A Case for Sustainability
by Angie Ash, EVP
If you’re a retailer who’s worried about the impact of lab-grown diamonds on your overall diamond jewelry business, you’re not alone! Here’s how the message of sustainability can help.
Conflict-free diamonds have long been a topic of discussion and advocacy among fine retail jewelers, but it seems the biggest conflict we’ve seen lately in the industry is the battle between earth-mined diamonds and those that are lab-grown.
It’s no surprise that most retail jewelers are not on team lab-grown, at least when it comes to engagement rings. Although the gross profit from lab-grown diamonds sales is healthy, establishing their future value to consumers is venturing into muddy water. Not to mention retail jewelers know they’ll have to sell many more lab-grown diamonds to make up for the earth-mined diamond difference in price. But worst of all is considering the effect lab-grown diamonds in the marketplace will have on earth-mined diamonds in the not-so-distant future.
Lab-grown diamonds may check the boxes of being real diamonds, less expensive, and just as, if not more beautiful than earth-mined diamonds. However, they are certainly not more “green” or earth-friendly as they’ve positioned themselves to be. And this is where retail jewelers have a real opportunity to inform and correct consumers on the assumption that they are.
A March 29, 2019 article in JCK online, “Just How Eco-Friendly Are Lab-Created Diamonds,” reports that the “most efficient” diamond growers use 250 kWh per carat, which is equivalent to the amount of electricity the average U.S. household uses in eight days or the electricity to fully charge a Tesla two-and-a-half times. But most producers use 750 kWh per carat. Process that for a minute.
The article also reports that most lab-grown diamonds come from places where renewable energy is rare. In China, which tends to produce HPHT diamonds, at least half of the energy comes from coal. In India, the proportion of energy from coal is even greater. Few producers are certified sustainable or carbon-neutral.
A better, and truer way for jewelers to promote a sustainability message in their stores is to advocate for recycled diamonds, such as re-using diamonds from an old setting to create a new look. Not only does this save energy, reduce pollution, and conserve natural resources, but it also preserves the sentimentality of the original diamond. Even if a diamond needs to be recut to be used in a new setting, it still takes far less energy than growing a diamond in a lab. Young consumers are very familiar with not only recycling as they’ve known it but also buying second-hand, which they thoroughly embrace. This is also another excellent opportunity for retail jewelers with an estate jewelry component to their business.
With Earth Day just days in the rearview mirror, it’s time for retail jewelers to consider this important sustainability message in their future campaigns. Consider this your action item to answer the call of what future generations of engagement ring customers truly should be hearing and embracing.
Ready to move your retail jewelry business forward? Email email@example.com. We’d love to connect with you.