I attend most international trade shows. Back in June, the Vegas show was the first we could attend post lockdowns and all attendees would have agreed it was an eye opener.
The diamond section at Vegas was vibrant with everyone enjoying the face to face interaction. But there was one very noticeable change – a new normal – lab grown diamonds were now occupying the same amount of space and energy as natural diamonds. On top of that, the lab grown and natural diamond sections were not far apart and both were lively.
Just now, at the Singapore trade show in September, this new normal was clearer than ever – our global diamond industry has monumentally shifted, forever. Lab grown diamonds have been completely accepted.
Some said lab grown diamonds wouldn’t last. They were wrong. Not only has this new category performed, it is soaring. Lab grown and natural diamonds coincide within a category that for generations only offered one option. At the Singapore show, lab grown and natural diamond exhibitors were equal in numbers and the activity across both sectors was the same. On some days, there was perhaps even more activity in the lab grown space. This, as I understand it, represents the late bloomers now getting started – a common trend as the trade starts to realise this new player is here to stay.
On more than one occasion, a substantial natural diamond exhibitor directed me across the hall to their lab grown diamond booth to attend a meeting. It is reasonable to say that, apart from a few individual operators, our diamond industry, from the top players down, see this as the new norm. Please don’t get me wrong, natural diamonds have their unique selling proposition, but lab grown has certainly been welcomed by most in the industry, bar a few who remain loyal to natural diamonds and the story they tell.
There’s a place for both lab grown and natural diamonds if one is transparent. This is a new and open environment where both lab grown and natural diamonds have their place at trade shows, in your shop window and in your client’s jewellery.
I wrote an article a year ago, about the acceptance of lab grown diamonds in our market. At the time, approximately three diamond merchants in Australia were offering lab grown consistently and it was early days for lab grown in Australia. Following that, I started my own informal survey. I asked a handful of jewellers selling lab grown diamonds in engagement rings to monitor their lab grown vs natural diamond sales, figuring that would be the best barometer to gauge how lab grown was developing over the year ahead.
One year later, almost every local Australian diamond merchant offers both lab grown and natural diamonds, some less keen to promote and drive lab grown but still offering it. The retailer’s feedback reflected, on average, six out of ten engagement rings sold incorporated lab grown diamonds.
Feedback from sales staff was as predicted: the younger generation, or today’s more modern consumers, are welcoming lab grown diamonds. The price/value proposition makes sense to them. Sales staff expressed enthusiasm around selling lab grown diamonds and they are now comfortable and confident selling them. In most cases, they are selling a bigger diamond, eye clean VVS or VS clarity, and higher colours. Clients are saying thank you with far less bargaining.
Perhaps consumer education is the most important driving factor in increasing lab grown sales. Most retailers mentioned how they explain the differences and let the customer decide how to spend their money. I am told retailers never see returns and clients understand what they are getting. Of course, many still have clients insisting on natural diamonds – if the customer wants natural diamonds, simply don’t discuss lab grown. Either way, with this new offering, diamond sales are up.
With international borders open and trade shows back, my biggest takeaway from the Singapore show was the acceptance of lab grown and natural diamonds globally, living together now in one ecosystem, more transparent than ever on all levels. The best part? Overall, the diamond category is growing, daily.