Namibia and other global producers of natural diamonds can fend off competition from synthetic diamonds through differentiation and marketing of the natural stones.
This was the conclusion from the diamond discussion between the big players of the Namibian value addition industry and minister of mines and energy Tom Alweendo, that was held at the Swakopmund international expo last Friday.
Namdia chief executive Kennedy Hamutenya explained that product differentiation is going to make a difference as in future, people will have to decide if they are going to buy natural stones or a fashion item, which is the synthetic stone.
"It entirely depends on how the market behaves and how the industry and country market the natural stones which will determine if the lab-made diamond is a threat or not," he stated.
Hamutenya added that synthetic diamonds are not a new thing and the reason they haven't been a threat is because in the past years the industry failed to perfect them due to the cost of electricity and pressure involved.
However, technology has been improved and the process is possible now to produce perfect stones, which are being sold at a lower price to millennials who are not considerate of value but rather quantity, he indicated.
Hamutenya said synthetic diamonds are fashion items, something millennials wear and take off, but differentiation is going to make a difference.
He said currently there is a global association led by De Beers with the objective to promote natural stones and teach the millennials what natural stones contributed to building the nations that produce them, since the feel-good of buying the natural stones is what it does for its people.
Alweendo explained that both the natural and the synthetic diamonds are all consumable products but if the producers of natural diamonds manage to educate the consumers on the value carried by the two stones it can make an impactful difference.
"What should worry us is only if the consumers start confusing the lab grown stone and the natural stones. But if you buy knowing that it is lab-grown and is cheap, therefore differentiation is the most important thing," Alweendo said. "The marketing and education of the consumers is the most important thing because we cannot prevent people from consuming synthetic diamonds but they should know when they are buying what type of stones they are buying."
Namibia Diamond Trading Company chief executive officer Brent Eiseb told the event that the competition from the synthetic stones can be fended off by how the country tells its story regarding its proceedings from the natural stones, what does it do for the country at a community level and everything associated with it.
He explained that "buying a diamond is not just about the cheap price, it is about understanding how that product is contributing to the community and environment. So the country needs to find a way to tell its diamond story," he said.
Eiseb added that the country also needs to guard its market jealously and to ensure synthetic diamonds are not sold as natural stones and maintain consumer confidence on their choices.
Diamond Manufactures Association of Namibia chairperson Ofer Babluki said the diamond polishing sector has what it takes to compete globally as their workforce has gained the skills needed and the sector is good as any sector out there.
He said given the skills they groomed, they intend to make Namibia the cutting centre of the world and attract even lab-made diamonds.
Official statistics show that there were 688 000 carats worth of diamonds exported between January and June this year and 1,8 million carats in 2018.