By Michelle Graff
De Beers’ Lightbox lab-grown diamond jewelry is being marketed to consumers as fun fashion jewelry that women can buy for themselves or that can be given as gifts for high school graduations or a Sweet 16. Pictured at left in this Lightbox marketing image is some of the jewelry included in the initial collection.
London—Lightbox, the line of jewelry set with lab-grown diamonds from De Beers, will be available starting Thursday.

A marketing email dispatched Tuesday morning read “Your 48 Hour Countdown” at the top and invited consumers to “window shop while you wait” by previewing the line’s launch collection. There is also a launch countdown clock on the Lightbox Jewelry website.

The line is initially being sold online direct to the public.

Lightbox General Manager Steve Coe has said De Beers will do a “modest” brick-and-mortar trial run later this year and expand it over time; there has been speculation in the industry as to whether Signet Jewelers will be among the retailers to sell Lightbox.

The line, for now, is all fashion jewelry—pendants and stud earrings between 1/4 and 1 carat in size—and is targeted at younger consumers, with the marketing built around the idea that lab-grown diamonds are for slightly-less-special special occasions. They are for friends, not fiancées, as one De Beers executive put it, thereby setting them apart from the engagement ring business on which the diamond industry so heavily depends.

Lightbox man-made diamonds are available in pink, blue or white and are priced the same, regardless of color: $200 for a 1/4 carat; $400 for a 1/2 carat; $600 for a 3/4 carat and $800 for a 1-carat lab-grown stone.

The diamonds are being sold without grading reports because the diamonds are all “created to uniform specifications,” De Beers said, and so reports “have no bearing on either the product’s rarity or value,” though it is worth noting that selling diamonds without grading reports also helps to keep the cost down.

The prices do not include the setting. The man-made diamonds are being set in silver ($100) or 10-karat gold ($200).

Announced just before the Las Vegas jewelry trade shows, De Beers’ long-predicted foray into gem-quality lab-grown diamonds has sparked a flurry of commentary within the industry.

In launching the line, De Beers said its consumer research indicated buyers thoughts lab-grown diamonds were a “fun, pretty product that shouldn’t cost that much” and that it sees itself filling a void in the market for lower-priced diamond fashion jewelry.

It also noted Lightbox would be a “small business” compared to what De Beers sells in mined diamonds.

But longtime industry analyst Ben Janowski and journalist Chaim Even-Zohar—who said more than 10 years ago that De Beers would eventually sell man-made diamonds—both wrote that man-made diamonds are De Beers’ long game, and Lightbox is just the start.

The Anglo American-owned diamond company is looking to become the dominant producer and price-setter in the space, they wrote, and will eventually expand its offerings beyond a low-priced range of fashion jewelry, selling bigger man-made diamonds set into rings.

Much also has been written about De Beers’ pricing structure for Lightbox ($800/carat), which puts the company’s pieces well below what many other growers are currently charging.

Some, including a few retailers who attended a De Beers’ Lightbox lunch event in Las Vegas, praised the diamond giant for knocking down the price of man-made stones, which some feel are too high and, thereby, too close to the price of mined diamonds.

Some lab-grown diamond producers, however, have accused De Beers of predatory pricing.

A Bloomberg article published earlier this month stated that Tom Chatham, CEO of Chatham Created Gems and Diamonds, filed a complaint about De Beers’ lab-grown pricing practices with the Federal Trade Commission, though Chatham told JCK’s Rob Bates shortly after the article appeared that he would consider it a comment—not a formal complaint—and noted that more will be known about pricing after the line launches.

Element Six, De Beers’ industrial diamond arm, is making the stones used in Lightbox.

Initially, Lightbox jewelry will be set with diamonds from Element Six in the United Kingdom. Diamonds for future collections will come from a new, $94 million Element Six factory located just outside Portland, Oregon. Construction on the 60,000-square-foot facility is underway, with completion expected by 2020.

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