Editors

We Need to Change the Way We Talk About Lab-Grown Diamonds

EditorsMay 11, 2021

We Need to Change the Way We Talk About Lab-Grown Diamonds

As Pandora moves away from mined diamonds, here’s why the conversation needs to shift from personal preference to consumer education.

Pandora announced last week it would move from natural to lab-grown diamonds, causing a stir in the diamond world. Associate Editor Lenore Fedow delves into the importance of consumer education in the wake of the news.
As a newcomer to the jewelry industry, clocking in about two years and change, I’ve found it helpful to sit back and listen to the experts rather than jumping in blindly with an uninformed opinion.

But some things just need to be said, like this: I do not want to hear another word about lab-grown versus natural diamonds.

Not another panel, webinar, think piece, or article. Minus this one, of course.

“That’s a strong take,” you might say. “It’s an important topic that needs to be talked about.”

I offer you a counterpoint. No, it does not. At least, not in the way we’ve been talking about it.

The “which is better” discourse has been run straight into the ground.

Consumers are going to like what they like and jewelers, as retailers, should act accordingly or risk losing customers.

The narrative needs to shift away from preference and a sentimentality for natural gemstones to transparency and consumer education.

If a consumer is presented with all of the facts and chooses a lab-grown diamond, then that’s that.

But if the waters are muddied and consumers are ill-informed about the differences between the two, that’s a problem for the whole industry.

I bring this topic up in the wake of Pandora’s recent announcement it was moving away from natural diamonds to lab-grown diamonds, a move it framed as part of its push for sustainability.

The news, particularly the sustainability angle, ruffled some feathers and had several notable names in the industry talking.

A letter from the Responsible Jewellery Council, the World Diamond Council, CIBJO (the World Jewellery Confederation), the Natural Diamond Council, and the International Diamond Manufacturers Association went so far as to ask Pandora for a retraction.

The groups accused Pandora of pushing “potentially false and misleading assertions” that could diminish consumer confidence in natural diamonds.

Pandora did not respond to National Jeweler’s request for comment on the letter.

The letter also stated, “The misleading narrative created by the Pandora announcement implying the natural diamond industry is both less ethical and the impetus behind Pandora’s move to lab-grown diamonds, particularly given the inconsequential amount of diamonds Pandora features in its collections, can have unintended but substantial consequences on communities in developing nations.”

There are a few points worth addressing here.

The impact of this decision will likely be minimal.

As the letter notes, Pandora is not a diamond jewelry company. It sells a small number of products with diamonds, yes, but diamonds are not what you think of when you think of its brand.

Pandora no longer using mined diamonds will not have the effect on the industry, or on demand for diamonds, that the same decision by Tiffany & Co. or Signet Jewelers would.

 Related stories will be right here … 

Also, Pandora is not an industry trendsetter in the way, for example, Signet or De Beers is, so I don’t see other major jewelers following suit.

Whether the effects of this decision will trickle down to the mining communities remains to be seen, but it is a possibility worth considering.

Cristina Villegas, director of mining at NGO Pact, shared her thoughts on Pandora’s announcement in a Twitter thread following the news, raising several interesting points.

She works with artisanal and small-scale miners, many of whom can provide traceable gold and diamonds, and wondered why Pandora wouldn’t choose to work with them instead of giving up on natural diamonds all together.

“I urge the company, and others considering this type of move, to stop saying it’s about ‘ethics.’ Please consider keeping the door open to worthy programs where you can continue to be a part of this important conversation and promote a better world for all.”

Clarity and transparency are key.

Saying something is ethical or sustainable does not make it so. You need to back it up.

The Federal Trade Commission was clear on this point when it sent letters to several lab-grown diamond companies in April 2019 that had made “unqualified claims” about their diamonds being eco-friendly and sustainable.

You can’t make these claims without having publicly available scientific evidence to support them, particularly if you want to make claims about something being carbon neutral.

Pandora’s new collection, “Pandora Brilliance,” has been certified as a CarbonNeutral product by The Carbon Neutral Protocol, a certification that covers the jewelry as well as packaging and transportation, so I’d say it’s covered that base.

However, to my point about consumers being informed, I don’t know if it’s clear to your average shopper what carbon neutral does—and doesn’t—mean.

I certainly didn’t know before I started covering the jewelry industry, and had to dig a bit into Pandora’s website to find this information.

Carbon neutral doesn’t mean the process of creating a diamond in a lab is more eco-friendly than the mining of a natural diamond. It means the greenhouse gas emissions associated with creating these diamonds are offset by Pandora giving support to a project that reduces carbon emissions or promotes sustainability.

Diamonds, whether natural or lab-grown, both take a toll on the environment, and it’s disingenuous to make a blanket statement that one is inherently “better” than the other for the environment.

Diamond miners make their mark on the natural environment while lab-grown diamond creators utilize massive amounts of electricity.

It really needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis, company by company.

That becomes increasingly difficult to do when transparency is lacking.

For all I hear from companies about how traceability and accountability are important, I rarely receive a straightforward answer when I ask companies where their lab-grown diamonds are being produced.

That’s not a knock at Pandora specifically, but a response I’ve gotten from several companies when I’ve inquired about which company is producing their lab-grown diamonds.

I can respect a trade secret, but it doesn’t help your transparency case.

It’s entirely up to the customer.

My overarching point is this: whether a company sells lab-grown or natural diamonds or both, you have to be straight with the consumer and then let them make an informed decision for themselves.

Pandora has been clear on what lab-grown diamonds are, describing them as, “physically, chemically, and optically identical to their mined counterparts but they are created above ground.”

I can sympathize with those saying the way Pandora framed the discussion, the emphasis on sustainability, is misleading, but I would caution against making mountains out of molehills.

The news made it past the trade press, reaching major news outlets and business journals, so I understand the worry about misinformation making its way to consumers.

But I don’t think one news story is going to forever change the way consumers view diamonds, particularly in a 24-hour media environment.

I’ve asked non-industry friends their thoughts on lab-grown diamonds and, for those who even know what I’m talking about, I get a resounding “I don’t know. Maybe I’d buy one.”

Education starts at home or, in the case of the jewelry industry, in the store. 

If you want to combat misconceptions about diamonds, natural or lab-grown, talk with your customers.

And, after that, can we talk about something else, please?

Lenore Fedowis the associate editor, news at National Jeweler, covering the retail beat and the business side of jewelry.

The Latest

AuctionsSep 27, 2022
In Betty White’s Blockbuster Estate Sale, Jewelry Held Its Own

Fine jewelry comprised three of the auction’s top 10 lots, though it could not top her director’s chair or scripts from “The Golden Girls.”

CrimeSep 27, 2022
3 Suspects in Beverly Hills Smash-and-Grab Robbery Arrested

A total of four suspects are now in custody with police still on the lookout for the remaining two.

ColumnistsSep 27, 2022
Creative Connecting: Fun Ideas for Holiday 2022 In-Store Events

From a “whodunnit” murder mystery to a permanent jewelry party, Duvall O’Steen and Jen Cullen Williams share a wealth of suggestions.

Brought to you by
6 Steps to Start a Dynamic Company Culture

Learn how to better serve your employees, customers and community by having a dynamic and supportive company culture.

MajorsSep 27, 2022
Stuller Releases 2 Updated Catalogs Ahead of the Holiday Season

“Mountings 2023-2024” and “Diamonds & Gemstones 2023-2024” offer a vast selection of options to create custom pieces.

Weekly QuizSep 22, 2022
This Week’s Quiz
Test your knowledge of the latest jewelry news with this quick test.
Take the Quiz
Events & AwardsSep 27, 2022
ICA’s 2023 Congress Will Be Held in Dubai

The event will be hosted by the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre from Feb. 15-17.

IndependentsSep 26, 2022
Roberson’s Fine Jewelry to Close After 42 Years

The store’s liquidation sale will showcase the mix of classic and unique jewels it’s known for stocking.

Brought to you by
Committing to an Ethical Diamond Business

While ethical mining is essential to a diamond business, they represent only a fraction of the responsibility bestowed on jewelers.

CollectionsSep 26, 2022
Go ‘Inside the Dream’ of Bulgari Via a New Documentary on Amazon Prime

It follows Creative Director Lucia Silvestri as she crafts the brand’s high jewelry collections.

Recorded WebinarsSep 26, 2022
Watch: What Jewelers Should Know About Insurance

From safeguarding showcases to appraisal liability, insurance experts Mark Devereaux and Andrew Chipman share insurance tips for jewelers.

TrendsSep 26, 2022
Vahan Collabs With Wolf on a Jewelry Box

It’s the first time in 50 years the brand has made something other than jewelry.

Events & AwardsSep 26, 2022
Texas Jewelers Association Rolls Out New Format for Design Competition

The competition takes place in tandem with TJA’s annual convention, known as the Texas Jewelers Roundup.

CollectionsSep 23, 2022
Pandora Reimagines Keith Haring’s Art in New Collection

The limited-run collection features figures from Haring’s iconic street art on charms, bracelets, rings, and more.

GradingSep 23, 2022
GIA Career Fair Returns to Carlsbad

The Gemological Institute of America also announced plans for events in New York and London in 2023.

SourcingSep 23, 2022
See the Items in Gem Legacy’s 4th Anniversary Benefit Auction

One hundred percent of proceeds will benefit the nonprofit’s silicosis prevention initiative.

CollectionsSep 23, 2022
Piece of the Week: Emily Weld Collins’ Amulet

Inspired by antique coins, it depicts a “hippocamp” from Greek mythology.

TrendsSep 22, 2022
There’s a New Book on Tiffany & Co.

Written by historian Vivienne Becker, it accompanies this summer’s Tiffany jewelry exhibition at London’s Saatchi Gallery.

Supplier BulletinSep 22, 2022
Using Commerce Data to Outshine the Competition in the Jewelry Industry

Sponsored by Bloomreach

SourcingSep 22, 2022
First Diamond Recovered From Burgundy’s Ellendale Restart

Burgundy also announced the retail launch of its diamond brand, Maison Mazerea.

Events & AwardsSep 22, 2022
JCK Industry Fund Now Accepting Applications

Organizations with a project or initiative aimed at bettering the jewelry industry are encouraged to apply.

Lab-GrownSep 21, 2022
An Updated Look at the Lab-Grown Diamond Market: Size, Pricing, and More

As the end of 2022 draws near, National Jeweler offers another deep dive into lab-grown diamond market data.

TrendsSep 21, 2022
These Are the Diamond Jewels to Stock for the Holidays

These trending-yet-timeless pieces are no-brainers for customers in search of the perfect gift.

SourcingSep 21, 2022
A Day in the Life: Daniel Namdar, Fancy Color Diamond Specialist

Namdar joins a long line of diamond experts, but his love of the trade was learned rather than inherited.

Lab-GrownSep 21, 2022
Looking Ahead: 4 Factors That Could Shape Lab-Grown Diamonds’ Future

Growing supply and falling prices likely will make differentiation a necessity and a reality, according to analyst Paul Zimnisky.

AuctionsSep 21, 2022
Egyptomania at Sotheby’s: See the Egyptian Revival Jewels Heading to Auction

The auction house is celebrating 100 years since the discovery of King Tut’s tomb.

MajorsSep 21, 2022
Claire’s Expands Walmart Partnership

The chain’s jewelry and accessories are now available in 2,500 Walmart locations.

Events & AwardsSep 21, 2022
Ethical Gem Fair Heads to NYC for the First Time

The event is slated for Oct. 20-22 at Brooklyn Metal Works.

×

This site uses cookies to give you the best online experience. By continuing to use & browse this site, we assume you agree to our Privacy Policy