Are lab diamonds the more sustainable alternatives?
Interview with Elina Sternefeld, founder of Sternefeld
Author: House of Eden
The Berlin based jewelry label Sternefeld specializes in jewelry characterized by individualism and sustainability. In addition, they only work with recycled precious metals and conflict-free gemstones. We speak to the founder Elina Sternefeld.
You are a trained goldsmith and certified diamond appraiser. Could you tell us something about your career?
I completed my training at the Pforzheim Goldsmith School and completed a design degree in Düsseldorf. Due to my great interest in colored gemstones and diamonds, I also trained as a diamond appraiser in Antwerp.
As a jewelry designer and product development manager, I worked for a jewelry company for almost five years. In 2019 I founded my own jewelry brand Sternefeld.
What motivated you to leave the conventional jewelry industry and start your own label?
With Sternefeld I am bringing back the appreciation for German jewelry craftsmanship and the collaboration with local experts. During my training in the gold city of Pforzheim, I saw how many smaller companies had to close because they could no longer keep up with the prices of the big jewelry brands, most of which produce abroad.
Lab diamonds are increasingly being positioned as a solution to conflict diamonds. How do you assess this development?
First, I would like to talk about the term lab diamond. Laboratory diamonds are synthetic diamonds, i.e. artificial stones, which are now produced in large quantities in factories.
Natural diamonds that are traded in the jewelry industry in Germany can be clearly distinguished from conflict diamonds using the so-called Kimberley Process. After mining, natural rough diamonds receive the so-called Kimberley certificate, which certifies their origin and legal mining. This certificate then accompanies the diamond on its way through the supply chain, from the mine to the dealer to the sale to the end consumer.
Source & Copyright Sternefeld
Are lab diamonds really more sustainable or can initiatives like RJC and recycling even the balance?
In my opinion, the sustainability of synthetic diamonds is questionable as most of them are produced using fossil fuels such as coal-fired power in India and China. The energy consumption is enormous and there is practically no environmental protection.
Natural diamonds can be mined using sustainable energy and mines can be returned to their natural state through renaturation. This can even result in a better ecological balance compared to synthetic diamonds.
Recycled diamonds are also called vintage diamonds and are a wonderful sustainable alternative to newly mined diamonds. Vintage diamonds are diamonds that have already been part of existing jewelry and have been mined in the past. By recycling them and incorporating them into new jewelry, the need for new diamond mining is reduced and resources are conserved. These diamonds can be decades or even centuries old.
What advantages do real diamonds have over laboratory diamonds?
Synthetic diamonds are not stable in value. They are now a mass-produced product that can be produced as often as required. Every time I have visited a trade fair since 2020, I have noticed a significant drop in prices, sometimes by up to 80%. At the same time, experts expect the amount of synthetic diamonds produced to grow by around 70%. This development is happening so quickly that the end consumer can no longer get a clear picture of realistic prices. A product whose prices are constantly falling and the margins are growing rapidly (according to Rapport around 65%) is not an option for high-quality jewelry for me.
Natural diamonds, on the other hand, are miracles of nature and have an invaluable advantage - their value retention. Their rarity is a key factor that keeps their value constant and even increases over time. The gemstones are only found to a limited extent in nature.
Source & Copyright Sternefeld
The value of a diamond is determined by the 4 C's. What's it all about?
When searching for the perfect diamond, the so-called "4 C's" - Carat, Cut, Color and Clarity - are important quality criteria that determine the unique characteristics and value of a diamond.
Carat refers to the weight of a diamond. One carat is equal to 0,2 grams. It is important to note that carat is not the same as the size of a diamond. A well-cut diamond can appear larger than a poorly cut diamond of the same carat weight. A diamond's cut refers to the way it has been shaped by a skilled cutter to maximize its luster and brilliance.
The color of a diamond can range from colorless (D) to slightly tinted (Z). Diamonds in the colorless range are the rarest and most sought-after, with increasing tint (yellow or brown tint) the price and demand decrease. The clarity of a diamond refers to the presence of inclusions or impurities in the stone. These inclusions are natural features such as tiny minerals, the finest cracks or separations.
In short: the larger, purer, better cut and colorless the diamond, the more valuable it is.
What can consumers pay attention to when buying diamonds - even without much research or expertise?
It is crucial that you as a buyer first clearly define your own needs and preferences. If you want the highest quality as a long-term investment, look for a diamond that is particularly effective in jewelry. Or are you looking for a larger stone that won't put too much strain on your wallet?
I recommend always purchasing diamonds (especially those over 0,5 carats) with a certificate from a trusted laboratory. Ideally, the diamond should have a gradation from the GIA (Gemological Institute of America), which is known worldwide as the leading institution for diamond certification.
Source & Copyright by Sternenfeld
How do you assess the development of the jewelry industry in the next few years - also with regard to the coexistence of real and laboratory diamonds?
When I look back at the history of gemstones since the end of the 19th century and what has happened to man-made colored stones during this time, I am convinced that we will see a similar development with laboratory diamonds. We see an example of this development in the prices for synthetic colored stones: a 10-carat synthetic ruby costs less than 10 euros today. The actual material only costs a few cents, while the costs arise mainly from the grinding process.
Synthetic diamonds are expected to follow the same path as they can be produced in increasingly larger quantities. Production costs are continuously optimized, which leads to falling prices.
With the possibility of almost any reproduction, "lab diamonds" could become worthless in the future. This would in turn mean that the market would be flooded with synthetic diamonds, which could lead to increased demand for natural diamonds and thus rising prices.