“We had humble beginnings, hoping to craft 50 rings in our first year,” says Makayla Donovan, who launched The Moissanite Company in Brisbane fresh from completing her business degree four years ago. “The demand was so big that in our first financial year we had $1.1 million in revenue. We expect to hit $3.6 million for this financial year.”

Makayla Donovan, founder of The Moissanite Company, which has expanded into lab-grown diamonds.

Makayla Donovan, founder of The Moissanite Company, which has expanded into lab-grown diamonds.

“It’s a digital age, so customers are coming to us with a strong understanding of what they’re after. Many of them have ethical concerns about mined diamonds, while for others it’s very much about budget and achieving that high impact.”

With the global market value of lab-grown diamonds predicted to rise from $US22.45 billion ($33.88 billion) in 2022 to $US37.32 billion ($56.32 billion) by 2028, big players are also on board. Luxury conglomerate LVMH has invested in Israeli lab-grown diamond start-up Lusix through their venture arm, and mining giant De Beers signaled a ceasefire in their opposition to the rival category by launching their lab-grown division Lightbox in 2018.

In Australia, Michael Hill, which has about 145 stores locally, has flirted with lab-grown solitaire diamond engagement rings for two and a half years, but is now committing to the category by expanding into earrings, necklaces and tennis bracelets.

“We haven’t made a big noise about lab-grown diamonds until now because we have been growing our capabilities and understanding,” says Michael Hill chief executive Daniel Bracken. “When the bulk of your business is mined diamonds you need to be careful with the introduction of a new source. It needs to be managed appropriately.”

Lab-grown diamonds currently makes up 6 per cent of Michael Hill’s diamond sales, with Bracken confident the figure will reach 10 per cent with the extensive new collection.

“Diamond giant De Beers convinced the world that mined diamonds were a symbol of timelessness and permanence, but now there’s a growing number of customers looking for choice. They’re interested in sourcing and scale. It’s pretty much about more bang for your buck.”

Lab-grown diamonds may avoid many of the environmental and labor concerns surrounding mining, but require energy-intensive production, and consumers are encouraged to look into their supply chain.

In 2021, environmental auditor SCS Global launched the SCS-007 standard for sustainable diamond certification, with Michael Hill the first major Australian company to jump on board. As a smaller start-up, The Moissanite Company is demonstrating its commitment to sustainability by planting a tree for each ring they sell and by donating a portion of profits to The Australian Marine Conservation Society.

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“We are striving towards being as authentic and transparent as possible,” Donovan says.

For some customers, that’s enough.

“I wanted lab-grown because you can get bigger diamonds,” says accountant Melanie Foote, who received a lab-grown engagement ring in April. “It’s attracted nice comments from people at the coffee shop. My fiancé did pretty well.”

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