Just a few years ago, the idea of a diamond being forged in a lab seemed like the stuff of science fiction. Today, the technology is driving a rapidly-growing sector of the fine and demi-fine jewellery industry. While chemically identical to natural, mined diamonds, lab-grown diamonds offer a host of environmental and ethical benefits lacking from the traditional diamond supply chain, leading a new generation of designers to opt for only lab-grown stones. “It’s a no-brainer,” says Jessica Warch, co-founder of Kimaï. “It’s almost impossible to know where mined diamonds come from, and child labour is still sadly a reality in that industry. Using lab-grown diamonds allows us and the customer to have 100 per cent transparency across the supply chain.”
As well as boasting ethical and sustainable properties, lab-grown gemstones come at a much lower price point. “The price of a lab-grown diamond is around 40 to 50 per cent lower, compared to mined diamonds,” says Zulu Ghevriya, co-founder of Smiling Rocks. In turn, this offers young designers more opportunities to elevate their work, as well as allowing a new generation of consumers to access fine diamond jewellery without sacrificing quality. “Many opt for lab-cultured stones because they can get a higher carat stone for a fraction of the price than if it were a natural, mined gemstone,” says Matilde Mourinho, founder of Matilde Jewellery.
As this new generation of consumers begins to prioritise environmental responsibility and ethically conscious consumption, this fledgling sector is gaining serious momentum, with global market size predicted to reach almost $50 billion by 2030, according to Allied Market Research. “Lab-grown diamonds give us many more options to offer our customers,” says Eliza Walter, founder of Lylie. “We believe there is a common misconception that you have to sacrifice design for sustainability, and we are adamant that this needs to change.”
Thankfully, there is now a plethora of choice for jewellery lovers looking to get in on the lab-grown action. Here are a few of the best lab-grown diamond jewellery brands to shop now.
Counting Alesha Dixon, Lily Allen and Lady Gaga among its clientele, Carat* has been on a mission to bring alternatives to mined gemstones to the masses for over 20 years. Helmed by husband and wife team Scott and Heidi Thompson, the London-based brand creates both fashion and fine jewellery inspired by everything from cocktails to constellations.
Founded by two friends born into families who worked in Antwerp’s diamond trade, Kimaï was born with the hope of enacting industry-wide change. “When we became aware of the inner workings of the industry, we wanted to do things differently,” says Warch. “Through Kimaï, we are working to reimagine the diamond and fine jewellery industry by fostering a more ethical and transparent approach, without compromising on style or quality.” Timeless and classic, each piece of Kimaï’s intricate jewellery is made-to-order and crafted using 18-karat gold.
Having trained as a goldsmith in Hatton Garden, Eliza Walter founded Lylie in 2017. Crafted by a network of freelance goldsmiths, each and every piece of Lylie jewellery is made using only lab-grown or recycled antique diamonds, as well as recycled metals derived from electronic waste and the brand’s own gold exchange. The offering is vast, but the sculptural, coral reef-inspired pieces are some of the most beautiful we’ve seen.
Launching later this month, Swiss jewellery brand Loev crafts colourful, contemporary jewellery from enamel and recycled 18-karat gold. Designing for the next generation of jewellery lovers, the brand is on a mission to become a voice for change in an industry traditionally dominated by a handful of powerful houses. “We are the generation that has learned to not close their eyes but to question the status quo and not believe everything we are told,” says co-founder Niels Schaefer. “Lab-grown diamonds are here to stay.”
Loveness Lee founded her eponymous London-based jewellery brand in 2016 after completing a Masters degree at the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design. “Each and every Loveness Lee piece is inspired by textures and shapes taken from the natural world, and a huge part of my design process is about preserving their beauty,” says Lee. “I felt it was my duty to ensure that I also work to protect the medium that inspires me.” The brand uses recycled metals and lab-grown rubies and sapphires and an innovative cast-not-set method to create its small-batch sculptural designs, fans of which include Nicola Coughlan, Pixie Geldof and Priyanka Chopra-Jonas.
Founded by designer Matilde Mourinho in December 2020, Matilde Jewellery is another sustainable fine jewellery brand on a mission to bring jewellery fans an alternative to environmentally and socially harmful designs. Using only 14-karat, 100 per cent recycled gold and lab-grown diamonds, the brand cuts out middlemen in an effort to keep its delicate pieces as sustainable and accessible as possible.
New York-based jewellery brand Smiling Rocks launched in 2018 with the aim of ‘building a chain of smiles through sustainable luxury.’ Producing engagement and bridal pieces, as well as architectural, classic and high jewellery collections, the brand’s lab-grown diamond jewellery has been worn on the red carpet by stars including Olivia Colman and Kodi Smitt McPhee. Philanthropy is integral to Smiling Rocks, with 10 per cent of the brand’s consumer business, 3 per cent of its jewellery and 1 per cent of its loose diamond revenue donated to charities in aid of animal and wildlife protection, medical and educational support and environmental protection. This is jewellery that does good and looks better.
Crafting contemporary and timeless jewellery with sustainably-created diamonds, Vrai forges each of its precious gemstones in its zero-emission foundry. These are then cut and polished by fourth-generation diamond cutters and set in recycled solid gold and platinum. From engagement rings to everyday gems, Vrai offers a choice of 10 unique diamond shapes and 15 settings, all of which can be mixed and matched to create your perfect piece.