De Beers to sell lab-made diamonds as gemstones

De Beers has long fought against the sale of "synthetic" carbon chunks as gemstones — a losing battle given that telling the difference between lab-made carbon chunks and carbon chunks from underground isn't happening without very expensive machines. Now they've given up, and will sell their own carbon chunks.

The brand, called Lightbox, will offer synthetic diamonds at a fraction of the price it charges for stones pulled out of the earth. De Beers framed the move as a response to consumer demands.

"Lightbox will transform the lab-grown diamond sector by offering consumers a lab-grown product they have told us they want but aren't getting: affordable fashion jewelry that may not be forever, but is perfect for right now," said De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver. …

De Beers had been an outspoken critic of synthetic diamonds. Company executives vowed never to sell artificial stones, and it participated in the diamond industry's "real is rare" campaign. It even developed a machine that spots lab-grown stones.

That marketing line, "affordable fashion jewelry that may not be forever" suggests it'll all be deliberately trashy-looking to create a perceived distinction in quality between lab and mined carbon chunks. But it's also true that mass production methods for gemstone-quality synthetic carbon chunks are coming into play and they know it's time to get in or get out. They've been selling industrial-quality synthetics for years — after all, one chunk of carbon is much like another.