Sustainability will Shape the Future of Diamond Industry, Says De Beers

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LONDON — When shopping for diamonds, customers are now considering a brand’s sustainability credentials as much as the product’s price and design, according to a new Diamond Insight Report published by the De Beers Group on Tuesday.

The report, which polled 8,400 people globally, found that more than 60 percent of consumers are now shopping across all categories with sustainability considerations in mind, particularly when it comes to food and clothing, followed by fine jewelry.

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The factors shoppers now consider when shopping for diamonds include protection of the environment; fair worker treatment; conflict-free sourcing; supporting local communities, and diamond origin. They are said to get their information from experts, the brands themselves and retailers, while the opinions of family, friends and social media rank lower on the influence scale.

The more emotive the occasion they are shopping for and the larger the carat weight they are prepared to pay for, the more sensitive customers become to a company’s social and environmental values, according to the report. It also highlights that more than 56 percent of consumers are prepared to pay a 10 to 20 percent premium for brands they consider responsible.

This means jewelers need to “place sustainability at the heart of their value proposition,” says the report, in order to “meet consumer expectations for the future” — and maintain their margins.

For the time being, demand remains robust with fine jewelry among the strongest performers during the pandemic. According to the report, in the first half of 2021 demand for natural diamonds grew 40 percent year-over-year.

“As is clear from this research, a tipping point has been reached — sustainability is no longer a trend that’s coming over the horizon; it’s already one of the key considerations in diamond purchases,” said Bruce Cleaver, chief executive officer of the De Beers Group.

“As a luxury product that is both unique to each individual and which holds deep emotional meaning, today’s consumers want to know that the diamond they have purchased aligns with their own values and has contributed to a better future for people and the planet — and they increasingly want evidence of this. The natural diamond industry has an impressive — if sometimes poorly understood — recent track record in creating immense and widespread benefits throughout the value chain, with ambitious sustainability commitments for the coming decade and beyond.”

Cleaver touted the company’s various sustainability efforts — such as supporting local mining communities, working toward becoming carbon neutral and executing large-scale conservation projects — as a strong foundation to build from and use to connect with the growing crop of conscious consumers.

But at the same time, a new generation of lab-grown diamond jewelers is second-guessing such sustainability claims by natural diamond brands and offering man-made alternatives produced with almost zero impact on the Earth.

“Coming from diamond-trading families, we’ve always been conscious of the industry’s impact on the planet and could never find satisfactory answers as to where a diamond comes from. A diamond can change hands 10 to 15 times, so it’s a non-transparent and untraceable manufacturing process,” said Jessica Warsch, cofounder of the young label Kimaï, which works exclusively with lab-grown diamonds, a niche sector that’s slowly starting to gain ground with Millennial shoppers.

De Beers also delved into the lab-grown business in 2018 with a new label dubbed Lightbox. But unlike Kimaï and its peers, which contend that lab-grown diamonds have the same qualities as natural ones, Lightbox products are marketed as lower-priced, fashion jewelry.

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