1 August 2018
De Beers Group is disrupting the disruptors with its new Lightbox brand of lab-grown diamond jewellery launching this September. Through its prices, products and positioning, the brand aims to provide consumers with greater clarity on the differences between natural and lab-grown diamonds.
The September launch of Lightbox, its new fashion jewellery brand with lab-grown diamonds, is providing De Beers Group with an ideal platform to tackle pressing issues facing the diamond industry.
The Lightbox brand addresses consumer demand for fresh, affordable and colourful jewellery for more casual occasions, allowing De Beers to tap the fashion jewellery market and potentially drum up greater interest in diamonds as an aspirational product, the company said. Also, through a clear and transparent structure for prices, products and positioning, Lightbox is setting a clear demarcation between natural and lab-grown diamonds, and to a certain extent, within the lab-grown segment as well.
De Beers is no stranger to lab-grown diamonds – its Element Six business has been producing these for industrial use for over 30 years now. The establishment of subsidiary Lightbox Jewelry in late May to handle the new brand however marks the group’s first foray into the lab-grown diamond jewellery sector. Lightbox will be the only jewellery brand to source lab-grown diamonds from Element Six.
Lightbox offers white, pink and blue lab-grown diamonds in high-quality earrings and necklaces at prices significantly lower than current lab-grown players. Its pricing structure is simple and straightforward – a quarter-carat stone will retail for US$200, while a one-carat lab-grown diamond costs US$800. Consumers pay US$100 for silver settings and US$200 for 10-karat gold. The new fashion jewellery brand initially offers 50 items in classic solitaire styles.
Where natural diamonds traditionally commemorate milestones, Lightbox targets consumers looking to celebrate more light-hearted moments, and add colour and sparkle to their wardrobe, the company said.
“Lightbox will transform the lab-grown diamond sector by offering consumers a lab-grown product they have told us they want but aren’t getting; affordable fashion jewellery may not be forever, but it is perfect for right now,” said De Beers Group CEO Bruce Cleaver. “Our extensive research tells us this is how consumers regard lab-grown diamonds – as a fun, pretty product that shouldn’t cost much – so we see an opportunity here that’s been missed by lab-grown diamond producers.”
Cleaver noted that after decades of R&D investment, De Beers can now offer consumers better prices for its lab-grown diamonds. “While it will be a small business compared with our core diamond business, we think the Lightbox brand will resonate with consumers and provide a new, complementary commercial opportunity for De Beers Group,” he added.
Transparency and full disclosure are key pillars of the Lightbox brand. Through accurate and proper marketing, Lightbox intends to clear up any lingering market confusion on lab-grown diamonds that makes it difficult for consumers to make informed choices about their purchases, the company noted.
“Lightbox offers something new but distinct from natural diamonds. With its proposition of colourful and sparkly fashion jewellery at an accessible price, it will be the first company to offer consumers what they say they want from lab-grown diamonds,” said Steve Coe, general manager of Lightbox Jewelry.
In its branding and marketing strategies, Lightbox continually distinguishes between natural and lab-grown diamonds. Natural diamonds are graded to classify their rarity and value, but grading is meaningless in mass-produced items where each product in a batch is identical, the company remarked.
“Our product will be clearly identified as manmade, so there is no room for consumers to confuse it with natural diamonds. It will also have a straightforward approach to pricing that is consistent with the cost of production,” Coe said.
Lightbox will launch in the US and initially be available to US-based consumers through its ecommerce website, with retail partnerships to be announced later.
Trade reaction to the Lightbox launch has been mixed. Many expressed surprise at De Beers’ move – one it had, in the past, vehemently claimed it would never do. Some saw the development as inevitable, a strategy De Beers had to undertake to counter the moves of ever-encroaching lab-grown players. Others viewed it as a strategic decision on De Beers’ part to take control of the narrative and draw up the playing field on its own terms. Either way, industry players generally agreed that the Lightbox launch would help clear consumer confusion over lab-grown diamonds.
India’s Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) said De Beers' introduction of branded lab-grown diamond jewellery will drive product categorisation and differentiation between synthetic and natural diamonds. “Synthetic or lab-grown diamonds are a completely different product and cannot be compared to natural diamonds, which derive their value from being natural, precious and rare. (De Beers’ move) will also position real natural diamonds as unique, premium and luxurious,” it said.
Lightbox will likewise appropriately position synthetic diamonds as “non-precious accessories,” which is a small and distinct market, GJEPC continued. Moreover, the launch will have no impact on the demand, appeal and value of natural diamonds, it added.
Michel Fischler, president of Fischler Diamonds, said De Beers is doing the industry a huge, positive service by highlighting the wide gap between two different products. “De Beers has very clearly shown that natural and synthetic diamonds may seem similar but are in no way alike – one is real, the other is not. It has done this fantastically well. Furthermore, it has lowered the price of lab-grown diamonds so drastically for the first time to show what these are truly worth, compared to a natural diamond,” he commented.
The Diamond Producers Association (DPA) welcomed the structure and transparency De Beers is bringing to the lab-grown diamond segment. Jean-Marc Lieberherr, DPA’s CEO, said, “We are very confident that Element Six will set a new standard in disclosure and marketing of synthetic diamonds, which will in the end benefit consumers and bring much needed clarity to this new category. It is clear from the Lightbox positioning that they will market synthetic diamonds for what they are – low-cost pretty stones – and not for what they are not: Real diamonds – rare, precious and inherently valuable.”