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The Future of Diamond and Jewelry Manufacturing: Trends and Predictions
As we close in on the end of the first quarter of the 21st century, society at large is beginning to come to terms with a number of new technological developments that have the potential to revolutionize every sector of the economy. Whether blockchain, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence will bring on an upheaval as great as the Industrial Revolution or will turn out to be overhyped and underwhelming remains to be seen, but these technologies will certainly change the way we live and work in some capacity.
We are already seeing industry practices being shaped by consumer preference for personalization as well as sustainable and ethically sourced jewelry. These preferences will drive the adoption of new technologies that automate parts of the production process, assist in tracking and authenticating diamonds, provide novel and interesting shopping experiences, and help designers create custom pieces.
Overview of Trends
As we discussed in this month’s article on Gen Z consumers, consumers of luxury products are becoming increasingly concerned with the ethics and sustainability of these products. As a result, the lab-grown diamond industry, valued at $19.3 billion in 2020, is expected to grow to nearly $50 billion by 2030, according to Allied Market Research. While the industry currently produces nearly equal numbers of CVD and HPHT diamonds today, the CVD method will become the preferred method of diamond growth in the next decade as it is less costly and more energy-efficient than HPHT, which requires larger equipment and higher temperatures and pressures. As the public receives more education on lab-grown diamonds, the method by which a diamond is grown may become a factor in a consumer’s decision-making process.
In order to produce more personalized jewelry, designers have turned to new forms of automation. This may take the form of CRM software that makes it easier to communicate with customers and for employees at different levels of the sales and production process communicate with each other, or it may take the form of robotic arms assisting the jeweler at the bench, taking on repetitive tasks without replacing the jeweler’s creativity and expertise.
For years, blockchain and related technologies such as cryptocurrency and NFTs have seemed like a solution in search of a problem, but blockchain could find a practical application in diamond authentication. A blockchain is, basically, a spreadsheet or ledger that cannot be edited. So once a diamond is entered into that ledger, consumers can be sure of its authenticity. They will have confidence that the diamond originated where its certificate says it originated, and they will be able to track its entire journey from the mine it came out of to the jewelry it ended up in. Major companies such as De Beers and Brilliant Earth have already adopted this technology, and it could see widespread adoption throughout the diamond industry in years to come as consumers become more concerned with questions of sustainability and ethics.
Those questions of sustainability are already driving consumer interest in lab-grown diamonds. As the effects of climate change become more pronounced and people in power do little to mitigate the damage, citizens will act as consumers and seek out more environmentally friendly products. Supply chains will shorten and organizations that can move products from one place to another with the lowest carbon emissions will see their businesses grow.
Already growing throughout the 2010s, ecommerce growth exploded during the pandemic. Once used mainly for smaller or inconsequential purchases, consumers are now comfortable making major luxury purchases online, and even as consumers can safely return to stores, many prefer the speed and convenience of ecommerce. Chatbots can provide instant answers to questions, and ecommerce platforms make cart management and checkout quick and easy.
None of this is exactly new, but what is changing is how consumers find your ecommerce business. Younger consumers are using social media such as TikTok and YouTube as search engines, turning to influencers and their peers for answers about products rather than Google.
Ecommerce businesses will also want to invest in automation for fulfillment. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a warehouse full of robots; AI-powered software for inventory management will help businesses stock the right products in an ever-changing online environment. See this month’s article on data analytics for more on that topic.
Virtual and Augmented Reality
We may also see more VR and AR used in ecommerce to give consumers an in-store experience at home. Already there are apps that allow users to import a photo of their hand and virtually “try on” rings. But apps aren’t just for ecommerce. More retailers are incorporating AR into their brick-and-mortar businesses to give customers a unique experience worth leaving the house for.
While there is clear potential for AR, VR has still not achieved widespread popularity despite massive investment into metaverse projects. Nevertheless, the technology will become less cumbersome and more practical as time goes on, so it will be worthwhile to keep an eye on this developing technology, even if it might not be worth it to jump into right now.
Preparing for the Future
And that’s what a lot of preparing for the future comes down to: keeping abreast of new technology, both the money behind it and consumer attitudes about it. Movements by people of various political persuasions are advocating for turns away from a global society connected by (and some would say controlled by) technology toward smaller, human connections.
We’ve seen widespread rejection of NFTs, but blockchain-enabled gem tracking seems like an actually useful technology. And while everyone laughed at Mark Zuckerberg’s legless metaverse, there are still useful, albeit limited, applications of AR and VR in retail spaces. This year, machine-generated image and text is all the rage, with Microsoft launching its ChatGPT-enabled Bing search, but worries about artists and writers being replaced wholesale are likely overblown—for now, at least. The practical applications of programs like ChatGPT are far more limited. Many of these technologies make big promises in hopes of landing big investment, so it is important to separate the hype from what they can actually do for your business.
It will still be important to keep abreast of these new developments and consider how they can help you without being swept away by the hype. Other technologies, such as CRM software, POS upgrades, and other applications that improve inventory management, employee experience, and customer experience, will continue to improve, and businesses will be wise to invest in both the technology and the people who can implement it.
In addition to implementing new technology, businesses should invest in ethical and sustainable practices. In the future, simply adhering to the Kimberley Process won’t be enough for some consumers. And in the absence of industry-wide standards, it will be up to retailers to work with suppliers, polishers, cutters, and manufacturers who voluntarily adhere to their own standards.