De Beers' Element Six breaks ground on $94 million lab-grown diamond facility

De Beers subsidiary Element Six has begun construction on a new $94 million synthetic diamond production facility for its Lightbox Jewelry brand in Gresham, just outside of Portland, Oregon.  


Groundbreaking ceremony at the site of Element Six's lab-grown diamond production facility in Gresham, Oregon - Twitter: @ElementSix_

The  60,000-square-foot facility is expected to manufacture 500,000 carats of rough lab-grown diamonds per year when production starts there in 2020, and will support Element Six's existing factory in Ascot, UK. 

The Lightbox fashion jewelry brand is set to launch in the US in Fall of this year, where it will initially be available through a dedicated online store before rolling out through a series of retail partnerships. 

In May, De Beers' announcement that it was launching a synthetic diamond business after over a century of promoting natural stones was met with surprise in the industry.

In an interview given to Reuters at the time, De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver clarified that "[synthetic stones a]re not to celebrate life's greatest moments, but they're for fun and fashion," going on to emphasize, "we have always said we are a natural diamonds business. We remain a natural diamonds business."

It was also announced that, in order to ensure a clear distinction between De Beers' man-made and mined diamonds, the group's lab-made stones would be distinguished from their natural counterparts by a tiny mark identifying them as a product of Element Six. 

Cheaper and more ethically watertight than natural diamonds, lab-grown stones are a growing market, particularly among millennial consumers, who consistently claim to be concerned with the social responsibility of the brands they support. As such, companies ranging from Austrian jewelry powerhouse Swarovski to Silicon Valley-based synthetic stone specialist Ada Diamonds have been investing heavily in the sector in the last few years.  

De Beers does, however, look to be aiming to have its cake and eat it, developing a synthetic stone business while also working on its Tracr end-to-end natural diamond blockchain which, when complete, should be able to certify that every stone registered on the platform is both authentic and responsibly sourced, underlining the superiority of natural diamonds while soothing any moral qualms that consumers may have about purchasing them. 

Construction of the new Element Six facility in Gresham is slated to conclude by August 2019. 

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