Gothic Cognac, Heavy Metal Cherry, Androgyny Flamingo. You’d be mistaken for thinking we’re reeling off names from a ‘breakout indie bands to watch in 2020’ list. They are, in fact, monikers for the new lab-created coloured diamonds Swarovski debuted at Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week.
“If you look into the field of mined diamonds, the colours are very, very rare,” Swarovski executive board member Markus Langes-Swarovski told WWD. “So we thought we have to celebrate human ingenuity and create a beautiful palette of 16 colours that are also available in the minefield but very, very seldom and very expensive because of the rarity of these diamond colours.”
OK, so first – the science-y bit. The process is such that rather than traditionally mined diamonds from the earth, man-made styles are created by combining carbon seeds with high pressure and high temperatures, whereby crystallisation occurs (allowing the diamond to mature, which can take up to 12 weeks) - before being cut, polished and graded. The result is chemically, optically and physically identical to earth-mined diamonds: a bit like getting ice from your freezer instead of an icecap. It’s still ice.
This small slice of the $80 billion diamond industry appears to be picking up pace. Last year, Dover Street Market launched a project with Diamond Foundry, together with six designers - including fashion favourites Delfina Delettrez and Sophie Bille Brahe - who all made jewellery in their own styles using lab-grown diamonds. And earlier this month Browns Fashion launched its first lab-grown diamond and 18K recycled gold brand, Kimaï (which sits alongside its ‘Conscious’ category). “Their pieces are modern, yet versatile, and every piece is just so easy to wear,” says Aveen Byron, jewellery buyer at Browns Fashion. “They also have very affordable prices (starting from £215) for a brand that stands out so much and is unique in its genre.”
Jessica Warch, co-founder of Kimaï, tells us: “By using lab-grown diamonds we're able to get an identical product, but without the social and environmental impact of mining. Moreover, a diamond usually exchanges hands 10 to 15 times before getting to its final owner, which we're again able to skip and offer more transparency to our customers on the journey of their diamond.”
“It was important for us to know where the things we were buying were coming from. Coming to diamonds we couldn’t find any transparency or any simple answer about the origin of those diamonds - moreover with the many controversies surrounding that industry (blood diamonds, child labour...) we felt that it was time for a change. We wanted to bring transparency and finally some innovation/change to a very traditional and old-fashioned industry. Looking deeper into it and talking to many diamond traders, we heard about those identical diamonds made in a lab and saw it as our opportunity to bring transparency and ethics to that old minded industry.”
The Antwerp-based fine jewellery brand launched a bit over a year ago, with “not much investment” (less than $10,000) - though steadily grown organically since – with a little help from the Duchess of Sussex, no doubt. “We reached out to different people through cold emails, hoping that someone would get back to us and managed that way to get Meghan to notice us and choose pieces from our collections,” Jessica says. “It definitely helped grow our brand awareness and credibility - not only for Kimaï but also for the industry as a whole.”
Delfina Delettrez for dover street market
So, are these ‘guilt-free diamonds’ the future? Experts certainly think so. “We believe that there is such a high demand out there among our customers,” Aveen stresses. “Alongside this, the price point is very competitive, without compromising on quality.”
“This is definitely a trend that is growing due to the increasing importance of sustainability in today's purchasing decisions,” adds Jessica. “Our generations have different wants and needs than our parents, and the industry wasn't adapting to that change. With their unethical mining environment but also in the way they market to their customers; which is very traditional, intimidating rather than experiential and approachable.” For those who want to sparkle sustainably, shop Kimaï’s ethical fine jewellery below.
images | courtesy of kimai