NOMPU SIZIBA: Pandora is the largest jewellery producer in the world and has recently announced its decision to no longer use mined diamonds. It’s only going to produce diamonds in its laboratories. This decision follows its resolving to stop using newly mined gold and silver last year.
Well, to get his take on their decision, I’m joined on the line by Dr Petré Prins. He’s the managing director at Prins & Prins Diamonds. Thank you very much, Dr Prins, for joining us. Now, how significant is this latest decision and what do you think is driving it?
Dr PETRÉ PRINS: Hello Nompu, and hello listeners. Firstly, let me put Pandora’s announcement in context. Pandora is really a producer, an on-seller of silver jewellery. They’re not major players in the diamond market as a whole. But, with the availability of man-made diamonds that are much, much cheaper, they now can incorporate and broaden their brand to accommodate a much lower category or a clientele that cannot afford a real diamond or a mined diamond.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Will the quality of the diamonds that they make in the lab be similar to what we get from the ground?
Dr PETRÉ PRINS: Nompu, to just give some clarification here, because there’s a lot of confusion about what is a synthetic diamond, in the diamond industry we don’t like to call something ‘synthetic’ – specifically not a diamond – because the consumer thinks of synthetic as glass or plastic or something like that. Now, man-made diamonds are diamonds. They are the same. They’ve got the same physical, the same optical, the same chemical properties as a real diamond that comes from the earth. The only difference between the two is that the one is made by man within a few weeks, whereas the other one comes from a deep 5/600 kilometres below the earth, and is grown over billions of years. So there is a big difference, although it is the same substance.
NOMPU SIZIBA: You’ve mentioned already the cost. From a cost perspective presumably it’s going to be cheaper for the end user, for people who ordinarily would not be able to afford diamonds.
Dr PETRÉ PRINS: Exactly. Man-made or lab-grown diamonds provide a wonderful opportunity for the jewellery industry to broaden its reach, and provide a diamond to people who can’t afford a mined diamond.
NOMPU SIZIBA: I was going to ask you what’s behind their decision to stop using mined gold and silver and mined diamonds? Is it just a cost thing or is it a conscious thing about the environment?
Dr PETRÉ PRINS: Pandora have never been diamond sellers. They are not diamond sellers. They are now using the cheap, the less expensive man-made diamonds to incorporate in their ranges. Their clients are not diamond buyers per se. So that won’t affect the whole diamond industry very much. But the presence of synthetic diamonds is certainly impacting on the diamond industry, because now all of a sudden a lot of people will prefer to buy a man-made diamond and not spend 10 times more for a real diamond.
The cost factor that you’ve asked about is that man-made diamonds obviously can be produced at will, as much as you like, and they will be less expensive and their prices are coming down as we speak, only because it is not as difficult to make a man-made diamond as it is to find a mined one.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Right. So let’s talk about diamonds from the ground, mined diamonds. You are in the diamond industry. You have been for many years. From where you stand are diamonds still ‘a girl’s best friend’? How has that particular market, the mined diamond market, performed during the past Covid year, for example, given that some people may have been risk-averse to buy expensive things.
Dr PETRÉ PRINS: The whole diamond industry is in trouble. Covid has had a major impact. The whole diamond industry has gone onto the internet. India is in trouble. No diamonds can be cut or graded there at the moment. So yes, we are in trouble – the natural diamond industry. And this is an ideal time for the man-made diamonds to fill the gap and they are promoted it properly. Sometimes they are misrepresenting what a man-made diamond really is. Nevertheless, it fills a good gap in the market at the moment.
NOMPU SIZIBA: But for people who do have money, they’re going to go for ‘the real thing,’ obviously.
Dr PETRÉ PRINS: Natural diamonds will always have a mystery and a mystique, so that the person who’s got money who can afford it will rather go for the real thing, the mined one rather than the lab-grown one. It doesn’t mean that the lab-grown diamond is not a diamond. It still is a diamond, but it hasn’t got the mystique and the history behind it. And fortunately the prices are going down quite dramatically as far as lab-grown are concerned.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Dr Prins, thank you very much for giving us your insights there. That was Dr Petré Prins, the managing director at Prins & Prins Diamonds.