It is a well-known fact that India has had a long-established connection with diamonds not since years but centuries! Before the discovery of diamonds in Brazil in the 1720s, most diamonds came from India and India remained the world’s principal producer of diamonds for over 1000 years. The earliest diamond in the world was found in India in the 4th century BC and later some of the finest quality diamonds (majority Type IIa diamonds) were produced from the historical Golconda mines during the 7th century BC. Over time as the Indian mines depleted, India’s control over the trade got restricted to its strong manufacturing capabilities where in over 95% of the diamonds worldwide are cut & polished in India.
However, times are changing again for India. With rising popularity of lab grown diamond across the world and India being the world’s leading producer of Type IIa CVD diamonds – India once again is regaining its claim to fame of being the world’s leading producer of the finest quality diamonds.
Thanks to the CVD (Carbon Vapor Deposition) technology that is indigenously developed and completely made in India – India is now emerging as a global hub of not just manufacturing but also DIAMOND PRODUCTION.
Bain & Co’s recent Diamond Industry Report 2021 reveals that global lab grown diamond production has crossed 7 million carats per year. Of this, India is leading the charts in CVD diamond production of almost 1.5 million carats each year, higher than overall production levels even in USA, Europe & Middle East, Russia & Singapore.
These huge production volumes have translated into rapid growth in export collections this year for India. As reported by the Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council, polished lab-grown diamonds exports nearly doubled to INR 5,175 Crores for FY2021, compared to INR 2,985 Crores last year.
Leading the evolution of the lab-grown diamond industry in India, is Mr. Bakul Limbasiya, the leading technocrat to have developed the CVD diamond technology in India and responsible for nearly 80% of the 1.5 million carats produced in India.
Commonly known as the Bhishma pitamah (originator or creator) of the lab grown diamond industry in India, Mr. Limbasiya has been instrumental in shaping the lab grown industry in India. Having produced scalable volumes, he has remained successful in proving that India can emerge from being just a manufacturing hub to becoming one of the largest producers of diamonds, that too those of the finest quality.
“This is just the beginning for India. FY 21 yet again proved to be a robust year for the Indian lab grown industry with exports up 74% y/y, crossing INR 5,000 Crores in value. Going forward, the industry will see an even stronger growth in exports as global economies recover and there will be a significant pick up in consumer demand. And India will have a huge role to play in further shaping up the industry worldwide because of its expanding growing & production strength of CVD diamonds combined with manufacturing strength but also a huge consumption potential with the largest millennial population,” says Mr. Limbasiya.
Published in 2015, the Frost & Sullivan report suggested that, due to limitation of resources, mined diamond supply will decline to 62m carats by 2030 while the demand will increase leaving a deficit of nearly 160m carats.
Mr. Limbasiya sees this huge gap between demand for rough diamond and the depleting supply of mined diamonds as an opportunity to be filled in ten years with lab-grown CVD diamonds. With India as a leading producer and exporter of CVD diamonds today, it stands to gain from this situation.
Lab grown diamonds – New choice of the Conscious Millennial
While lab-grown diamonds are 100% real and more affordable option, the fact that these diamonds best align with the values of today’s consumer is what sets them leagues apart from traditional stones. Those opting for lab-grown diamonds are also making sure that they not only pass down a precious heirloom to future generations but also a planet that is ecologically diverse and lively.
Interestingly, lab-grown diamonds have the highest demand from the millennials and historically millennials were the largest purchasers of mined diamonds. And with the ever-increasing environmental threats and depletion of mines, consumers have been quite wary of purchasing diamonds. They now focus not only on aesthetics and rarity in their jewels, but they also seek assurance that they are sourced responsibly. These values have led to an increased demand for non-mined diamonds and it is only expected to grow.
This preferential shift towards lab grown diamonds is now reflecting in the ever-increasing lab grown sales in the mined diamond dominant markets like USA and China. India too is not behind and catching pace swiftly with Indian millennials also beginning to embrace lab grown diamonds. At a millennial population of over 40 Crore, the highest in the world, and their increasing support towards sustainable & eco-friendly products, boost in the domestic demand for lab grown diamond studded jewellery is inevitable.
Leading the lab grown diamond initiative in the consumer space is Limelight Lab Grown Diamonds, India’s largest luxury brand offering sustainable CVD diamond studded jewellery. With over 10 retailer partners across Hyderabad, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Mumbai & Goa and 15 associate partners, the brand continues to penetrate strongly in the Indian jewellery market.
“Awareness on lab grown diamonds is spreading fast in India. Consumers are now more educated on these real non-mined diamonds. And contrary to common industry beliefs, with increasing awareness, consumers are also becoming more comfortable with the co-existence of lab grown diamonds with its mined counterparts. The unique & independent personality of lab grown diamonds as a sustainable & environmentally friendly yet affordable gemstone is extremely well accepted in the millennial consumers and is increasingly reflecting in the sales of lab grown diamond studded jewellery across India.” says Ms. Pooja Sheth, MD & Founder of Limelight.
Birth of a lab grown diamond
Lab grown diamonds are absolutely real but at the same time planet friendly because they are not mined but instead grown above in labs in exactly the same way. They have the same carbon composition, properties & characteristics and leaves the earth free of mining manipulations. As a result, these diamonds are conflict free, eco-friendly and help sustain earth’s depleting resources, particularly land and water.
There are two ways to grow a lab grown diamond – Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD process) or the High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT process).
The CVD process is an advanced technology, largely developed in India, that exactly replicates the diamond formation process from below the earth. This is equivalent to the concept of IVF technology & test tube babies, where the DNA remains the same but the formation environment is different.
The process begins with a mined diamond. A thin layer of the mined diamond is prepared and placed as a seed in the CVD plasma reactor. An intense temperature & pressure environment is created just like that found below the earth. Gases are infused and under severe conditions, carbon disintegrates from the gases to develop into rough diamonds. Rough diamonds are then removed from the plasma reactors and cut & polished in exactly the same manner as a mined diamond.
But the main significance of a CVD diamond is that it is composed of 100% carbon and nitrogen free. World renowned diamond grading & certifying labs classify such diamonds as a Type IIa diamond. The shine & brightness is significantly better than any other diamond.
This is impossible to achieve through the HPHT process and is extremely rare to find in mined diamonds. 98% of mined diamonds have nitrogen impurities and only 2% of the world’s mined diamonds are 100% carbon composed and classified as Type IIa.
All diamonds formed through the CVD process are composed entirely of carbon and receive the Type IIa classification from the certifying bodies. As a result, the shine & brilliance of a CVD diamond is unmatched and rare to find in the mined counterparts.
On the other hand, High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) process, largely developed in China, uses graphite & a molten metal influx to form a diamond under severe temperature & pressure conditions. With impurities of metal in the diamond, HPHT diamonds are never 100% carbon composed, the purest and cannot be classified as Type IIa.