Jewellery maker Pandora has announced it will stop selling mined diamonds, in favour of lab-grown gems instead.
The company has said that ethical concerns over how the diamond trade operates, as well as environmental concerns are the primary drivers of the move to stop selling mined diamonds in favour of lab-grown gems.
Pandora’s chief executive, Alexander Lacik has told the BBC that the move is one part of Pandora’s overall sustainability doctrine, as the company attempts to make its supply chains more ethical and minimise their environmental impact.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Lacik said. “We can essentially create the same outcome as nature has created, but at a very, very different price.”
Lacik says that lab-grown gems can be produced for “a third of what it is for something that we’ve dug up from the ground.”
According to the BBC’s report, production rates of lab-grown diamonds increased from 6 million carats to 7 million carats in 2020.
This increase has taken place while the number of diamonds sourced from mines – predominantly in Africa, Canada and Russia – has fallen from its peak in 2017. The number of mined diamonds dropped to 111 million carats in 2020, after reaching this 2017 peak of 152 million carats mined.
Mined diamonds sourced from Australia, Botswana, Canada and Russia have seen the sharpest falls.
De Beers, one of the world’s major diamond producers – accounting for around 20% of the market’s size – says that the coronavirus has had a huge impact on the sale of diamonds around the globe.
According to their figures, diamond production dropped by just under 20% in 2020.
Pandora says that the UK will be the first country to see lab-grown diamonds for sale in its stores, with prices starting at USD $350.
The company’s CEO says that “whether consumers are buying more or less today, right now is actually not the key driver… we want to become a low-carbon business.”
He continued to explain that “I have four children, I’m leaving this earth one day, I hope I can leave it in a better shape than maybe what we’ve kind of created in the last 50 years or so.”
Pandora Will Stop Selling Mined Diamonds in Favour of Lab-Grown Gems
“We’re trying to open up this playing field and say, you know, with the type of value equation that we offer, you can use this everyday if you want.”
He continued to explain that “what might very well happen is actually that the total demand for diamonds is going to increase. So it may actually not be a question of, we steal somebody else’s lunch.”
Olya Linde, lead author of a report from Bain says that “I believe that natural diamonds and lab grown diamonds can wonderfully coexist and grow the overall diamond market. There’s clear demand for each type of product.”
Linde added that the cost-effectiveness and design adaptations remain the major advantages of lab-grown diamonds, as well as the benefits of ensuring an ethical supply chain that also minimises its environmental impact.
A report from Human Rights Watch last year pointed out that in spite of their best efforts, diamond miners “cannot assure consumers that their jewellery is untainted by human rights abuses.”
There are, however, questions about the production practices of laboratories producing diamonds, which are most notably located in China, and powered by coal-sourced electricity.
A U.S. producer of lab-grown diamonds, Diamond Foundry, says that its processes are significantly more sustainable, considering that its operations are “100% hydro-powered, meaning zero emissions.”
The World Diamond Council has responded to reports that Pandora will stop selling mined diamonds in favour of lab-grown gems, stating that lab-grown diamonds are not the future of the industry.
The Council says that insinuating that lab-grown diamonds “would have a role in preventing trade in conflict diamonds is spurious and not based in fact,” while adding that the move would “remove a primary source of income” for local communities and “would have devastating impacts on their livelihoods, causing poverty and further unrest.”