Lightbox, the De Beers-owned lab-grown diamond brand that once maintained its products should be limited to “fun fashion” rather than romance, is now selling engagement rings.
At press time, the Lightbox homepage spotlighted a 2 ct. lab-grown diamond solitaire engagement ring for $2,300 and a 2.5 cts. t.w. halo engagement ring for $3,000. A 1 ct. “finest” (VVS+ clarity, excellent cut, D-F color) solitaire sells on the site for $2,500. All told, Lightbox is selling 15 engagement rings styles—11 with its standard stones, four within its finest range.
“We are running a small in-market test of consumer preferences in the lab-grown diamond engagement ring segment,” said a statement from De Beers, in response to an inquiry from JCK.
“Pieces from the DER [diamond engagement ring] test will be available on the Lightbox website, but it will only be actively promoted in New York, Dallas, and Atlanta through highly targeted digital paid media,” according to the statement. “Lab-grown diamond awareness is high in these three markets, so they offer a good platform to better understand consumer behavior and interest in the category. We anticipate the test will last for around three months.”
It added: “We know that many of the LGD DER sales taking place are to consumers who have been ‘converted’ in-store to LGD, and often with misleading or insufficient information.
“We believe this creates a risk to consumer confidence in both natural diamonds and LGDs, so we are testing DERs with Lightbox to better understand the LGD DER space and to provide those specifically wanting LGD DERs to access them from Lightbox, with its commitment to clear information and accessible prices.”
When asked if this will cannibalize its sales of natural diamonds, De Beers said it wanted “to understand as much as possible from the test, but natural diamonds and LGDs are different product categories that have already seen significant—and ongoing—divergence.”
The company said its partners in diamond-producing countries “are aware of the test, and they have been engaged ahead of this test.… Lightbox represents a very small share of our group revenues. We are a natural diamond business and remain entirely committed to the future of our natural diamonds.”
The move comes, ironically, at a time when some lab-grown diamond companies are moving away from bridal, finding it too competitive. And the new offerings contradict De Beers’ standard messaging about Lightbox, which touted it as jewelry for “less serious occasions.”
“Love, commitment, forever are not grown in a lab,” David Prager, now De Beers’ chief brand officer, declared when the company introduced Lightbox in 2018.
“De Beers’ lab-grown diamonds are for anything but marriage,” wrote Quartz, summing up the then party line.
In an interview at the JCK show in Las Vegas on June 3, which appeared online Wednesday, Lightbox CEO Antoine Borde indicated the brand might one day carry engagement rings but didn’t mention it was imminent. He also said it would be a response to consumer demand, rather than a market test. “We have a lot of consumers who ask, ‘When are you going to sell engagement rings?… that’s a very, very consistent message [we are getting]. We are focused on listening to our consumers, because at the end of the day it’s important to answer to their demands,” Borde said.
Trade reaction was predictably mixed. Some in the industry think De Beers is just following the market and this would not be a big deal if done by another company. Others, however, worry that De Beers has crossed a line and wonder what kind of message that sends.
“They have opened Pandora’s box with this one,” says a former De Beers executive. “I’m not sure how De Beers can now talk about ‘preciousness’ and how only a natural diamond can represent important occasions in your life…. This is a sad day.”
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