In some eyes, “organic diamonds” retain a special shine, and jewellery marketing often focuses on the story of its gems. Has the synthetic lustre of manufactured diamonds started to outshine mined products?
The story of diamonds is inseparable from that of the De Beers Group, which is mostly owned by Anglo-American. The company built a near-monopoly on diamond extraction during the industrial revolution, with massive investments in South Africa. Using several underhand tactics, including market manipulation and secret deals, the company maintained this market control until the 1980s.
However, this seems tiny compared to the 111 million carats that came out of the ground at the same time. Diamonds still need jewellers and auction houses, where De Beers retains significant power. In 16 days near the start of 2021, the company earned approximately $663m from sales of rough diamonds. But the growth of synthetic diamonds has proved impossible for the company to ignore.
Nevertheless, in the company’s 60th year, Element Six began creating diamonds destined for jewellery. A De Beers spokesperson would not say what percentage of its jewellery diamond sales come from synthetic gems. However, they explain that Element Six remains “a very small business compared with our core natural diamond business”.
In 1938, De Beers employed the NW Ayer marketing agency to give diamonds a mass market appeal. The company wanted to create demand for their more expensive, higher quality stones over more affordable gems.