Diamonds under synthetic attack

Baitshepi Sekgweng
CONCERNED: Ari Epstein

Big boss declares ‘war’ on lab-grown stones

As the global diamond industry grapples with low demand, Ari Epstein, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Antwerp World Diamond Centre, has expressed concern about the risks and challenges posed by synthetic diamonds to natural diamonds.

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Epstein shared his views at last month’s Facets 2023 Diamond Industry Conference in Gaborone, held under the theme ‘Diamonds for Change’. He emphasized that the Belgian city of Antwerp is the only diamond center in the world that does not provide a platform for synthetic diamonds.

“Botswana and Antwerp are fully aligned on this; we are at war with this. We are dealing with a very valuable, limited product of nature, while those who produce synthetics are deceiving consumers by charging $5, 000 for a $200 product. Our goal is to protect the image and reputation of natural diamonds and enhance and maximize revenue flows for natural diamonds back to countries and producers,” he explained.

Botswana, a major natural diamond producer, continues to rely on diamonds to drive its development and enhance economic diversification.

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In 2022, Botswana’s diamond production reached nearly 24.5 million carats, valued at US$4.8 billion, making it the world’s second-largest producer, following Russia with 41.92 million carats.

Diamonds under synthetic attack
FACING THE CHALLENGE: Masisi

President Mokgweetsi Masisi, delivering a keynote address, stressed that as the diamond industry explores innovation and its transformative potential, the increasing threat of synthetic diamonds must be addressed.

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“The market for man-made gems has grown rapidly, presenting both challenges and opportunities for the industry. The rise of lab-grown diamonds appears to be a significant challenge to the natural diamond industry. However, maintaining a thriving market for natural diamonds hinges on effective segmentation and marketing based on their origin. This preserves natural diamonds as a product that commands a significant price. The battle is not solely about chemical composition; it is about consumer preference and perception,” said Masisi, noting that natural diamonds symbolize love and enduring beauty.

Last year, global diamond production totaled 120.2 million carats, with a total value of US$16.2 billion, and 65.8 percent of the production came from Africa.

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