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Q&A: How technology is disrupting the diamond industry

Many areas are undergoing digital transformation, although one area that may not spring to mind is with jewelry and gems. This sector is being affected by science and technology, and this impacts the consumer markets as well.

diamond industry

The diamond industry is undergoing a disruption between the centuries-old trade of mined diamonds and the futuristic, high-tech era of lab-grown diamonds which is driven by consumer marketing and technological innovation. Type IIA diamonds, the purest diamonds on earth, comprise only 2 percent of diamonds mined from underground.

The company ALTR Created Diamonds, produces about 150,000 carats of rough Type IIA diamonds in its 4.5-acre facilities each year, recreating the conditions found in nature to literally grow diamonds in machines about the size of large coffee tables. ALTR uses proprietary technology. It owns 48 patents on the diamond cuts it produces.

To gain a detailed insight, Digital Journal spoke with Amish Shah, regarding how technology is disrupting the diamond industry. Shah launched ALTR with technology to pioneer the nascent category of lab-grown diamonds. Shah believes that the industry and consumer shift from mined to lab-grown diamonds are just the beginning of the future of jewelry.

Digital Journal: How has technology changed the diamond industry?

Shah: As technology has elevated the availability and quality of lab-grown diamonds, correspondingly it has revolutionized the diamond industry. Consumers now have a choice of bigger, more brilliant diamonds that also align with more environmentally and ethically current values, especially among millennials.

Specifically, lab-grown diamond technology enables the consumer to have transparency of the supply chain. Traditionally mined diamonds may change hands more than eleven times before they reach the consumer. But ALTR’s Created Diamonds, for instance, have a supply chain of only seven transition points through a vertically aligned structure that follows all compliance and adheres to best practices.

The value of the diamonds available to the consumer is another incredible advancement made possible by technology. Type IIA diamond are the purest type of diamonds and make up only 2% of the diamonds mined from the earth.

However, my company now grows about 150,000 carats of type IIA diamonds in our 4.5-acre facilities each year. These are the only kind of diamonds we provide. That’s how technology has changed the diamond industry. These diamonds are bigger, better quality, better for the environment, and better ethically. That’s why we are seeing a drastic shift from the consumer towards lab-grown diamonds.

DJ: What about the way consumers access diamonds? What role does technology play in the diamond supply?

Shah: Consumers still access diamonds the same way. They celebrate life moments with beautiful gems. We provide jewelry for the couple getting engaged at 25 and the couple celebrating their 25th anniversary.

However, we are seeing a very significant shift towards lab-grown diamonds and the numbers continue to evidence that. During the last three years, internet searches for the term “lab grown diamonds” grew 2000%. The consumer, now more than ever, is seeking value. Today’s consumer is seeking also to align their pocketbook with their principles. The fact that earth mined diamonds have unfortunate past connections with both environmental destruction and ethically problematic practices has driven many consumers away from diamonds. ALTR is focused on driving desire back for diamonds with authenticity and transparency. The additional fact that consumers can acquire a larger and purer diamond that is created with much less environment impact and without these destructive factors is what is driving them towards lab-grown diamonds and further advancing technological investment into the jewelry industry.

DJ: What’s different about the way diamonds are given value, considering the role of technology in the industry?

Shah: For the last hundred years, the diamond industry’s price model was one-dimensional: the price was set by a single monolith using multiple market control mechanisms and that was that. No diamond company worked to create value by branding, since a diamond was a diamond and it was sold on the market with its price set by Goliath. However, with technology advancing, David has come along and upended this pricing model. The myth of rarity has been completely shattered. How can a diamond be considered “rare” when every other woman you see has one on her finger?

There was really no competition in the diamond industry before the technology-driven lab-grown companies came along and began to create value through branding and marketing. Lab-grown diamond houses engaged in a consumer education process and upended the legacy diamond industry by providing consumers a true choice. That’s why we’ve seen so much fluctuation in the price of diamonds, because now that consumers know they can secure a better value that also aligns with their outlook for the world, the market is scrambling to adapt.

DJ: How will technology like artificial intelligence and 3D printing play a part in the jewelry and diamond industry in the next few years?

Shah: It’s a very interesting time to implement and create new technology in the jewelry and diamond industry. Right now we’re able to grow type IIA diamonds – only found in 2% of diamonds mined anywhere across the earth – in machines about the size of coffee tables. As technology rapidly advances, soon we’ll be able to use 3D printing to create fine jewelry. We are also expecting to see developments in technology enabling artificial intelligence to grade diamonds within the next few years.

DJ: What is your prediction for the diamond industry in the current economy?

Shah: While the luxury market has seen some shifts in spending categories – for instance, moving dollars from experiences to home goods – the luxury market is unique in several ways.

It’s always going to be an aspirational market, even in an economic turndown. And given that much of the world has spent the last few weeks or months on lockdown together, I anticipate that while we will have a drop in spending on luxury as a whole, that jewelry will see some investment due to the fact that there is bonding occurring and that life’s special moments are taking place now more than ever. We’ve gone through a pandemic together and consumers know life is valuable. With lab-grown diamonds as authentic and value-conscious choice for consumers, I expect to see the diamond industry tilt even further away from mined diamonds towards lab-grown.

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