For Gen Z, conscious consumerism doesn’t apply just to fashion and personal care, it applies to luxury items like diamonds as well. Some prudent brands are taking note. The result? What used to take 3 billion years now takes two weeks. Yes, we’re talking about lab-grown diamonds.
By all accounts,Valentine's Day is a popular day for getting down on one knee. In anticipation of next week's impending betrothals, let’s play a rapid-fire, single-question round of ‘Would you Rather’:
Would you rather an engagement ring with a perfect diamond that took up to 3 billion years to form, then made its way to you after being mined under questionable conditions,
Would you rather an ethically produced diamond that is chemically, physically and optically identical to the naturally occurring gemstone -- and takes only two weeks to grow inside a lab?
How you answer might depend upon which generation you identify with. For Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, it may never have crossed your mind that getting a diamond from non-traditional sources was an option. And even if it had, it’s likely you may have thumbed your nose at spending your forever with an engineered alternative.
A Millennial might compromise between the two options, instead choosing an inherited or pre-owned diamond and having it reset. With this approach, you still get an “authentic” diamond, without the unpleasant side-effects of supporting the diamond-mining industry.
But if you’re among Gen Z, it’s likely you’d pick the lab-grown diamond.
The diamond mining industry has been fraught for decades with a reputation for worker exploitation and environmental destruction. However, diamonds engineered or ‘grown’ in a lab are produced ethically, providing an alternative for consumers who do not want to support these practices.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that they’re typically 30-40 percent less expensive than diamonds mined from the Earth. But for Gen Z, these man-made gemstones align with the conscious consumerism they practice with their wallets.
And some brands already are. While not many members of Gen Z are saying ‘I do,’ just yet, they are already making their presence felt in the diamond market. The oldest Gen Z consumers (those currently aged 18 to 20) acquired 5% of all diamond jewelry pieces in the US last year.
Enter a couple of innovative companies who saw a hole in the traditional mined-diamond market -- and filled it instead with a lab.
Couple: lab-grown diamonds
NYC-based startup Couple came about when the co-founder experienced his own troubles trying to find the perfect engagement ring. After going the usual route -- the traditional jewelry powerhouses, the independent shops -- he was left feeling either ripped off or ‘dirty.’
After finding a US-based lab making big strides in lab-grown diamonds that were better and bigger, he decided there had to be another way and launched Couple as the first luxury, lab-grown diamond ring brand.
Couple knows their audience. They’re responding to Gen Z’s desire and expectation that the companies they choose to do business with offer not just quality at a lower price but also ethical products with a transparent production and buying process.
Vrai & Oro: sustainably-grown diamonds, direct to your door
Their name says it all. Translated into English, Vrai & Oro means ‘Truth and Gold.’ The company’s mission is to offer fine jewelry with a conscience. For the consumer, that means every diamond the company sells is sustainably grown at a scientific greenhouse above ground through solar energy with 100% traceabilty. For Gen Z, that checks a lot of important boxes.
In a 2017 study, The Knot reported that 14 percent of people versus 10 percent the previous year, shopped for rings online. Vrai and Oro grabbed this opportunity and have taken the direct-to-consumer, try-it-before you buy it model (think Warby Parker) one step further with a seven-day, at-home engagement ring trial. Added benefit: you can return the ring and get your deposit back if your lady says no!
The company also responded to the Gen Z desire for personalized products and designs with the launch of their online design studio. Customers (often the couple) can design the ring of their dreams, then have the company 3D-print, cast and set it by hand for a custom process from start to finish.
Gen Z's relationship with diamonds
Whether your business is diamonds or not, what’s the lesson here? It’s critical to align your brand values with what Gen Z cares about. As they mature in years and their wealth grows along with them, wooing Gen Z is a smart move. And the best way to do that is to know what’s important to them. Only then can you earn their trust—and business.