Over the past couple of years fashion-minded shoppers have placed an even bigger emphasis on sustainability, with fine jewelry topping their wish lists. In particular, recycled diamonds are becoming increasingly important for jewelers, as the global diamond-mining yield continues to diminish, reports Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) in August 2021.
The popularity of recycled diamonds has increased dramatically since the pandemic, with many engagement ring shoppers asking for recycled stones. Jay Moncada, owner of Perpetuum Jewels, told WWD that before the pandemic four out of 10 engagement ring shoppers inquired about recycled diamonds, and now that number is closer to seven.
Jeweler Jean Prounis of Prounis Jewelry told WWD that 100% of her custom engagement ring clients have requested recycled stones. “These diamonds are being reset over and over. It’s nice to work with what already exists — it also goes to show why diamonds are so special. If a material like a diamond can retain its value for hundreds of years, that is true luxury.”
Even the Natural Diamond Council (NDC), an entity formed by the world’s largest diamond mining companies to promote the value of natural diamonds, endorses the recycled diamond trend. For NDC, it reinforces the value of buying a naturally sourced diamond over lab-grown stones or other stone options.
“People are looking for things that are sustainable and not disposable,” NDC CEO David Kellie told WWD. “Supporting recycled diamonds plays to the long-term viability of the diamond proposition.”
Luxury goods are made to last, and the trend for purchasing pre-owned fine jewelry and watches has been on the rise.
The trend in the secondary market is growing for many reasons, among them an increase in online sales, changing consumer preferences, and rising concern about the sustainability of luxury goods, particularly among younger consumers, finds the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). These trends were well underway before COVID-19 hit, but the pandemic, and the economic slowdown it created, has accelerated them.
Published September 2020, BCG’s report on the hard luxury market shows that the market for secondhand hard luxury items, primarily watches and pre-owned/estate jewelry, is worth over $22 billion worldwide and growing annually at 8%, which is much faster than the luxury industry overall.
In a BCG survey of 12,000 luxury consumers from 10 countries conducted with Altagamma in 2020, 62% said they would consider buying a secondhand luxury item and 25% said they had made a purchase in the past year (with 18% of them buying watches and jewelry).
In the hard luxury category, watches account for about 75% of secondhand sales, and pre-owned/estate/antique jewelry makes up the remaining 25%, finds BCG. The secondhand watch market is well established. In fact, McKinnsey & Company, in its State of Fashion report 2021, describes the secondhand watch market as joining the mainstream, set to become the industry’s fastest-growing segment, reaching up to $32 billion in sales by 2025 (up from 18 million in 2019).
The market for pre-owned jewelry has lots of room to
Diamond is the hardest mineral on the planet, so it’s no wonder it’s regarded as the ideal product for recycling. Because of its strength and durability, diamond can be used more than once without trace-of-wear.
Recycled diamonds actually offer the perfect story of sustainability — averting the need to mine or grow in a lab a new diamond product. Recycled diamonds also deliver on natural diamond’s “forever” promise, by maintaining their value as a precious, finite gemstone, and as an enduring symbol of love.
Yet, the perception exists that if a product is recycled/reclaimed/repurposed it may not be of superior quality.
Recycled diamonds, while not a new concept, is a category that many jewelers, designers and small manufacturers may never have considered before, because they perceive that what is available on the market is of inferior cut and quality to newly manufactured stones.
What they may not know is that the bulk of reclaimed diamonds (about 75%) are re-manufactured to modern cut specifications. Literally, the goods are good as new. That has been the experience of White Pine Wholesale, a leading supplier of recycled diamonds that buys exclusively from the diamond and jewelry trade.
When reclaiming diamonds, White Pine receives large parcels of mixed goods that include old makes, bad makes, chipped and broken stones, and an assortment of different sizes, shapes and qualities.
The stones are first cleaned by boiling them in acid to remove dirt and to “frost” any CZs in the pa
High demand for diamonds throughout 2021, coupled with less natural diamonds being produced and manufactured, is causing the rise in diamond prices that is impacting retail in 2022.
The increase in prices is driven by strong demand for jewelry in the United States and China, set against limited supply, as diamond mining and cutting remain low, finds recent research by the market intelligence platform, IndexBox.
Natural diamond prices are increasing dramatically because of the high demand and limited supply that is due to the fixed number of diamond manufacturers and the cost of manufacturing. Some areas of diamond supply are becoming increasingly more difficult to source, mostly smaller sizes in commercial quality, particularly melee (less than 0.20 in carat weight).
But perhaps recycled natural diamonds are best positioned to be a reliable and profitable source for savvy jewelers and designers to incorporate in their business strategy moving forward.
Consumer demand for diamonds skyrocketed as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, fueled by a dramatic decline in travel, fine jewelry’s biggest competitor for consumer dollars, as well as government subsidies that provided U.S. consumers with more discretionary dollars to spend.
In its 2021 Diamond Insight Report, the De Beers Group tracked performance across the diamond industry for 2020 and the first half of 2021 and found that consumer demand for natural diamonds grew 40% year-on-year in the first half of 2021, or about 15% to 20% on an annualized basis compared with 2019.
The lab-grown diamond category has exploded on the consumer market in the last decade, particularly the past few years, positioning itself as an eco-friendly, sustainable alternative to natural diamonds.
But are lab-grown diamonds a more sustainable diamond option than using recycled natural diamonds?
Lab-grown diamond producers market their products as “less of a threat” to the environment than natural diamond mining. They point to the fact that their processes use less water, emit fewer greenhouse gasses, and do not disrupt the earth to bring a diamond to market, as compared to mining diamonds.
Yet they speak little of the enormous energy needed to grow diamonds. Diamonds are grown in factories using High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) or Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) processes. HPHT produces more diamonds per cycle, CVD allows the grower to better control quality, which is especially important for diamonds used in jewelry.
Both processes require uninterrupted power sources for their production cycles that could take anywhere from 30 minutes to several weeks, John Hassard, owner of Edgecombe Abrasives, told Jewellery Business magazine in February 2019. The company supplies industrial equipment using lab-grown diamonds.
A March 29, 2019 article in JCK online, “Just How Eco-Friendly Are Lab-Created Diamonds,” reports that the “most efficient” diamond growers use 250 kWh per carat, which is equivalent to the amount of electricity the average U.S. household uses in eight days or the electricity to fully charge a Tesla two-and-a-half times. But most producers use 750 kWh per carat.
Recycled diamonds are perhaps the fine jewelry industry’s best kept trade secret, presenting a compelling opportunity for jewelry designers and retailers to incorporate a sustainable, value-retaining option to newly mined natural diamonds and lab-grown diamonds.
The broadest definition of recycled diamond is a natural diamond that was previously owned or manufactured and has re-entered the diamond supply chain to be repurposed for another piece of jewelry.
Recycled diamonds are acquired in many ways, including from the jewelry boxes of consumers, estate sales and bankruptcies, and part of inventory liquidations and closeouts of collections that may never have made it to market.
White Pine, for example, buys exclusively from the trade, including pawn shops, retailers, diamond dealers, and diamond manufacturers. Consistency and quality of the goods it brings to market are top priorities for this leading supplier of calibrated recycled diamond melee, and breakout and single stones, both certified and non-certified, in all shapes, sizes and qualities.
“We categorize our diamonds as Very Good to Excellent makes,” shares White Pine CEO Benjamin Burne, who founded the company in New York in 2010 aiming to revolutionize the industry’s use of recycled diamonds. “The way we maintain this standard is by re-cutting as many of the diamonds we purchase as possible at our factory before putting it into our stock. This process allows our customers to receive top quality recycled natural diamonds every time.” Moreover, White Pine is selective in the diamonds used in its melee program, standard G/H color, with the ability to satisfy requests above or below that grade.