SINGAPORE — Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend but for Devin Nathanael, the male co-founder of a lab-grown diamond specialist, it was the path to a new business enterprise.
Together with two former colleagues Iris Tan, 38, and Sharon Sim, 31, Nathanael launched Authica Jewellery in September 2021, barely three months after the trio came up with the idea to specialise in lab-grown diamonds jewellery.
Nathanael, 26, was in the midst of searching for his own ‘ideal’ engagement ring when the idea for the jewellery shop was conceived.
Speaking to Yahoo Finance Singapore about how Authica Jewellery came to be, Tan and Sim said it took Nathanael more than half a year to find the precious stone of the quality and ring design he wanted.
While he knew what he wanted, he couldn't find diamonds that met his criteria in ready-retail stores — it was either the design or the stone that wasn't quite right. The high cost was another hurdle.
Nathanael shared his experience with his partners, and within three months, Authica Jewellery was born. As a bespoke jeweller, it customises designs for patrons with diamonds sourced from labs in Belgium or the US.
The trio joke that they are "cross-generational" with the oldest member Tan as the anchor of the team with the most industry experience. Sim, the "millennial", is the creative lead while Nathanael, the "generation Z shopper" is the most financially-savvy.
The team had first met as colleagues in a leading jewellery chain, where they worked in mid-management roles.
Despite age differences, the three bonded over their love for diamonds, with each having a cherished memory of the precious stone in different phases of their lives.
Now the team works from a cosy two-room studio from Oxley Tower where they have received more than 100 customers to date. Asked about profit and sales numbers, Tan declined to reveal exact figures save to say that the business was "thriving" and turned profitable in less than half a year, and on track for an "annualised seven-figure target".
The three co-founders hope to educate consumers in the benefits of lab-grown diamonds, which could be up to 60 per cent cheaper than their mined counterparts, and are more sustainable.
Diamonds developed in the laboratory have the same properties as mined diamonds, but are cheaper due to the shorter processes and the lesser manpower involved. While mined diamonds take billions of years to grow and years more to be mined, then transported to sellers, lab-grown diamonds take only three to four weeks to grow in their controlled environments.
Lab-grown diamonds also go through the same certification and grading processes as mined diamonds from leading gem authorities Gemological Institute Of America and International Gemological Institute.
There is also an ecological aspect to lab-grown diamonds, which are grown from a “seed” in a lab, as opposed to mined diamonds which take a toll on the environment when extracted from the earth.
To differentiate themselves from competitors, the founders are also going beyond the four Cs — cut, colour, clarity and carat — commonly used by consumers in picking their diamond. They offer a further classification termed Ulticut which includes polish and symmetry of their jewels' criteria.
“We always explain to customers that if you want a diamond that is truly of quality and beauty, and truly sparkling on its own you definitely have to look beyond the common four Cs. Because the common four Cs … they don’t really help you to evaluate whether this diamond is really of quality or not,” Tan said.
“They are usually just helpful for retailers like us to understand what is your budget range then we try to propose something that works for you."
Polish, for example, relates to the smoothness of each diamond facet, while symmetry refers to optimisation of each facet. All of which contribute to the natural sparkle of the gem.
The founders are careful to differentiate lab-grown diamonds from cubic zirconia or moissanite, diamond imitations which are similar in appearance but aren't as hardy or valuable.
To the founders, lab-grown diamonds are no less valuable than mined diamonds as heirlooms, and may even be more attractive because of the savings they present.
“If it is tied to the moment (or occasion), it doesn’t matter if it is lab-grown or mined,” said Tan, who said she used diamonds to commemorate milestones such as the birth of her child.
Since diamonds don't not have an investment value, whether lab-grown or mined should not matter, she added.
“It’s advisable to not view diamond jewellery as one that has investment value, because it is not known for its investment value, mined or lab-grown. Because even if you buy a mined diamond you pay S$10,000, the moment you step out of the shop it will already depreciate almost immediately to S$5,000, because it doesn’t have a resale value. It’s not known in the industry to have resale value like gold jewellery."
Since the value of diamonds depreciates, one might as well get a lab-grown diamond and save 60 per cent up front, she said.
“On a practical level, upfront savings can be equally appealing, Both diamonds sparkle very well at the end of the day.”
In the end, Nathanael took near to nine months to procure the perfect ring. His ring design: A round-cut diamond in a pave ring setting. Lab-grown of course.
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