ITL #458 Sparkling communications: Pandora’s move into lab-grown diamonds1 year, 8 months ago
Price point and sustainability considerations were at the heart of the highly newsworthy decision to introduce a range of ‘unnatural’ diamonds. By Johan Melchior.
In May 2021, Pandora launched the company’s first jewellery collection featuring lab-created diamonds. The collection, called Pandora Brilliance, was initially introduced as a trial in the UK with a decision on global roll-out to come later. At the same time, Pandora announced that it would no longer use mined diamonds.
In this piece I will describe how Pandora positioned its entry into lab-created diamonds and discuss how it was received.
Diamonds are not only for ever, but for everyone
Pandora is the world’s largest jewellery brand, selling about 100 million pieces of jewellery every year. That’s three pieces per second. Our jewellery is made from quality materials, primarily sterling silver, and priced as ‘affordable luxury’. An average piece of Pandora jewellery costs about £50.
Relative to our full assortment, Pandora has historically not used many diamonds. Recently, they’ve only been used for a limited edition charm for Pandora Club members, selling around 50,000 pieces per year. Diamonds have simply been too expensive for our price range.
Lab-created diamonds have been around since the 1950s, but the quality has not been good enough for jewellery. They have mainly been used for drilling tools and other industrial purposes.
Now, innovation has made it possible to grow diamonds of excellent quality in the lab. They are physically, chemically and optically identical to mined diamonds, but cost a lot less.
This makes them commercially relevant for Pandora. We could see an opportunity to expand the market for diamond jewellery by offering great quality products at an affordable price. We could introduce diamonds to people who perhaps did not consider them before, because they were too expensive.
Importantly, though, we did not talk about Pandora Brilliance only as affordable. The focus of the advertising campaign was on personal transformation. Celebrate a change in your life, empowerment and possibility with a diamond. A diamond that has been produced with modern technology, not mined from the ground, but is still a diamond.
A low-carbon alternative
Secondary in our consumer communication was affordability and the sustainability profile of our diamonds. When lab-created diamonds are grown using renewable energy and new process technology, greenhouse gas emissions are less than a tenth of the emissions from an average mined diamond. Pandora offsets those remaining unavoidable emissions so the jewellery is certified carbon neutral.
The low-carbon profile was important because it supports one of Pandora’s strategic priorities. Over the past couple of years we have introduced a number of sustainability initiatives, not least with regards to our climate impact. We use 100% renewable energy at our crafting facilities and have committed to be carbon neutral in our own operations by 2025. By 2030, we will cut emissions across our entire value chain by 50% – an ambition that is approved by the Science Based Targets initiative.
The choice of raw materials is a key factor for our value chain emissions. We are switching entirely to recycled silver and gold in our jewellery, which will cut carbon emissions by two thirds for silver and by more than 99% for gold. With their very low CO2 footprint, lab-created diamonds are another step on Pandora’s journey towards becoming low-carbon and circular.
On our website, we provide documentation for all sustainability-related claims to allow transparency for customers and other stakeholders.
Attention and newsworthiness
A product launch usually does not interest mainstream media much, unless of course it’s a new iPhone or a Tesla. But this one turned out to be an exception.
The news was covered by large international newspapers such as Washington Post, New York Times, The Guardian and Financial Times and major broadcasters like BBC, CNN and ABC. It was on the US morning shows, Chinese state tv, South African radio and the British tabloids. The news was discussed by business columnists and even a French philosophy magazine.
A Cision analysis found more than 2,000 articles about Pandora Brilliance in the first two weeks after the launch. It also soared on social media – an Instagram post from CNN generated almost 200,000 likes and 28,000 comments.
Pandora’s lab-created diamond collection was covered by media everywhere, which suggests a wider cultural significance. So why was that?
First of all, diamonds make news. There has always been a strong appeal around the rare gems, and here was the world’s largest jewellery brand moving into a new and more affordable way of providing diamond jewellery to more people. Clearly interesting, even taking into account that Pandora is targeting a different segment than traditional diamond customers and has not used many diamonds in the past.
Secondly, the news matched the current focus on innovation and sustainability. Lab-created diamonds are made by placing a tiny diamond seed in a plasma reactor. Under low pressure and high temperature, you add carbon-rich gasses to grow the diamond layer by layer. While it takes millions of years to form a diamond in the earth’s core and considerable effort to mine it from the ground, an identical stone can be grown in the lab in a few weeks.
This mirrors innovations in other industries. For centuries, ‘natural’ foods, fibers, and other products have been thought to be better for people and the planet, but now consumers increasingly turn to plant-based meat, bioengineered leather and other innovative alternatives in search of new and more environmentally friendly solutions. This growing preference for ‘unnatural’ products represents a significant cultural shift.
Diamond jewellery is a new priority for Pandora, and so far the reception has been positive. After six months on the UK market, Pandora decided to introduce Pandora Brilliance in more countries, and global roll-out will begin in 2022. Lab-created diamonds are still a small part of the overall diamond market, but it is expected to grow faster than mined diamonds. It will be interesting to follow this development, as the sparkling stones become available to a broader group of consumers.
Johan Melchior is Director External Relations, Pandora.mail the author
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