De Beers Will Offer Synthetic Diamonds — But There's A Catch

Though the pieces will be more affordable, you shouldn't expect to find a cheaper engagement ring among them.

De Beers is widely known for dominating the diamond market and supporting traditional mined jewels over synthetics. It was the company that popularized diamond engagement rings with its "A Diamond Is Forever" campaign in the 1940s.

However, now De Beers is leaning the other way and stepping into the lab-grown diamond business. It recently announced the creation of Lightbox Jewelry, which will begin selling pieces in September. Read on to see what you can expect.

Lab Diamonds Are Getting More Popular

Synthetic diamonds are nothing new — they've been around since the 1950s, although those earlier ones were primarily used for industrial cutting and polishing. Gem-quality diamonds didn't come around until the 1970s and 1980s. Since then, lab-grown gems have only increased in popularity. We've covered synthetic diamonds before, as many consumers began looking into them as an ethical alternative to mined diamonds and allegedly conflict-free diamonds.

SEE ALSO: Everything You Need to Know About Synthetic Diamonds

Lightbox Jewelry Is Less Pricey

Lightbox's lineup is marketed more for everyday wear and "lighter moments" than serious occasions, such as proposals or weddings. However, these pieces are still quite expensive. Each quarter carat will set you back $200, meaning a 1-carat set of earrings will cost at least $800. And settings up the price even more, adding $100 to $200 to the final cost. Ultimately, these aren't "cheap" pieces, but compared to De Beers' normal range of jewelry, they're cheaper alternatives.

You Can't Put a Ring On It

If you were hoping Lightbox would be a way to score a cheaper engagement ring, you're sadly out of luck. The line is focused on "moments, not milestones," and suggests its baubles are perfect for prom, Sweet 16, beach days, and even everyday wear. It'll be comprised of earring and necklace designs made with pink, blue, and white diamonds, but there's no mention of rings of any kind.

De Beers Has a Change of Heart

Two years ago, De Beers was part of the "Real Is Rare" campaign, which promotes mined diamonds over their synthetic counterparts. The company explains the reversal as just a response to customer demand, but the FAQ page on Lightbox's website suggests there's more to it. There, it states that the process to create synthetic diamonds "is different from nature" and that synthetics "are neither as valuable or precious, [but] they are just as sparkly, just as hard."

De Beers is ensuring Lightbox's diamonds won't be mistaken for traditional ones, as every diamond over one-fifth carat will be laser engraved with the Lightbox logo.

That language strongly implies The New York Times is right in its assessment of the situation when it notes, "De Beers clearly aims to be a dominant player in this growing market, while simultaneously protecting its core business."

De Beers is also ensuring Lightbox's diamonds won't be mistaken for traditional ones. Every diamond over one-fifth carat will be laser engraved with the Lightbox logo, although it should be invisible to the naked eye. This means consumers won't be able to pass the stones off as mined gems if they try to sell them to a jeweler.

It Undercuts the Competition

Lab-grown diamonds aren't massively more affordable than traditional diamonds, but are said to be about 30% to 40% cheaper. However, De Beers is seriously undercutting the competition with Lightbox to the tune of approximately 75%.

SEE ALSO: Here's Why Conflict-Free Diamonds Are a Hoax

Lightbox's simple pricing structure means a 1-carat pendant will be $800, plus another $100 to $200 added on for the setting. By comparison, a similar pendant at a competitor could cost around $800 for a two-fifths carat diamond in an even simpler setting. Another vendor sells a comparable-looking pendant for $500 — but the diamond is three-tenths of a carat.

While the competitors include notes about clarity and color, Lightbox doesn't, at least at this time. In fact, the listings seem to treat these pieces almost like costume jewelry, with a simple color to choose from (white, pink, or blue) and a setting material (sterling silver or 10 karat white gold). As of this writing, you won't find mentions of clarity or color, beyond the basic choices. And don't expect a certification, either. Lightbox says its diamonds are "all high quality" and therefore "don't need certificates to describe them."

Readers, would you get diamond jewelry from Lightbox? What do you think about synthetic diamonds in general? Let us know in the comments below.

Julie Ramhold
Senior Staff Writer/Consumer Analyst

Julie's work has been featured on CNBC, GoBankingRates, Kiplinger, Marketwatch, Money, The New York Times, Real Simple, US News, WaPo, WSJ, Yahoo!, and more. She's extolled the virtues of DealNews in interviews with Cheddar TV, GMA, various podcasts, and affiliates across the United States, plus one in Canada.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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Or, you could ignore DeBeers altogether and buy a synthetic from any number of other companies that generate them and not worry about it.
How interesting. And, there's such a simple way to get that engagement ring you want. Simply purchase a one carat synthetic stone in the cheapest mounting available, then remove it and have a jeweler mount the stone in a four- or six-prong solitaire setting (or, something more elaborate if you desire). Spent over 20 years in the fine jewelry business and the best deals are on the secondary market (craigslist, etc.) for the best value. A carat of diamonds (not solitaires, mind you) usually sells for around $200. Solitaires obviously vary according to the four C's...carat, color, cut and clarity. But they're usually around 25 to 30 per cent of retail. Happy shopping!