A Look Into The Emerging (And Sparkling) World Of Lab Grown Diamonds

There’s nothing quite as ingrained into modern tales of romance, luxury and glamour than diamonds—a coveted gem that has long been held on a pedestal that seems just out of reach. Think of diamonds and you’ll think of Marilyn Monroe’s legendary performance in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, where the Hollywood icon sings of diamonds being a “girl’s best friend”, while modern pop culture often uses the sparkling symbol as central plot points or to signify the pinnacle of relationship success, all in designs that seem to perfectly encapsulate the women it’s being bestowed upon—just look to Elle Woods’ pink diamond or Carrie Bradshaw’s iconic black diamond. 

But, as the world has undeniably shifted to focus on environmentally friendly and sustainable practices, so too has the allure of the diamond. Instead, many have turned their backs on the likes of traditional mined diamonds, which often pose risks not only on the environment but in streams of exploitation, the world of moissanite and lab-grown variations has quickly boomed. In fact, it’s reported that nearly 70 per cent of Gen-Z and Millennial shoppers would look for an engagement ring in the lab-grown world. 

Lauren Sommer and Alana Weirick, sisters and co-founders of Moi Moi Jewellery, Australia’s only moissanite and lab-grown diamond retail store, were at the forefront of the movement, launching their business back in 2004 after a personal experience looking for something as unique and special as a diamond, but that not only didn’t come at such a high-cost, but was sustainable as well.  Sommer says the journey was sparked when looking for a pair of earrings for her wedding day, noting the search was met with hurdles when she was fronted with either purchasing a pair of diamond studs for plus $10,000, or settling for a pair of cubic zirconia, which she knew might not stand the test of time. She says. “I didn't want to spend $10,000. I was already thinking about saving up for a deposit on a house, honeymoon, all of those things that you do when you're about to get married.” 

It wasn’t until her parents returned from overseas with a pair of earrings made of Moissanite that were exactly what Sommer had envisioned for her special day, that Sommer continued her search locally. Quickly realising there were no other retailers creating what she was looking for—Sommer saw the gap in the market to create her own.

“I thought, if I want that, I'm sure there are lots of other women in Australia who would like something really affordable, that looks really good and will last forever, and I could hand them down to my kids.”

The pair’s idea would take just months to come to fruition, becoming Australia’s first and only Moissanite and lab-grown diamond retailer. Originally, the pair worked with a U.S. based company that held the exclusive distribution rights to Moissanite at the time, but soon branched out from a focus on the self-purchasing women, to cater to the huge demand in the bridal space.And it since happened that most markets who deal with Moissanite now across the world focus on bridal, but at that time, that was the direction we were going in. We quickly went straight into bridal.” 

While both grown in a lab, Moissanite is made from “silicon carbide and diamonds are made from carbon,” says Sommer. “Lab-grown diamonds are identical to mined diamonds. They're both made from carbon. They have the exact same properties, optically, physically, chemically, structurally, but because one's made in a lab, it's made quicker in the sense of a couple of months, rather than millions of years.”

All of Moi Moi’s lab-grown diamonds are certified, just as mined diamonds would be—”in terms of colour, cut, clarity and symmetry.” They also offer up less environmental impact, and are guaranteed to be conflict-free, because “they have a known source of origin, a hundred percent of the time.” “It's very difficult for mined diamonds to be completely transparent throughout the entire process,” explains Sommer. “And so that's one of the reasons consumers do look for lab-grown diamonds because they have an ethical and a social responsibility factor to them.” 

The pair now specialise in custom designs, creating one-of-a-kind pieces that hold sentimental value for the wearer, with their offerings of LAVANA lab-grown diamonds and SUPERNOVA moissanite. 

“Moissanite's origins trace back to a meteorite, and that's where the SUPERNOVA name comes from,” Sommer explains. “And the LAVANA name is a combination of my sister and I, Lauren and Alana.” 

The pair have now cultivated a reputation for adding distinctly personal touches to their creations. “For instance, you might have a solitaire ring and you might want to add a hidden halo underneath that, so that it looks a bit different to everybody else's. And then there's a whole other group of people that do a full custom design and have their own ideas, and we work from scratch on every detail of the ring.” 

Moi Moi Jewellery opened its new flagship store—set in Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building—in 2021, only to have its doors shut just four weeks later due to lockdowns, which forced the team to shift its focus to their virtual consultations. 

“We need to be able to constantly guide our clients with the right advice and continue to update them on where we're at with their purchase, and then deliver in a timeframe that they're happy with. But all of those processes have been able to be transferred from being a face-to-face service to also being an online service as well.”

The jeweller also offers its unique try-on service, where customers can choose ring designs that they’re interested in and be sent samples to see how they look and feel. “And it's an investment. So, it might take a little bit longer during the online process than it might do in a shop environment, but it's still important that customers shopping from home get to have that touch and feel experience.” 

As for how Moi Moi continues to push past the previous fascination and fantasy ideal of diamonds, she says that while it was originally an “uphill battle”, consumers are now “seriously educated” when it comes to making ethical purchases. 

“There's a lot of romanticism about diamonds, but now with the information that's available, I think consumers are getting a bit more aware about a lot of the opaqueness in the industry that was previous to that.” 

The jeweller adds that now more than ever, those purchasing diamonds are adamant on knowing where and how the piece came to be made, resulting in a “turning of the tide.” 

“People want to know where exactly did this diamond came from and who was involved in making it, and what were the processes that protected child labor or environmental processes,” she explains. “And I think that's where there's a lining of the stars a few years ago, when more and more consumers were seeking jewels that were more ethical and there were ethical jewels on offer that were of very high quality.” 

 

Image Credit: Moi Moi Jewellery