BY MARK MATHOSIAN
Before delving into today’s subject here is a trivia question with its answer revealed later. Who coined the iconic advertising slogan, A Diamond is Forever?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a diamond as a “native crystalline carbon that is the hardest known mineral, usually nearly colorless, that when transparent and free from flaws is highly valued as a precious stone, and used industrially especially as an abrasive.” Sounds good to me. However, does the same definition apply to synthetic diamonds? Interestingly, Webster does not provide a definition for synthetic diamonds, so I searched the Internet.
According to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), a respected nonprofit source of knowledge, synthetic diamonds are “the result of a technological process, as opposed to the geological process that creates natural diamonds. Synthetic diamonds have essentially the same chemical composition, crystal structure, optical, and physical properties of diamonds found in nature.” So, according to GIA, lab diamonds are absolutely real diamonds quite suitable for jewelry. The main difference is that synthetics are created and cultivated in science laboratories, and natural diamonds are formed and mined from the Earth. Where it gets interesting is in how different kinds of diamonds are perceived by the public and priced for sale.
For example, although synthetic diamonds typically cost 35-40% less than their counterparts, they represent no more than about two percent of total diamond sales for jewelry. It appears the main reason natural diamonds sell better is because of their perceived rarity, supported by effective advertising campaigns. Diamonds that take billions of years to form are hyped as being more meaningful than factory cultivated stones. This is primarily because diamonds have come to represent love and commitment over a lifetime, and symbolize enduring love. This brings us to the answer to the trivia question, which partially explains why natural diamonds still sell better than synthetics.
Frances Gerety, a copywriter for the N.W. AYER & SONS, INC., an advertising agency in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, coined the advertising slogan, A Diamond is Foreverin 1947. The slogan was written for use in ads by a client, De Beers, an international corporation specializing in diamond mining, trading and sales. You see, during the 1930s, after the great stock market crash of 1929, the sale of diamond jewelry practically stopped. Consumers perceived diamonds, especially diamond rings, as luxury items for the rich and believed money could best be spent on more practical goods.
Things weren’t better during the 1940s, and De Beers knew they needed to do something to rekindle interests in diamonds and diamond jewelry. Hence, they hired N.W. Ayer to design a crafty campaign to spark sales. The advertising firm rose to the occasion with one of the most effective advertising campaigns in history. Their stated goal was to “create a situation where almost every person pledging marriage feels compelled to acquire a diamond engagement ring.” They did that by shrewdly attaching an emotional link to diamonds suggesting that love, like diamonds, is eternal. The “A Diamond is Forever”campaign began in print ads in1948 and was so hugely successful that De Beers (now part of a large conglomerate) continues to use it to this day to promote natural diamonds. Which brings us to the state of affairs today.
In our highly technological society with 3D printers, smartphones, and self-driving cars the concept of creating flawless diamonds in a laboratory sounds normal and acceptable. In fact, it is somewhat desirable from a financial standpoint as well as an eco-friendly and non-conflict prospective. Why not save thirty percent or more while being socially conscious at the same time? Synthetic diamond manufacturers are proliferating, and their main sales targets appear to be millennials, a segment of our society that appreciates practicality and change. Even De Beers is getting into the fray.
De Beers recently launched a new company and production facility to produce lab-grown diamonds that will sell for less than their natural diamonds. The new jewelry products are promoted under the tag “Lightbox.” Laboratory diamonds will retail for around $200 for a quarter-carat to about $800 for a one-carat stone. With De Beers’ involvement it is certain synthetic diamonds are here to stay. Large synthetic stone retailers like Blue Nile and others will soon be competing with a major player in the natural diamond industry, and that should equate to better prices for us.
In closing, here is an important detail to remember. To distinguish natural diamonds from lab stones, the industry trend is to laser inscribe synthetic stones with a certification initial and number. You can’t see the markings with your naked eyes, but gemologists can with powerful magnifiers. That way you know exactly what kind of diamond you are buying.