gresham, Oregon. It will grow diamonds for Lightbox Jewelry, the De Beers company that will begin selling lab-grown diamond jewelry this fall.

Gresham, Ore.--De Beers has broken ground on the factory where it will grow diamonds for Lightbox, its new company that will sell fashion jewelry set with white, blue and pink man-made diamonds.

The $94 million, 60,000-square-foot Element Six facility will be located in Gresham, Oregon, a suburb located about 16 miles east of Portland.

Element Six is the arm of De Beers that has grown diamonds for industrial purposes for decades, but, as De Beers announced shortly before the jewelry trade shows in late May/early June, is moving into the manufacturing of gem-quality diamonds.

Element Six currently is headquartered in Maidenhead, United Kingdom. This will be its first U.S. facility to grow gem-quality diamonds, and De Beers has said Element Six will grow these diamonds for Lightbox only. (Element Six has industrial diamond factories in the United States already, in Santa Clara, California and Houston.)

The Gresham factory is expected to be completed by August 2019 and begin production the following year, with a capacity of 500,000 rough carats per year. It will employ 60 people, including engineers and technicians.

Lightbox Jewelry is slated to launch in September and is limited, at least for now, to fashion jewelry—simple pendants and diamond solitaire earrings with and without halos that will be sold as singles as well as in pairs.

A selection of Lightbox Jewelry, the lab-grown diamond pieces being produced by De Beers’ Element Six. The diamonds set in Lightbox Jewelry take about two weeks to grow.
De Beers is charging $200 for a piece of Lightbox Jewelry set with a 0.25-carat diamond; $400 for a half-carat diamond; $600 for 0.75 carats; and $800 for pieces set with a 1-carat man-made diamond. (The prices are the same no matter if the piece is set with a white, blue or pink diamond but don’t include the setting.)

At a lunch event held at the JCK Las Vegas jewelry trade show, De Beers executives and those working on Lightbox for the company said the jewelry line was developed to, first, communicate clearly what lab-grown diamonds are and, secondly, to “play in the accessories space,” meaning to compete with handbags, designer sunglasses, etc. for which consumers are spending $200 to $500.

De Beers is aiming to position Lightbox as a gift for special but not once-in-a-lifetime occasions, a gift to a young woman for her Sweet 16 but not an engagement (which, of course, De Beers think

should be marked with a mined diamond). They are, as they put it during the Lightbox presentation in Las Vegas, for “friends, not fiancées.”

Initially Lightbox Jewelry will be sold directly to the public through its website, though General Manager Steve Coe said at the Vegas event that the company will begin a “modest” brick-and-mortar store trial later this year, expanding that in 2019 and again in 2020, after the Gresham facility opens.

The presentation drew mixed reviews from audience members.

One woman said she felt De Beers was “screwing the retailer” by selling directly to the public while others applauded the company for knocking down the price of lab-grown diamonds, which some feel is too high in comparison to mined diamonds.
Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

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