THE DE BEERS GROUP raised eyebrows when first launching its lab-grown diamond jewelry brand, Lightbox, in May 2018, with many wondering whether the decision was a huge mistake or an act of mastery. As last Thursday Oct. 29, after the opening of the brand’s 60,000-square-foot facility just outside of Portland, OR, those in doubt wondered no longer.
The $94 million project includes a manufacturing lab capable of producing 200,000 carats of lab-grown diamonds annually, along with office space, vast overlooks, soaring walkways, customized art installations and efficient meeting areas. It was designed by Chicago-based architecture firm Sheehan Nagle Hartray and built to resemble a simple white box, carved away to showcase the faceted structure of a lab-grown diamond. When asked if the facility will be as “COVID-proof” as possible, Lightbox CEO Steve Coe said: “The health and safety of our employees has been our priority since the beginning of the pandemic, and we have strict protocols in place at the lab that follow state and local mandates, including social distancing, temperature checks, flex schedules for staff and mask requirements for all employees and visitors.”
Lightbox doubled down by also announcing a partnership with leading online diamond and jewelry retailer Blue Nile.
Launched in 1999, Blue Nile has grown into the largest online retailer of independently graded diamonds and fine jewelry in the country. In 2015, Blue Nile opened its first retail showroom in Long Island, NY, and has since added several others across the U.S. The company is currently under the guidance of CEO Sean Kell, who played a major roll in the agreement to add Lightbox jewelry to the Blue Nile website.
“The Lightbox collection will be available online and in our retail showrooms,” Kell said. “As we continue to expand our retail footprint, the addition of the Lightbox collection is part of our larger innovation roadmap. For all Blue Nile collections and jewelry offerings, we want to create a personalized, smart and seamless shopping experience for customers to explore, both online and offline, and we find that customers love coming into a physical showroom to see jewelry before they purchase.”
The Lightbox jewelry for sale on Blue Nile’s website includes rings, bracelets, earrings and necklaces available in 14K white, yellow or rose gold. The pieces are set with lab-grown diamonds in a choice of three colors: blue, pink or white, the only colors Lightbox produces.
“For the time being, we are focusing on blue, pink and white,” Coe said. “However, our team in the lab has certainly been experimenting with a range of other colors, and that may be something that we introduce a bit further out.”
Will Blue Nile’s customers be open to purchasing lab-grown diamonds? Kell believes so.
“We’ve been watching the lab-grown diamond market for some time,” he said. “We think both natural diamonds and lab-grown diamonds have a place in the market. Our belief is, consumers will continue to select natural diamonds for engagements and significant milestones, whereas lab-grown diamonds, with their brilliant colors and accessible price point, will give shoppers an opportunity to expand their jewelry box with a larger assortment of fine fashion jewelry they can wear every day.”
Lightbox will continue to sell on its own website, but will the new agreement with Blue Nile open up more partnership possibilities?
“We don’t comment on the detailed commercial terms of any of our retailer partnerships,” Coe said. “However, I can confirm that we will be continuing to sell via our own e-commerce platform, and also looking to identify new retail partnerships in the future that will enable us to continue to grow the overall Lightbox business.”
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