Diamond producers on the offensive against synthetic gemstones
today Nov 21, 2018
The world's eight largest diamond producers will invest €60 million in 2019 to promote the “unique” and “genuine” features of natural diamonds, at a time when synthetic gemstones are making their presence felt in jewellery stores.
In 2015, mining groups De Beers, Alrosa and Rio Tinto, which account for 75% of the world’s diamond output, set up the Diamond Producers Association (DPA), to promote the “authentic” characteristics of natural diamonds.
“We want to highlight the natural origins of diamonds, and also play down their ritualistic connotations, especially with younger people, who associate diamonds with their parents’ times, with weddings and engagements,” Jean-Marc Lieberherr, the President of DPA, told reporters in Paris on Tuesday.
Lieberherr said that, in 2018, the association spent €60 million in advertising and information campaigns, and that the same sum will be invested in 2019.
DPA members fear that diamonds may “lose their aura and relevance, especially with Millennials,” and “now that synthetic diamonds are on the market, we must differentiate our product,” added Lieberherr.
Artificial diamonds “have the same physical and chemical characteristics of natural diamonds. They have been utilised in the industry since the 1950s, but they have been used in jewellery production only from the last five years. To the naked eye, if they are quality stones, it is impossible to tell them apart,” he said.
The output of synthetic diamonds is estimated to be between 3 and 4 million carats, as opposed to 150 million carats for that of natural diamonds.
Only a few weeks are needed to produce an artificial stone, while a genuine diamond can be between one and three billion years old. According to the DPA, synthetic diamonds are sold at $800 per carat, while natural ones fetch about $7,000 per carat.
The DPA also claimed that the “environmental impact” of diamond extraction sites is “highly controlled,” and underlined that “the total area on which our mines extend is 40% of the surface area of the island of Manhattan, and no chemicals are used.”
According to Lieberherr, “the environmental claims” of the synthetic diamond industry “aren’t justified: CO2 emissions for one carat of natural diamonds are 200 kg, while those for some types of synthetic diamonds are up to around 280 kg.”
On the other hand, synthetic diamonds might benefit from the looming slump in natural gemstone production: two thirds of the diamonds currently extracted come from mines which have been active for over 30 years, and “no significant new mine has been discovered for 20 years.”
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