Lab-grown diamonds have been growing in demand in recent years, particularly with trend-setting royal, Meghan Markle, wearing them as part of her campaign to promote sustainable luxury.
For UK retailers looking to tap into this market, Madestones, established in the centre of the Antwerp diamond district, is the European leader in laboratory-grown diamonds.
Madestones founder, Thierry Silber, is no stranger to natural diamonds, as he also plays a leading role in the family company, Diamaz International.
He is, however, passionate about the benefits of offering lab-grown diamonds to consumers, and has built up a successful business in this area of the market that is slowly but surely gaining traction in the UK.
Silber shares: “Our family company has a long history in the natural polished diamond trade. I belong to the third generation in Diamaz International. I started out as a diamond cutter in 1978 and continued to cut and polish diamonds for two years. It’s an experience that gave me a thorough knowledge of the product.”
Armed with this knowledge, Thierry Silber nurtured the growth of the company. “We were very active in the Soviet Union. I departed to Russia for the first time in the eighties. Those were good years for us until the financial crisis struck in 2008. All of a sudden, prices dropped by 50%. Russia decided not to trade a single rough diamond for a year. We had no other choice than to put an end to our operations in Russia.”
The financial crisis gave Thierry Silber pause for thought.
“Consumers started to spend their money more carefully,” he shares, continuing: “I wondered how the diamond industry could respond to this change. Then I got in touch with an American company that produced a laboratory-grown diamond. I was intrigued right away.”
Thierry Silber flew to the United States and was impressed with what he saw there. Right from the start, he saw the possibilities of placing lab-grown diamonds in jewellery, so he acquired exclusivity in Europe and started trading man-made stones in 2009.
Silber believes in the power of technology and innovation, and though the trade was slow to get on board at first, he is now reaping the rewards of joining the lab-grown diamond movement.
He explains: “Where other industries embrace technology to innovate and to move forward, the diamond industry is conservative by nature. When I started trading laboratory-grown diamonds in 2009, in a pioneering role, I encountered a lot of resistance. I get a great deal more respect today.”
With the fashion industry championing ethics this year, and calling on consumers to ask questions about the provenance of their products, the lab-grown diamond market is expects to grow sustainability over the next five years.
Therefore, Madestones’ future looks bright.
“It takes a great deal of time and money to introduce a new product and build a brand,” says Silber. “Today, the market is booming and we’re reaping the rewards of our efforts. Two years ago, laboratory-grown diamond represented about 1% of the worldwide diamond market. Currently, its market share amounts to 3 to 4%.”
He continues: “I love the diamond trade, I love my city and I want the best for the diamond industry in Antwerp. Traders in natural and laboratory-grown diamond should work together to increase the diamond industry’s share in the market for luxury products. Laboratory-grown diamond is catching on. But it could never have become the success story it is today without natural diamond.”