Any diamond industry analysis shows that natural and lab-grown diamonds are set to clash sooner or later. Balancing between these two could prove difficult. Education about the differences between natural diamonds and lab-grown versions will be needed. Natural diamond stories are key to informing buyers of the greater value these stones hold. Perhaps there's something we can learn by looking to another industry facing its own natural vs. lab-grown debate: the meat industry.
What the Meat Industry Shows Us
One of the major differences to understand is that the factory meat industry hasn't addressed the way it harms the planet. This is a growing concern, especially given the increasingly legitimacy with which climate change is understood. The meat industry is responsible for an incredible portion of greenhouse gas emissions.
The production of lab-grown meat greatly reduces these emissions for a version of the same product. What's important to understand here is that the factory meat industry hasn't made any real effort to address its issues. This has created an obvious path forward for lab-grown meat, and many people will be more comfortable ordering it because this angle has been left so wide open by an overconfident factory meat industry.
How the Diamond Industry Differs
The same doesn't hold true for the natural diamond industry. Great strides have been made in reducing the environmental impact of diamond mining. The blockchain initiative takes the next step in what the Kimberley Process started when it comes to human rights. Transparency and responsibility have become priorities.
Natural diamonds have advantages of quality, story, craftsmanship, the list goes on. They even have greater symbolic value given that they were created in the earth over a billion years, instead of in a lab over a few weeks. Natural diamond stories are stories of the earth itself, stories of evolution, and of surfacing through struggle. Lab-grown diamonds seem too much of an easy way out. They have no story.
Natural Diamond Advantages
The one advantage that lab-grown diamonds have is that they sell themselves as a more responsible way to produce diamonds. While this could hold water, far more transparency is needed on their part to support this. Diamond industry analysis shows they may use less resources and produce less emissions, but we don't have all the information we need at this point to know that.
In the meantime, the natural diamond industry has become more transparent about resource usage, emissions, and local impact. Mines work together with governments, human rights agencies, and environmental initiatives in a way they didn't a few decades ago. They produce employment in some areas.
Two Different Values, or One Lesser Value?
Efforts like Lightbox do try to create a market for lab-grown diamonds that understands natural diamonds are inherently more valuable. At the same time as they acknowledge this greater value, however, they also seek to cut into a market share of it. There's also the risk that what people interpret isn't that THESE diamonds are less valuable, but rather that all diamonds can be understood as less valuable.
Customers already understand the qualitative difference in the type of diamond they buy. What they need to understand are some of the elements that they don't have access to as often. Education about the natural diamond industry's increased transparency and responsibility is needed, and the trade needs to be more assertive in evidencing and communicating this.