Not All Diamonds Are Forever, Says De Beers – by Tim Treadgold (Forbes Magazine – June 4, 2024)

A six-year synthetic diamond experiment by De Beers is being abandoned in the first aftershock of the failed $49 billion attempt by BHP to buy mining rival Anglo American, the current owner of the diamond industry leader.

The controversial decision to make and market synthetic, or laboratory grown diamonds, was an attempt by De Beers to be a player at the cheap end of the gem business, a place in which it has never been comfortable. Lured by the opportunity to sell man-made gems to a mass audience there was always the risk that De Beers would get trapped in a race to the bottom in both quality and price.

That appears to have been exactly what happened as diamond manufacturing technology has become readily available with the De Beers lab-grown division, Lightbox, being undercut by low-cost competitors, mainly from China and India.

In what might be called a “DeLorean” moment after the car which featured in the Back to the Future movie, De Beers is planning a future which will look very much like its past, a supplier of high-priced, top-class gems, to an exclusive group of discerning and rich customers.

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