China, a major consumer of mined diamonds, now has a realistic chance of becoming a supplier of man-made gems and shaping the industry, analysts say.
Unlike naturally occurring diamonds, which form over the course of many years, synthetic diamonds are made in a matter of weeks.
Chinese companies have mastered the technologies to manufacture them en masse within a short period of time. The products are practically indistinguishable from those mined from earth.
China has been producing well over 10 billion carats of diamonds annually for almost a decade, according to the country’s industry estimates. Most of the products have gone to industrial use such as in abrasives. They were provided for aeronautics, oil rigs and electronic chips.
As competition intensified and technology matured, Chinese companies have shifted from abrasives to jewelry.
Liu Yongqi, general manager of Sino-Crystal, told Xinhua News Agency the company now produces between 2 million and 3 million carats a year, over half of which are for jewelry.
“We began our transformation in 2014 to expand to gem-grade diamonds,” said Liu, citing over-competition for the industry.
According to Paul Zimnisky, an independent diamond analyst in New York, “It is important to understand that even if synthetic diamond production is initially lower quality, the diamonds can be ‘enhanced’ with processes that turn lower quality goods into higher-quality.”
He explained that even if a fraction of Chinese production is upgraded to jewelry-quality diamonds, it would have a very significant impact on the global supply which is only in the low-millions-of-carats.
Experts say synthetic diamonds only represent about 3-5 percent of the consumer market, but the share is growing rapidly.
The man-made diamond jewelry market will grow 22 percent annually from $1.9 billion to $5.2 billion by 2023, Zimnisky projected. The analyst added that Chinese companies could soon certainly compete with global diamond producer De Beers.
“The quality of Chinese synthetic diamond production appears to be advancing quite rapidly from what I am seeing..,” Zimnisky said.