Wholesale prices for lab-grown diamonds have fallen by up to 60 percent since De Beers began selling synthetic stones for jewellery with its Lightbox brand in September, CEO Bruce Cleaver told Reuters in an interview on Thursday. He said the slide would continue as improved technology increases the quality and volume of lab-grown diamonds.
Lightbox projects selling 20,000 carats of synthetic diamonds by the end of 2019, but once De Beers’ own factory in the US state of Oregon goes fully operational in 2020, its output will be more than half a million carats of synthetic rough a year.
"The margins that were out there are not sustainable," is quoted as saying. "I like to compare it to a flat screen TV. The first ones were very expensive and the quality was poor."
Cleaver however denied synthetic diamonds were cutting into the price of natural stones, which he says are a different product. "It's a perfectly legitimate business. It's just a different business," he says of lab-grown diamonds.
Without giving numbers, Cleaver said De Beers would boost its marketing budget for natural stones this year, which already in 2018 was the highest in a decade at $166 million.