This jewellery startup is growing ‘affordable’ diamonds in the lab

Aupulent, a Delhi-based startup, is wooing the younger generation with jewellery made from lab-grown diamonds at affordable prices.
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Globally, lab-grown diamonds are emerging as an alternative to natural diamonds. They have been gaining popularity among the younger generation due to their affordable pricing.

This is what drew Surya Jain, a fifth generation jeweller, to lab-grown diamonds, for he had always been looking to create a brand that was affordable, fashionable and future-ready. So, when he came across multiple reports on these cultured diamonds, Surya was hooked.

Three years later, in 2021, Surya started Aupulent, along with Abhishek Dak. The Delhi-based startup sells jewellery made from lab-grown diamonds. Surya describes the brand’s products as “budget friendly”, catering to the needs of the younger generation, who are looking for jewellery for everyday use.  

L-R: Surya Jain and Abhishek Dak, Co-Founders, Aupulent

How lab-grown diamonds are made

Lab-grown or cultured diamonds are diamonds grown in labs by replicating the process of creation that takes place below the surface of the earth.

The process of making cultured diamonds starts with diamond seeds — tiny slices of diamond as thick as human hair. These seeds are placed in a chamber called plasma reactor. Under a combination of heat, pressure and a carbon source, the seeds grow, layer by layer, to form a rough.

The rough is then cut and polished in the same way natural diamonds are to produce diamonds with optimum fire, scintillation and brightness. To make the first set of lab-grown diamonds, the seeds are obtained from mined diamonds. After which, the seeds of lab-grown diamonds can be used to produce more diamonds.

According to Surya, it is hard to differentiate mined diamonds and lab-grown ones with the naked eye as they are chemically of the same composition. These can only be identified by professional gemmologists using various gemmological tests, he says. 

Cultured diamonds are also called human-made diamonds, grown diamonds, engineered diamonds, and created diamonds.

Globally, the diamond market was valued at $84 billion for FY2021-2022, according to Bain & Company. According to Statista, the lab-grown diamond market is forecasted to account for 10 percent of the diamond market worldwide by 2030. By 2030, the global market volume of lab-grown diamonds is estimated to be nearly 19.2 million carats.

From April 2021 to March 2022, India exported cut and polished diamonds worth $24433.97 million. Of this, lab-grown diamonds was worth $1313.98 million, according to the Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council, growing from $636.43 million from the previous year.

Image Credit - Aupulent

Why lab-grown diamonds are more affordable

According to the founder of Aupulent, lab-grown diamonds are much more affordable than mined ones, as mined diamonds are transferred through multiple hands, before the diamonds reach the hands of the customer, leading to a mark-up that’s 8-10 times more than what they cost.

Though the lab-grown diamond is a duplication of the mined diamond, it is as good as the mined version, says Surya. For instance, if the seed is from Type IIA diamonds, considered the most chemically pure diamonds, the lab-grown diamonds would also be Type IIA ones. On the other hand, Type IIA diamonds account for only 2 percent of all mined diamonds.

All these factors make lab-grown more affordable than mined diamonds, says Aupulent’s founder.

Another thing the company does to keep products affordable is that it keeps the gold used with the diamonds light (14- and 18-carat gold), thus reducing the price of the metal. According to Surya, the metal used is hollow inside; the jewellery is designed in such a way that its durability is not compromised.

Himanshi Singh, a doctor from Udaipur, wanted to buy diamond earrings for a friend. But the mined diamonds she saw were way above her budget. That’s when she came across Aupulent. Himanshi says Surya helped her understand all about lab-grown diamonds and the process behind making them. Intrigued and impressed that a diamond was within her budget, she chose to buy droop earnings worth around Rs 22,000 from Aupulent.

Product range

Aupulent grows and cuts lab-grown diamonds at its facility in Surat, Gujarat.

The company sells lab-grown diamond jewellery, such as earrings, chains, bracelets and rings, through its website. Most of its products fall in the price range of Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000. The company uses seeds of Type IIA and its designs are inspired by global fashion trends.

“We come up with a new collection almost every two weeks, so that our inventory is up to date with the current fashion trends and the customer has something new to explore. All our jewellery and diamonds are certified by leading international labs that certify mined diamonds. They also come with BIS Hallmark certification,” says Surya.

The company uses social media and events to market its products. “Instead of hiring random influencers, we are asking young women achievers to be a part of Aupulent,” says the jeweller.

Image Credit - Aupulent

Aupulent’s sales

Within two months of launch, Aupulent sold about 100 pieces of jewellery and clocked a 70 percent increase in sales in the third month. The company projects a sale of close to 1,500 units by the end of FY2022-2023.

In India, Aupulent competes with brands such as Syndiora, Avtaara, Divaa.

Larger vision

According to Aupulent’s founder, the company’s vision is to disrupt the jewellery industry by bringing a lifestyle product that is specifically developed for everyday use with minimum impact on the environment.

Lab-grown versus mined diamonds 

Traditionally, the mined diamond industry has been associated with issues relating to working conditions and the adverse effects on the environment. On the carbon emission front, both lab-grown and mined diamonds are said to emit greenhouse gases during the production process.

Some brands are addressing this issue by using renewable energy to grow diamonds in the lab. Recently, LMVH, along with other investors, invested $90 million in Israel-based Lusix, a lab-grown diamond company, which produces diamonds using solar energy.

Surya says Aupulent would look for alternative energy sources to grow diamonds. “But the work environment needs to be supportive and financially viable enough. India’s power industry is also slowly making a change to renewable energy and along with it businesses will as well.”

The founding team

Surya comes from a family of jewellers — Nikka Mal Babu Ram Jewellers, founded in 1857 in Ludhiana, Punjab. He had earlier owned a company called OneCarat, a B2B sale network in India dealing with customised engagement rings.

His co-founder Abhishek, prior to Aupulent, was involved in a family transport and logistics business, based in Udaipur.

This bootstrapped company has a team of 20 people, including 5 designers and 4 members in the tech team.

Future plans

The company plans to launch several products with new designs, including a dedicated collection for men. It also plans to set up a physical store in Delhi, Bangalore or Mumbai.

(The copy has been updated to correct a typo.)

Edited by Swetha Kannan

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