Q: Do you sell or plan to sell lab-grown diamonds in your store?
“This is a hot topic which was addressed in part at the recent AGS Conclave. Right now, we’re seeing the slight opening of the Pandora’s Box. The industry first saw the commoditization of diamonds with price controls and price listings. Now we have lab-grown diamonds. The GIA recently stated, in some recent batch testing of natural diamond melee parcels, some were showing a mixture of about 1 percent being lab grown. People may not be doing this purposely, but it is happening in the supply chain. And, when jewelers melt down scrap jewelry and float the stones and then re-purpose them, there are no checks and balances regarding how these [melee synthetics] go back into the system [supply chain]. I have sold synthetic diamonds in the past, but do not carry them as part of my inventory. In our market there are lots of advertisements for synthetic diamonds, so it’s a necessary evil we’ll have to deal with as customers that request them are shopping with cost savings as a motivating factor. To me the cost saving between a customer buying a synthetic diamond vs. a mined diamond is very similar to selling them a clarity-enhanced mined diamond to non-clarity-enhanced mined diamond. The savings to the customer is about the same. Do we try to dissuade people from buying a synthetic or clarity-enhanced diamond, no. But the retailer and his staff should present all options to the customer to honor their requests for such a product or to be in line with their budget.”
Mark Ettinger, co-owner
Waterford and White Lake, MI
“To date, I haven’t had one question or inquiry from a single customer on synthetic diamonds. During The SMART Jewelry Show in Chicago, I attended a one-hour session on this very topic, presented by Antwerp’s Diamond High Council. At the present time, I don’t see synthetic diamonds being on my customers’ radar for at least another year or so, especially in our market where we’re a few years behind coastal trends. For me, I’m open to the idea of synthetic diamonds because they are a reality. Rather than complain about something I have no control over, I have chosen to position myself as a diamond authority in my market and synthetic diamonds are and will be a part of that in the near future. Similar to Moissanite, if a customer wants an alternative, we’ll be more than happy to offer it to them, but my gut feeling is that when it comes to engagement rings, most women will still prefer a natural diamond.
Travis Piper, G.G. (GIA), owner
Piper Diamond Co.
“We’re definitely hearing more about synthetic diamonds from younger clients - mainly Millennials. Most of the issues for this demographic is mined diamonds and conflict diamonds. This age group still feels somewhat uncomfortable with environmental impact and conflict diamonds for well-known reasons. There are times when we’ll steer these customers to Moissanite or a center-set colored stone in their jewelry, but it would be a ruby or sapphire - a gemstone that can handle daily wear. For my customers from older generations, these aren’t issues influencing their diamond buying decisions. Alternatively, younger customers are also asking about older diamonds and gemstones. Also, synthetic diamonds do present a challenge to my business and that of other retailers, especially with appraisals, specifically when appraising gemstone-set jewelry. Bezel-set gemstones present a particular challenge in this regard. And, the presence of synthetic diamonds, as well as other factors, such as buying from the Asian market, continues to soften diamond prices. At this stage, these are my chief concerns about synthetic diamonds.”
Sara Commers, owner
Commers Custom Jewelers
“Very few customers have been asking about synthetic diamonds. It’s mostly a price matter, but there’s also the blood diamonds issue. In many cases, we associate synthetic diamonds with lab-grown rubies, sapphires and emeralds and they have not been very popular. We convey to customers that a gemstone formed in nature isn’t that much more money than a gemstone made in a lab. For those factoring blood diamonds into their buying decision, we offer assurances that the gem and jewelry industry has gone through great efforts and great expense to stop the selling of diamond from designated conflict countries. In those rare instances when people insist on lab-grown colored stones, we’ll order these gems for them. But when it comes to synthetic diamonds, I won’t do it. I don’t want our store to be known for selling those products. I’d rather lose the sale than sell a synthetic diamond. This decision may be a mistake in the future. At this time, I don’t see the wisdom in it. I’m 65 years old and have done this most of my life and I don’t plan on changing my mind on this topic any time soon.”
Everett Osborne, owner
“I’m in a high-end market that doesn’t even want heat treated colored gemstones, so synthetic diamonds I’m sure would never appeal to my customers. One of the main advantages of choosing a synthetic diamond over a diamond mined from the earth is saving roughly 30 to 40 percent. In my market, this isn’t a big consideration. But given the number of stories about synthetic diamonds, I recently ordered some lab-grown diamonds. I examined them carefully and found some internal characteristics that I know my customers would quickly identify. So I returned them right away. I’ve been in this industry a long time and the topic of synthetic diamonds taking market share of the diamond business has been discussed for many years. To be honest, I haven’t seen the threat. Perhaps with technology improving each year, the threat is more real these days. If that’s so, I don’t see this being an issue for another year or two with customers. And, synthetic diamonds will only appeal to certain customers. Still, mined diamonds have a story that a retailer can romance. What can you say about synthetic diamonds other then that they were grown in a lab and cost less? There’s not much romance in that.”
Dich Hoang, president
Adore Bijoux Jewelers, Inc.