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De Beers to start selling laboratory-made diamonds

May 30 2018 07:35
Thomas Biesheuvel, Bloomberg

De Beers is moving to sell diamonds made in a lab rather than formed underground over billions of years.

The world’s biggest diamond miner for years vowed that it wouldn’t sell stones made in laboratories.

Now, it has U-turned on that pledge and will start selling laboratory-made stones for about $800 a carat, according to a memo sent to its customers and obtained by Bloomberg News.

While De Beers has never sold laboratory-made diamonds before, it’s very good at making them. The company’s Element Six unit is one of the world’s leading companies for synthetic diamonds, which are mostly used for industrial purposes.

It has also been producing gem-quality stones for years to help it tell the difference between natural and laboratory-made types and to reassure consumers that they’re buying the real thing.

While laboratory-made gems make up just a fraction of the $80bn global diamond market, demand is increasing as buyers look for stones that are cheaper. Retailers like Walmart have sold synthetic diamonds to customers seeking cheaper alternatives.

De Beers, a unit of Anglo American [JSE:AGL], will sell the lab-produced gems under a new Lightbox Jewellery brand to be started in the US later this year, according to the memo.

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