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Cultured diamonds been long brewing and thanks to fashion’s swing in favour of the sustainable movement, we’ve just started hearing about it. From red carpet accessorising on Penelope Cruz at Cannes in 2018, and more recently, Amber Valetta at the most recent British Fashion Awards, lab-grown sparklers are here to make a statement. It’s safe to say they pose competition to mined diamonds for the title of a girl’s best friend. The Haute Heel talks to Lark and Berry, who claim to be the first fine jeweller to offer solely cultured diamonds and stones. Their price range varies from affordable pieces under £250 to show-stoppers over £70,000. Founder Laura Chavez says her label caters to celebrities and has been worn at the MET, but she refuses to believe that “diamonds should cost two months’ salary”. Here’s what you need to know about the conscious option, before you make your next fine jewellery purchase.
How do you ‘grow’ diamonds?
There are two methods, High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) where a massive amount of heat and pressure is applied to carbon rock by a machine. This is enough to simulate the conditions in which diamonds form underground. In the second method, Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD), we apply immense heat with various gases to a slice of diamond, cultured or mined, which helps to crystallise it.
The resultant diamonds will have the same chemical and physical combination, which even gemologists can’t tell apart. However, these cultured versions require no mining and create far less waste, water pollution and damage to the surrounding environment and wildlife. Lark & Berry has partnered with a lab in the UK to grow some of our engagement rings diamonds with tech that can use 100% renewable energy to grow diamonds.
We know ‘creating something new’ isn’t the most sustainable option, is the second hand diamond market not a viable option?
I would never want to explicitly discourage anyone from supporting vintage/second-hand marketplaces and get as much use from existing jewellery as possible. With gold and diamonds, all you have to do is clean and polish, and it will look brand new even decades later. However, the stones in your jewellery could still be conflict diamonds. Also, people don’t [often] sell their diamonds because it holds emotional value and it lasts forever.
1. Dark Halo Sapphire Pendant in Solid 14K Rose Gold, £750 | 2. Bow Ring, POA | 3. Veto Multi-Coloured Elongated Earrings in 14K Gold, £2,245 | 4. Veto Sapphire Necklace, £785 | 5. Nocturnal Diamond Wrap Ring, £895 | 6. Halo Diamond Stud Earrings, £750 | 7. Star Diamond Pavé Ring in 14K Gold, £350 | 8. Alicia Burnt Orange Sapphire Drop Earrings in 14K Gold, £475
Lab grown diamonds have boomed recently, is this due to demand or the trend for sustainability?
A lot of it stems from the fact that we now have more choice. More consumers than ever seek to do better by way of supporting sustainable options in every marketplace. Luxury jewellery is no exception. With the option to buy cultured diamonds and stones, we are seeing an ever-rising uptick in sales.
Is the goal to lead to a decline in diamond mining?
I can only speak for my intentions as founder of Lark & Berry, but my goal is indeed to encourage the total replacement of mined diamonds and diamond mining. It just makes no sense to me to continue diamond mining when we can now make an identical product (not even just similar, but 100% identical) with a much lower environmental cost.
How would the consumer tell a lab grown diamond apart from a real one?
Cultured diamonds can be certified by any gem-certification body because again, they’re the exact same as mined diamonds. In the few years we have been growing gem-quality cultured diamonds, we have been able to create coloured varieties. I can only imagine as we keep advancing the technology, we will be able to create any sorts of styles and colours in diamonds. They will have imperfections but these are sometimes desirable to make it unique. [And because they are not subject to] major diamond mining companies’ price-gouging, this gives way to affordable cultured diamonds on the market. They go straight from the lab to a cutter and then to the customer in the form of jewellery. This process is extremely transparent and tends to favour the wallet.
What is the value of a lab grown diamond?
The Lark & Berry outlook is very much one that dictates value should be in the eye of the beholder, what a certain item means to you. I really think a lot of what the cultured diamonds movement is about, is taking value back—to no longer remain beholden to the myths of mined diamonds advertising, where a diamond has to cost two months’ salary or that only a certain minority of people can have access to diamonds. Jewellery is to be worn and should be accessible to anyone wanting to add a little extra sparkle to their look. We believe jewellery should not just be locked up in a safe.
I, for one, am more proud to say I am wearing a diamond the genius of mankind was able to create conflict-free by using newly-evolved science versus wearing one that hurt our planet. That experience is something I’d be thrilled to pass down to a grandchild someday along with the cultured jewellery piece itself.
Who is the target audience for cultured diamonds?
Millennials and Gen Z’ers are extra receptive to wanting to support environmental care in every aspect of their lives. Additionally, because we are a luxury brand with only the finest diamonds quality, we definitely have a big buyer base who are 35-and-over. We’ve even been asked to make men’s jewellery, which is something we’re looking into for 2020. As much as we thought we’d have a defined target audience, we realised that affordable cultured diamonds are now for everyone.
Where does Lark and Berry stand as a luxury jewellery in the market?
We’re the first designer jewellery brand in the world (not just Britain) plus the first brick and mortar in the world to offer designer fine jewellery with cultured diamonds and stones exclusively. We’re also the first exclusively cultured brand to offer piercings in-store. In the one year we have been open, we’ve been worn by celebrities at AMFAR, the Met Gala, the Tony’s, the Golden Globes, the BFA’s. We were featured twice in the recently released ‘Our Royal Baby’ book, commemorating Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s courtship and the birth of their first baby.
Interested in alternative and sustainable ways of owning luxury? Find out where you can wear Dior for £60.
Words by Anushree Gupta