Creating diamonds out of thin air

New Delhi (IANSlife) It sounds like alchemy: taking the lightest thing on earth – air – and turning it into one of the earth’s hardest diamonds. Pooja Sheth, the Founder and Managing Director of Mumbai-based Limelight Lab-Grown Diamonds – India’s leading luxury brand creates handcrafted lab-grown CVD diamond jewellery. She has been keeping the romance of diamonds alive, as well as ensuring the health of the planet-two gifts in one.

The idea of investing in diamond jewellery has drastically changed over the past few years. Consumers now seek not only aesthetics and rarity in their jewels but also an assurance that they are ethically sourced. Lab-grown diamonds (LGD) are slowly gaining ground in India, pulling in the younger generation with their mix of technology, lower price, and eco-friendly tag. Less harsh on the environment and at least 50 per cent cheaper, they are increasingly finding favour among consumers, especially millennials looking for greener and affordable options.

LGDs are not imitation diamonds, as cubic zirconia or moissanite are. CVD diamonds are 100 per cent real diamonds that are grown by replicating the diamond creation process that occurs below the surface of the earth, bearing the exact same composition, properties, and characteristics. They are composed of 100 per cent carbon and are nitrogen free. It has more shine and brightness than a mined diamond.

With the support of erstwhile royals such as Maharani Radhika Raje Gaekwad of Baroda, Rajkumari Alka Rani Singh of Pratapgarh, Jema Akshita Manjari Bhanjdeo of Orissa, and several others, the brand has quickly become a brand to reckon with, since its launch in 2019 at the Laxmi Niwas Palace in Baroda. A number of celebrities, including Gauhar Khan, Divyanka Tripathi, Debina Bonnerjee, Yuvika Chaudhary, and Nauheed Cyrusi, have also sported their pieces.

Pooja Sheth speaks with IANSlife about the growing popularity of lab grown diamonds.

Read Excerpts:

The popularity of lab diamonds is growing, what is the reason for this?

Pooja Seth: Lab-grown diamonds are gaining popularity, mainly because they are the same as mined diamonds. They are absolutely real and are grown above ground in labs by exactly replicating the diamond creation process that occurs below the earth. As a result, they have the exact same carbon composition, chemical, thermal, and physical properties as a mined diamond.

This is similar to the concept of test-tube babies and naturally born babies where the process is different but the output is exactly the same. In the same way, lab-grown diamonds are identical to mined diamonds and also grow in different sizes and qualities, so they have the same 4C’s too – same cut, colour, clarity, and carat.

In addition to this, the biggest benefit of lab-grown diamonds is that they are better for the environment simply because they are not mined. They are grown above in labs in exactly the same manner and, therefore, do not involve digging 150 km below the earth to extract the diamonds. As a result, it saves on the huge destruction of land and water that is associated with mining. Besides, many labs that consume electricity have begun switching to renewable sources or have additional sustainable benefits.

Reports indicate that 1 carat of lab-grown diamond can save up to 250 tonnes of land and 109 gallons of water. At present, the world consumes over 100 million carats of mined diamonds annually, so one can only imagine the damage that diamond mining causes and the savings one can make by opting for lab-grown diamonds, where the consumer doesn’t compromise on quality at all, but at the same time saves the planet and its people.

Moreover, because lab-grown diamonds are not mined, they save on the mining costs too. As a consumer, the majority of the cost paid to purchase a mined diamond is the cost of mining and extracting it from below the earth. The lab-grown diamond technology eliminates the need for mining. And this savings is passed on as a benefit to the consumer. As a result, lab-grown diamonds are at least 50 percent cheaper than mined diamonds.

When it comes to investment purposes are lab diamonds worth looking at or should they be treated as an indulgence?

Pooja Seth: Lab-grown diamonds can and are viewed in the investment category just like mined diamonds. This is primarily because it offers the same resale opportunities where brands like Limelight Diamonds offer the same buyback and exchange offers as offered on any precious gem stone in the market. In addition to this, the perception of diamond jewellery and consumer preferences for purchasing diamond jewellery are changing rapidly in India. More than investments, preference is now tilting towards the design and aesthetic value of jewellery.

The younger generation with their choice of technology, preference for value for money, and an eco-friendly attitude are increasingly opting for lab diamonds. Why is this and do you feel this will influence older members in their families?

Pooja Seth: The perception of diamond jewellery and consumer preferences for purchasing diamond jewellery are changing rapidly in India. More than investments, preference is now tilting towards the design and aesthetic value of jewellery.

While the US has seen the biggest shift in consumers so far-a recent survey suggests that 70 per cent of millennials would consider buying a lab-grown diamond-India is also rapidly joining the trend.

A recent Deloitte report on Millennials in India stated that climate change and the environment have become the No. 1 priority or concern for them. Statistics also state that these millennials are willing to pay a 44 per cent premium for sustainable products and materials. With the largest millennial population in India today of 410 million people-a population bigger than the entire population of the US-this, for me, was an opportunity that was certainly not worth letting go of.

They remain extremely brand-conscious and support brands not just for the product, be it for jewellery or anything else, but also for the philosophies and values that the brand stands for and are willing to pay a premium for brands that endorse an ethical or sustainable product. Like in everything else, they are looking for ethical, sustainable, and affordable alternatives in precious jewellery too.

Lab diamonds are less harsh on the environment and at least 50 percent cheaper, why are people in India still hesitant to dive into the CVD craze?

Pooja Seth: Awareness about lab-grown diamonds is spreading fast in India. Consumers are now more educated about these non-mined diamonds and how they are grown in labs but remain 100 per cent real. The unique and independent personality of lab-grown diamonds as a sustainable and environmentally friendly yet extremely affordable gemstone is being well accepted by millennial consumers and is increasingly reflected in the sales of lab-grown diamond studded jewellery across India. Moreover, lab-grown diamonds also have resale opportunities, with brands like ours offering 80 per cent buyback and 100 per cent exchange opportunities. This, together with its economic and environmental benefits, is proving to be successful in attracting millennial brides.

When it comes to coloured diamonds, should LAB grown coloured diamonds be the first option?

Pooja Seth: When it comes to any diamond, lab-grown diamonds should always be the first option.

Which of the 4 Cs is the most important?

Pooja Seth: All the 4c’s are extremely important, but usually the most important and the most attractive thing is always the size of the diamond, i.e., the carat size of the diamond. After that comes the clarity, colour, and lastly, the cut.

In addition, there is a 5th C, which is equally important: classification. Most mined diamonds come with nitrogen impurities that affect and reduce the shine and brightness of a diamond. Only 2 per cent of the world’s mined diamonds are nitrogen free and classified as Type IIa. These diamonds are purely carbon-composed and have a significantly better shine and lustre.

Interestingly, all lab-grown diamonds produced through the CVD process are devoid of nitrogen impurities, and therefore, 100 percent of CVD diamonds are classified as Type IIa. Their shine, lustre, and brightness are far superior to the traditional mined diamonds with nitrogen impurities. All Limelight Diamonds are Type IIa.

Limelight has managed to spread its wings in India with 15+ retail partners and 30+ associate partners having presence in Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Delhi and Chennai. It has seen 60 per cent year-on-year growth despite a lull during the first lockdown. They also have a global presence through their digital channels.

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