Here at ACCUR Recruiting Services, we have a strong track record in placing executives in fine jewelry roles. We’ve recently been fielding more inquiries from the lab grown diamond field and we wanted to share some our industry knowledge on this exciting sector of the jewelry market.
How are natural diamonds formed?
Diamonds — rare, coveted, exquisite diamonds — often arrive to the consumer with a very high price tag. Part of this is a function of how precious they are. Most natural diamonds were originally formed 100 miles beneath the earth’s surface and are more than a billion years old. Only under the rarest of conditions — high pressure and temperature — can carbon-containing fluids in the earth’s mantle deep underground can dissolve minerals and turn them into diamonds. More recently in the earth’s history — tens to hundreds of million years ago — these gems were carried closer to the earth’s surface by volcanic eruptions.
Problems in mining diamonds
Natural diamond deposits are not distributed evenly across the globe. Nearly half of all diamonds are found in central and southern Africa. In politically unstable countries, revolutionary groups have taken over diamond mining and used the proceeds to fund their operations. In 2002, as a measure to combat the sale of so-called “conflict diamonds,” the United Nations, the diamond industry and diamond-trading nations introduced the Kimberley Process, which created guidelines for the industry. However “conflict diamonds” remain a problem for the industry and the consumer.
The shape of the industry
Diamonds have two major commercial uses: by industry as an implement to cut hard materials, and as adornment (jewelry). The global market for diamond jewelry is worth $80 billion a year.
Diamonds that are used in jewelry are often graded by the “four c’s”: carats (mass), cut (aesthetic characteristics like symmetry and proportions), color (how close the diamond is to being colorless), and clarity (lack of visible flaws).
Founded in 1888, The De Beers company is the largest diamond mining company and among the oldest in the industry. Their slogan, “a diamond is forever,” was introduced in the middle of the twentieth century as part of an effort to create an industry for the gemstone from scratch. This wildly successful campaign was continued for many decades afterwards.
What are lab-grown diamonds?
Lab-grown diamonds are just that: they are gems formed in a controlled laboratory setting rather than mined from earth. The process for growing diamonds in a lab has been around for several decades now, but in the past mostly utilized to create industrial cutting implements rather than gems destined for jewelry. In recent years, the process for growing diamonds in the lab has grown more sophisticated. And as consumers have become more conscious of sustainability and labor issues, the attraction of diamonds that are sourced without conflict has grown.
Lab grown diamonds are sometimes known by the process by which they are made: either HPHT diamonds (high-pressure high-temperature) or CVD diamonds (chemical vapor deposition crystal formation). Representing 2% of the diamond market in 2013, this industry is poised to grow as technologies advance. The 13-store retailer Spence Diamonds is increasingly focused on lab-grown diamonds.
Overcoming common issues with diamonds
The biggest issue with diamonds is the fact that they are rare and a finite resource. Additionally, when you consider how conflict-prone many of the regions that are rich in diamonds are, you are left with a limited area from which to mine natural diamonds. It’s no wonder, then, that lab grown diamond companies are on the rise. Staffing these companies up, however, takes some skill and consideration.
What skills do executives need in the lab-grown diamond field?
When we are looking for executives to fill marketing, operations and financial roles for lab-grown diamond roles, we think about some of the qualities that are needed for traditional luxury retail: an understanding of the market and ability to form lasting relationships with distributors, retail outlets and key marketing partners.
We also find that executives in this innovative industry must have a sophisticated understanding of the engineering processes at work, and an ability to understand some of the legal and patent challenges that are emerging in this industry. In sum, the lab grown diamond field needs adaptable thinkers who will thrive in a fast-moving, startup like environment.