A handful of UAE jewellery retailers have been putting out lab-grown diamond collections. Damas CEO Luc Perramond reckons that pricing and quality will convince early adopters. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Searching for a diamond ring for the engagement? But finding them too pricey? This is where ‘lab-grown’ diamonds can make a difference – and it’s exactly the strategy that Dubai jeweler Damas is adopting to winning customers.

“Lab-grown diamonds are slowly winning shopper acceptance, more so with younger and newer buyers of diamonds,” said Luc Perramond, Chairman and CEO of Damas Jewellery. “If they have a smaller budget to spend and still want a 1-carat diamond for their engagement, that’s what they can get if they choose lab-developed solitaire as opposed to a mined one.

“Because then they get it for under Dh10,000 from the collected we launched last month, compared to, say, Dh30,000 or Dh40,000 on a natural.”

Growing diamonds in the lab is no easy process. It’s time consuming and the need to get quality and cut just right is paramount. Supplied

It’s in these two years that a handful of UAE jewelers have been testing consumer demand for precious stones developed to a strikingly high quality only associated with the mined ones. Damas in this regard has been a pioneer, with a dedicated collection based on what can be sourced from the lab.

Perramond was instrumental in Damas taking on this option since he took on the top positions just over two years ago. He realizes that it will not be easy to win over a sizeable buyer base in the UAE and other Gulf markets, where ‘precious’ is intrinsically associated with gold and the – natural – diamond.

“In the US, lab-grown diamonds are well developed, and while the Middle East shopper is still at an early stage of acceptance, we are ready to wait those 5- or 10 years it will take,” he added.

“In the US, lab-grown diamonds are well developed, and while the Middle East shopper is still at an early stage of acceptance, we are ready to wait those 5- or 10 years it will take,” he added. “I for one am a firm believer this is going to develop into an important category, it will be a major disruptor and we will continue to have two major collection drops every year.”

Damas started its collection through sourcing arrangements with some labs in California. Then the sourcing shifted to India. “Next year, we will sourcing from here in the UAE, with a couple of labs launching their operations,” the CEO said. “We on our own will not get into the process itself – that’s best left to the experts.

“The processes are very specific, complicated and also involve a lot of rejections. It takes an average of 4-8 to create the ‘rough’ in the lab and then more time on getting the cut right and the polishing. In all, 3-4 months. We are definitely not talking about mass production.

Because everything has to be done to a high quality, cut and size, I don’t think the production cycle can be brought down. Plus, these labs operate with limited capacity.

- Luc Perramond, Chairman and CEO of Damas Jewellery

Who wants to buy?

Lab grown stones would find affinity with the younger consumer, who is less bound by tradition in their preferences. When it comes to specific buyer demographics, is it more difficult to get through?

“Actually, we are seeing acceptance across all client segments – there is very strong demand from South Asians to add to the interest from Arabs,” he added. “With Western clients, the process may be easier because it’s something they may have been exposed to.”

The highest demand is for 1-2 carats, and, yes, they need to have a lot of sparkle to them. The Damas collection of lab-grown stones also have prices hitting Dh500,000.

The Damas transformation
Since Perramond took over in May 2020, Damas has accelerated its transition to be a ‘jeweller rather than a retailer. “We needed to be known as the ‘house of design’, and that meant elevating the brand. We are 60 per cent of the way there – and we will get the rest of the way there.”

One could say this emphasis on the upscale is in keeping with Perramond’s track record, which has seen him take on stints with H. Stern Jewellers, Hermes Watches and Tag Heur.

“The changes at Damas does not mean we become completely elitist,” the CEO said. “No, but we have the alliances with such brands as Graff, Damiani.

“We still want our brand and business to be more accessible, be a jeweler to all. Or almost everyone.”
With the lab-grown diamonds – and that under Dh10,000 solitaire – Perramond shows how that’s done.