World's Largest Diamond Miner, De Beers, to Begin Selling Lab-Created Stones

Lab grown diamonds SPLIT Graphic- Publicity- H 2018
Courtesy of Lightbox

Under the newly created Lightbox label, man-made gems come with a transparent approach to pricing and purchase.

If you’ve ever longed for a pair of princess-cut pink diamond studs, but you experience sticker shock over the price of fancy-colored diamonds, Lightbox Jewelry is offering an alternative you may not be able to refuse.

On Tuesday afternoon in New York, De Beers announced the launch of Lightbox by Element Six, a new company that will start selling lab-created diamonds this September, aimed at millennials who may want man-made diamonds for social, ethical or economic reasons. The move was a stunning about-face for De Beers, which controls 30 percent of the world's supply of mined stones and had vowed to never get into artificial stones, and seemingly an acknowledgement of the momentum of the trend of sustainability in the luxury market.

Lightbox will kick off the collection with earrings (singles and doubles) and necklaces only, each decidedly delicate in styling, and will feature synthetic diamonds in three colors – white, blue and pink – and two cuts: round and princess. Each gem will be set in either sterling silver or 10-karat rose gold.

Stones will be available in four sizes – ¼ carat, ½ carat, ¾ carat and 1 carat – with pricing starting at $200 and topping out at $800 for jewelry featuring single 1-carat synthetic diamonds. Accent details, such as a “halo” of smaller diamonds surrounding a larger stone on a pendant, will cost extra. Additional designs and categories, including rings and bracelets, are expected to follow the initial offerings.

The timing of Tuesday’s preview was not accidental. While Lightbox initially is planned to be sold via e-commerce, the concept also will be shown at the annual JCK jewelry trade show kicking off in Las Vegas today, with conversations scheduled with brick-and-mortar retailers to possibly move the collection into select stores ideally in time for the fourth-quarter holiday season. 

In the past, lab-created diamonds have created confusion among consumers – who understandably question why a synthetic stone might cost the same or similar as a genuine diamond – as well as guarded ambivalence among jewelers who pride themselves on offering high-quality genuine stones. With sustainability also becoming a larger conversation at all pricing levels of jewelry, Lightbox, via its sizing and pricing structure, seeks to simplify the process for purchasing man-made gems. Yet the company will avoid two categories in particular: bridal jewelry, and engagement rings in particular, as well as diamonds larger than 1 carat.

“We see this as fashion jewelry perfect for gifting on those occasions that may not demand that big, important purchase: a birthday that isn’t a milestone, for example, or perhaps Valentine’s Day,” says Sally Morrison, a veteran De Beers executive, who is overseeing marketing for Lightbox. Travel jewelry, an increasingly popular category that allows you to bring sparkle on a trip without worrying about genuine pieces being misplaced or stolen, is another target for Lightbox’s efforts, Morrison notes.

While De Beers is backing the effort, don’t expect to see its name on any of this collection’s branding efforts. All packaging and advertising will emphasize Lightbox, and true to that imagery, each purchase will be presented in an elegantly simple white box with a transparent top, to both display the jewelry and drive home the lighthearted, no-nonsense approach of the line's jewels. As one PR person at Tuesday’s event put it, “Heavy velvet boxes just didn’t feel right for this; it’s much more fun and not to be taken so seriously.”