As the natural diamond industry continues to try its hand at wooing Millennial shoppers, the lab-grown diamond sector is attracting new and young consumers en masse. Companies such as ALTR, a “created diamonds” company, produce lab-grown diamonds that appeal to Millennials for its more affordable price points and vertically aligned, sustainable business model that meets current customer demands.
ALTR founder and president Amish Shah explained that the natural diamond industry’s downturn might be the result of businesses losing touch with the consumer as well as perpetual “poor marketing.” Shah attributes the height of the industry’s success to clever and impactful marketing campaigns — such as De Beers’ “A Diamond Is Forever” tag line, originally from 1948 — which have waned in popularity over the years.
“The diamond industry has been disconnected with the consumer for a long time now,” Shah told WWD. “Newer consumers are unable to find any relevance with the marketing message of the industry. The growth of the created [diamond] industry right now is bifold. Right now, we are a $150 million category — we’ll be at a billion dollars in three years. And who’s driving this? This is purely driven by the consumer.”
Shah said created diamonds are a more affordable alternative to Millennials prioritizing value, as ALTR and other created diamond companies can offer larger stones at lower prices. According to a 2017 study by Charles Schwab, Millennials’ penchant for travel, experiences, new technologies, Ubers and even coffee comprises the majority of their spending. In Shah’s view, all this has taken away market share from the diamond sector, and he believes that created diamonds can draw shoppers back in.
“Our industry lost their consumer to a vacation in Australia,” Shah said. “Why can’t we become part of that, and have them buy a bigger engagement ring, something that symbolizes their emotion, their affection? Because we don’t give them that experience — so let’s change that.”
Shah said the company is “basically bringing this product to the market with branding, marketing and education that the consumer connects with. This entire package is how we want to drive the desire back for diamonds.”
Described as a vertically aligned company, ALTR controls its entire manufacturing process from diamond creation to finished fine jewelry, the company said. ALTR manages a team of approximately 100 client-servicing associates across its New York headquarters, Hong Kong and Mumbai offices, with manufacturing and distribution centers in North America, South Asia, Australia and South Korea. The firm works with distribution partners across 15 countries and has reached 35 countries with its product.
ALTR’s roots, though, are in natural diamonds. Shah, a third-generation diamantaire, maintains his post as president of R. A. Riam Group, a family-owned business and player in the natural diamond sector for more than 75 years. The parent company of ALTR, Riam Group, was established in 2011 when Shah assumed leadership of the firm, which was run by a second-generation diamond family based in New York.
Shoppers can comfortably purchase lab-grown diamonds free of concern about the origin, as they are naturally conflict-free and sustainable. Lab-grown diamonds grow from diamond “seeds,” which are slivers of natural or man-made diamonds that are fused with carbon gases in a growing chamber, allowing for a fully traceable manufacturing process. Sustainability plays a big role in created diamonds’ appeal: ALTR “uses only a fraction of the energy used to mine diamonds,” utilizes a windmill for its energy requirements and integrates recycled metals into its fine jewelry to further minimize its carbon footprint, according to the company.
Shah shifted his focus to the lab-grown production of Type IIa diamonds, exclusively, to tap into a market that is merely an alternative for consumers wanting to invest in diamonds. “We are bringing choice to the consumer,” Shah said. “If the consumer gets between 30 and 40 percent better value, what that means is they are getting a larger, more beautiful, more brilliant crystal for the same price [as a natural diamond].” He continued, “Created diamonds are all that a diamond can be — only better. Every ALTR created diamond is a masterfully cut Type IIa diamond, the purest diamond known to man. Imagine holding a diamond as pure as the Koh-i-Noor [diamond] was.”
And regarding the resale values of created versus natural diamonds, Shah told WWD, “With such high-quality [diamonds] and the master craftsmanship of our diamond artisans, ALTR consumers do not have to worry about the value of the diamond they are buying. ALTR is a new age company that keeps the consumers at the forefront of its decision-making. Hence, our trade-in and upgrade programs along with our product guarantee are of the highest possible standards, and pro-consumer.”
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