De Beers’ lab-grown diamond offshoot is picking up the pace. Lightbox, which launched in 2018 with lab-grown diamonds offered in shades of white, blue and pink, will begin selling loose stones today.
Previously, Lightbox-branded stones were only available in set jewelry designs. Now consumers will be able to buy the lab diamonds in various sizes to set as they wish, at a hard price of $800 per carat.
“I think it’s an interesting and a positive development,” said Lightbox chief executive officer Steve Coe. “It’s what a number of our customers asked us for — they wanted an opportunity to put our high-quality lab stones in personalized jewelry.”
Lightbox’s previous offerings, Coe said, were limiting the company’s growth. “We found when we put stones into a piece of jewelry — it’s very polarizing. For every consumer that loves the design, there is someone else who hates it, so outside of a classic solitaire ring it’s hard to come up with something that has a universal appeal. Unless you hold a vast inventory of different designs to keep everyone happy, the best way is to sell the stones loose — it gives the consumer freedom,” he said.
The lab diamonds will be available in 1-carat, 1.5-carat, 1.75-carat and 2-carat increments — all priced by the same $800-per-carat standard. Currently, only brilliant round cuts are available for most stones. A princess cut is available only in a 1 carat white lab diamond format.
The stones will be available to purchase on Lightbox’s website, as well as through the Reeds Jewelers network of stores for the holiday season.
In October 2020, Lightbox opened a manufacturing facility near Portland, Ore., to help ramp up its production capacity. Coe said operations there are at full speed and the company this year will churn out 200,000 carats of polished stones — about triple the output seen in 2020.
Coe said offering loose stones not only further differentiates lab stones from naturally mined diamonds, but also expands the possibilities of the fashion jewelry category.
“I think natural diamonds obviously have a very special place for many consumers and is emotionally significant and associated with more significant gifting occasions, so where we see exciting opportunity on the lab side is playing to the strength of our lower price point.
“We strongly believe that it opens up an opportunity for more frequent gifting. A lot of women are happy to spend $1,000 on shoes or a handbag and that is a great opportunity for accessibly-priced fashion jewelry based on lab stones. We think it could create a new attitude,” Coe said.
The move is interesting, as it is coming from directly within the De Beers network — a company that has long held an iron grip on the diamond industry. In dictating a set price for loose lab-grown stones and controlling the messaging around their distribution, the company — which also has a vested interest in the Natural Diamond Council — can further differentiate lab and naturally mined diamonds while growing a base for both.
While Lightbox has previously experimented with stand-alone retail via pop-up shop concepts, the company says it is focused on growing its wholesale distribution for both its loose stones as well and jewelry designs. “From a Lightbox perspective we are really agnostic on if we sell the stones set in jewelry or loose,” Coe said. “We will have to wait and see how consumers respond to [the loose stones], but within five years I’d expect it to be a significant proportion of what we sell.”