Diamonds / Industry

3 Questions for Joanna Park-Tonks of the International Grown Diamond Association


At the end of last year, the diamond industry veteran Joanna Park-Tonks (pictured) took over as president of the International Grown Diamond Association (IGDA). Her predecessor, Richard Garard, had helped found the group in 2016.

Although Park-Tonks, who is based in the U.K., began her career in the mined diamond industry, she veered into the lab-grown diamond (LGD) category in 2018, when she founded Chelsea Rocks, a direct-to-consumer brand “to celebrate innovation in lab-grown diamonds,” as she tells JCK.

Below, she briefs us on her background, the IGDA’s upcoming initiatives, and how the group, and its 90 member companies, are navigating a volatile marketplace.

Tell us about your background in the diamond and lab-grown industries.

My career within the diamond industry has come full circle. Initially, I started my career with the Diamond Information Center in Milan, with J. Walter Thompson. Subsequently, I was engaged by the De Beers Central Selling Organization in London in the PR and marketing department as international media coordination for the De Beers-Versace fashion show.

Following this, I developed more formal business skills with the global management consultancy Accenture, working on a number of high-profile projects in change management for clients in mining and natural resources. During this time, I continued to think about my time in the diamond industry and how the visual appeal, content, and intellectual challenges were amongst the most productive and interesting in my life.

With the ascendancy of lab-grown diamonds, I became intrigued by the innovations in this category—in particular the sustainability positives. At the heart of my understanding of sustainability is a respect for mankind, guarding against the exploitation of the poor, and a stewardship for the natural environment.

I have been in post as the president of the IGDA since the beginning of 2023, which is a voluntary and unpaid position. It is a great honor to serve those in the LGD industry and talk in positive terms about both categories of diamond to further promote diamonds as an aspirational consumer choice and enduring symbol of luxury.

Can you provide an update about the IGDA and any initiatives you have planned for this year?

In my first year in post, I am focusing on a mandate which I am calling the “3 Rs”: relationships, research, and representation. To start with the first R, relationships, we are creating online and in-person opportunities for member networking.

For example, we are organizing a high-profile design competition which will catapult lab-grown diamonds into the premium segment and cement our bone fide design credentials. Additionally, we have in-person events planned in both the Mumbai and Cambridge IGDA local chapters. These will not just be social networking events, but will also focus on delivering actionable and valuable content, commercial buying and selling opportunities, and education.

Chelsea Rocks earrings
Chelsea Flower Climber earrings in 18k white gold with 0.32 ct. t.w. lab-grown diamonds, £1,363 ($1,646); Chelsea Rocks

The second R is research. In business, it is important to identify the right questions to ask and for that, we need a high-quality information diet on which to base the answers. Hence, the IGDA works closely with the most reliable and trusted source of LGD market insight, MVI Marketing.

We work closely with MVI on a number of special projects according to the requirements of our members to share key data points and market intelligence about the LGD market. This is premium content which enables strategic level decision making.

Last but not least, representation, which means dialogue with the Federal Trade Commission on subjects such as sustainability and changes in the legalities of nomenclature.

You’ve talked about stopping the “value erosion” of lab-grown diamonds. Can you talk through some of your ideas?

The beating heart of our work is the future-proofing of the LGD industry and by that, I mean long-term value creation in the eyes of the consumer. In essence, the IGDA stands for the development of a unified voice for the LGD industry and a source of trusted, transparent, and accurate information for both the trade and the consumers. We must not lose sight, in the often-spirited debate between different factions of the global diamond industry, that the nexus of our existence is to serve the consumer.

The IGDA will continue to propagate messages about the true value of LGDs to the consumer at point of sale and at the different touchpoints along the consumer journey.

We are currently developing a FAQ fact sheet to assist retailers and consumers alike when purchasing LGDs to propagate the clear and confident dissemination of information. Going forward, essential to enduring value creation will be the entry of the category into high jewelry, which is already happening, and the uptick of innovative designs.

The increased value creation will have a positive knock-on effect for both categories of diamond, celebrating consumer choice and allowing consumers to select the perfect diamond for their lifestyle, budget, and taste.

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By: Victoria Gomelsky

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