This jewelry start-up grows ‘affordable’ diamonds in the lab

Globally, lab-grown diamonds are emerging as an alternative to natural diamonds. They are gaining popularity among the younger generation due to their affordability.

This is what drew Surya Jain, a fifth generation jeweler, to synthetic diamonds, as he had always sought to create a brand that was affordable, fashionable and ready for the future. So when he came across several reports of these cultured diamonds, Surya was hooked.

Three years later, in 2021, Surya started Aupulent, with Abhishek Dak. The Delhi-based startup sells jewelry made from lab-grown diamonds. Surya describes the brand’s products as “economical”, meeting the needs of the younger generation, who are looking for jewelry for everyday use.

LR: Surya Jain and Abhishek Dak, co-founders, Aupulent

How Lab Diamonds Are Made

Lab-grown or cultured diamonds are diamonds grown in a laboratory by replicating the creation process that takes place beneath the surface of the earth.

The process of making cultured diamonds begins with diamond seeds – tiny slices of diamond as thick as human hair. These seeds are placed in a chamber called a plasma reactor. Under a combination of heat, pressure and a carbon source, the seeds grow, layer by layer, to form a rough.

The rough is then cut and polished in the same manner as natural diamonds to produce diamonds with optimum fire, scintillation and brilliance. To make the first set of Lab Diamonds, seeds are obtained from mined diamonds. After which, Lab Diamond Seeds can be used to produce more Diamonds.

According to Surya, it is difficult to tell the difference between mined and lab-grown diamonds with the naked eye because they are chemically of the same composition. These can only be identified by professional gemologists using various gemological tests, he says.

Cultured diamonds are also called man-made diamonds, cultured diamonds, man-made diamonds and created diamonds.

Globally, the diamond market was valued at $84 billion in fiscal year 2021-2022, according to Bain & Company. According to Statista, the lab-grown diamond market is expected to represent 10% of the global diamond market by 2030. By 2030, the global lab-grown diamond market volume is estimated at nearly 19.2 million carats.

From April 2021 to March 2022, India exported cut and polished diamonds worth $24,433.97 million. Of that amount, lab-grown diamonds were worth $1,313.98 million, according to the Gem and Jewelery Export Promotion Council, up from $636.43 million the previous year.

Image Credit – Aupulent

Why synthetic diamonds are more affordable

According to the founder of Aupulent, lab-grown diamonds are much more affordable than mined ones because the mined diamonds are transferred through multiple hands, before the diamonds reach the customer’s hands, resulting in an 8-10 markup times more. than what they cost.

Although the lab-grown diamond is a duplicate of the mined diamond, it is as good as the mined version, Surya says. For example, if the seed comes from Type IIA diamonds, which are considered the most chemically pure diamonds, lab-grown diamonds would also be Type IIA. On the other hand, Type IIA diamonds represent only 2% of all mined diamonds.

All of these factors make lab-grown diamonds more affordable than mined diamonds, says the founder of Aupulent.

Another thing the company does to keep the products affordable is that it keeps the gold used with the diamonds light (14 and 18 karat gold), thus reducing the price of the metal. According to Surya, the metal used is hollow inside; the jewelry is designed in such a way that its durability is not compromised.

Himanshi Singh, a doctor from Udaipur, wanted to buy diamond earrings for a friend. But the mined diamonds she saw were well above her budget. It was then that she met Aupulent. Himanshi says Surya helped her understand everything about lab-grown diamonds and the manufacturing process. Intrigued and impressed that a diamond was in her budget, she opted to buy droop earnings worth around Rs 22,000 from Aupulent.

Product range

Aupulent cultivates and cuts laboratory diamonds at its factory in Surat, Gujarat.

The company sells synthetic diamond jewelry, such as earrings, chains, bracelets and rings, through its website. Most of its products fall in the price range of Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000. The company uses Type IIA seeds and its designs are inspired by global fashion trends.

“We offer a new collection almost every two weeks, so our inventory is up to date with current fashion trends and the customer has something new to explore. All of our jewelry and diamonds are certified by leading international laboratories that certify mined diamonds. They also come with BIS Hallmark certification,” says Surya.

The company uses social media and events to market its products. “Instead of hiring random influencers, we ask young, high achievers to be part of Aupulent,” the jeweler explains.

Image Credit – Aupulent

Aupulent’s sales

Within two months of launch, Aupulent sold around 100 pieces of jewelry and saw a 70% increase in sales in the third month. The company expects the sale of nearly 1,500 units by the end of the 2022-2023 financial year.

In India, Aupulent competes with brands such as Syndiora, Avtaara, Divaa.

Broader view

According to the founder of Aupulent, the company’s vision is to disrupt the jewelry industry by offering a lifestyle product specifically developed for everyday use with minimal impact on the environment.

Lab-grown versus mined diamonds

Traditionally, the diamond mining industry has been associated with issues related to working conditions and adverse environmental effects. On the carbon emissions front, lab-grown and mined diamonds are said to emit greenhouse gases during the production process.

Some brands are tackling this problem by using renewable energy to grow diamonds in the lab. Recently, LMVH, along with other investors, invested $90 million in Israeli company Lusix, a lab-grown diamond company, which produces diamonds using solar energy.

Surya says Aupulent would look for alternative energy sources to grow diamonds. “But the working environment must be sufficiently supportive and financially viable. India’s energy industry is also slowly shifting to renewables and with it, companies will too.

The founding team

Surya comes from a family of jewelers – Nikka Mal Babu Ram Jewelers, founded in 1857 in Ludhiana, Punjab. He had previously owned a company called OneCarat, a B2B sales network in India dealing with personalized engagement rings.

Its co-founder Abhishek, before Aupulent, was involved in a family transport and logistics company, based in Udaipur.

This start-up company has a team of 20 people, including 5 designers and 4 members in the technical team.

Future plans

The company plans to launch several products with new designs, including a collection dedicated to men. It also plans to open a physical store in Delhi, Bangalore or Mumbai.

Sarah C. Figueiredo