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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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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%.
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.