Why Charles & Colvard Has Embraced Lab-Grown Diamonds

Since its founding in 1995, Charles & Colvard has built its business around synthetic moissanite, produced by longtime partner Cree. That has mostly meant low-end product, which has found an occasional home at J.C. Penney and on TV shopping networks.

This week, it introduced Caydia, a lab-grown diamond brand that marks a significant shift in its corporate strategy. Caydia is not just a lab-grown diamond line, it’s a midrange lab-grown diamond line and part of a larger move to turn Charles & Colvard into a fine jewelry brand.

“We want to elevate the Charles & Colvard name,” says Don O’Connell, who became Charles & Colvard’s president and CEO in June. “We need to do a better job in making it synonymous with quality, value, and price.”

For years, the company’s financial filings singled out lab-grown diamonds as a potential threat to its core product. But it’s ventured into created stones for the same reason others have: It smells opportunity.

“There is a customer out there that has been predisposed to getting a diamond,” says O’Connell. “They’ve been taught their entire lives or through marketing that is what they need. We always listen to our customers, and we have been getting a lot more questions about lab-grown diamonds. So now we have that option. Before we weren’t even in the conversation.”

O’Connell doesn’t believe the Caydia line will cannibalize the market for moissanite, noting each category will have different price points. With moissanite, the average order is $1,200; the lab-grown diamond line is aiming for an average sale between $3,300 and $4,500.

“With moissanite, it’s 2 carats and above that has the value proposition. Caydia lab-grown diamonds are 2 carats and below. We believe, between the two, we will cover most price points. If we do our job right, we’ll have clear delineations between the two. It will just increase our overall exposure, awareness, and market share.”

The company plans to sell a narrow selection of lab-growns. Its products will feature 0.5, 1, 1.5, and 2 ct. center stones. They’ll be graded E to G in color, VS and above in clarity, and excellent cut, polish, and symmetry.

“A lot of lab-grown diamond sites are giving consumers the choice between 10,000 combinations of a diamond, and it’s very complex, very confusing,” he says. “So, what I tasked our team with is, let’s bring just the right amount of quality, the right amount of value, and have it stay within a certain range.”

He also believes the market for cheaper lab-grown diamonds is becoming crowded and competitive—and will get worse.

“We’re going to play right in the midrange and really just bring forward a quality branded product wrapped in 14k and 18k gold and platinum. We’re not going to be the lowest-cost provider out there. Just like with the proliferation of Chinese moissanite, we have done a good job of keeping [moissanite brand] Forever One elevated.”

He says the two items will be promoted differently and not be mixed in the same piece.

“I think that confuses the consumer, and it’s not our intent to confuse the consumer. If they want to buy a moissanite product or a lab-grown diamond product, we need to have clear separation. So, if you look at our website, you’ll see how we’ve done that with colors and iconography: pink icons for Caydia and blue for moissanite.”

Currently, the company will offer Caydia only through its website, though that could change. It is also not manufacturing lab-grown diamonds, but that could change too.

Now that it’s made this pivot, many things are possible, O’Connell says.

“I don’t know what the future will bring. We’re going to play it by ear. I have three decades in the natural diamond world. I love that space too. It’s part of my DNA. Right now, we believe the lab-grown diamond space is where the future lies for us. We feel it opens up a huge opportunity.

“This is a big move for Charles & Colvard, and we’re excited to get this off the ground and build this business. Whereas the perception of the past was we were just a moissanite gemstone company, this transition into the fine jewelry space is something that will lead us into the future.”

Top: Caydia lab-grown diamond jewelry (image courtesy of Charles & Colvard)

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JCK News Director