Why this entrepreneur believes lab-grown diamonds are a woman’s best friend
In order to be a true advocate of sustainability, one must adopt eco-conscious practices in every aspect of life, displaying a strong commitment to saving the planet.
Pooja Sheth, Founder and Managing Director of Mumbai-based Limelight Lab-Grown Diamonds, has extended this commitment to her business, by encouraging customers to shun naturally mined diamonds for eco-friendly ones grown in labs instead.
“I wanted Limelight to establish itself as the first sustainable luxury jewellery brand from India and create a niche for lab-grown Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD) diamond jewellery worldwide. Our jewellery is inspiring, beautiful, and high couture, yet easy on the environment, allowing us to give back to Mother Earth,” Pooja says.
She adds that the brand aims to add these sustainable diamonds to every eco-conscious diva’s wish list.
“At Limelight, we not only produce/grow the rough diamonds in labs but also carefully craft them into exclusive pieces of jewellery,” she says.
With the support of erstwhile royals such as Maharani Radhika Raje Gaekwad of Baroda, Rajkumari Alka Rani Singh of Pratapgarh, Jema Akshita Manjari Bhanjdeo of Orissa, and several others, Limelight Diamonds has quickly become a brand to reckon with, since its launch in 2019 at the Laxmi Niwas Palace in Baroda. A number of celebrities, including Gauhar Khan, Divyanka Tripathi, Debina Bonnerjee, Yuvika Chaudhary, and Nauheed Cyrusi, have also sported their pieces.
Pooja joined YSWeekender for a candid chat about her jewellery brand and how it has been received so far.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
YS Weekender (YSW): Tell us about your journey into the business of jewellery retail? Did you have prior experience in the field of precious jewellery?
Pooja Sheth (PS): I don’t belong to the gems and jewellery industry. I was away from India for almost eight years – I graduated from the London School of Economics, pursued a course at Harvard Business School, an MSc in finance at Imperial Business School, and then worked as an investment banker at Barclays, London. However, I’d always aspired to be an entrepreneur who brought the ‘India’ story to the limelight.
On one of my trips back home, I visited the deep-tech labs of the Bhathwari Group in Surat that produce the finest quality diamonds on a large scale.
I was completely in awe of the level of automation and efficiency of the cutting-edge technology being used and felt proud to see our country’s progress in this sector. I knew this was a story that needed telling, and I was keen to be the one to do it.
Hence, I founded Limelight Lab-Grown Diamonds as India’s first sustainable CVD diamond jewellery brand in 2019.
Limelight's CVD diamonds are 100 percent real diamonds - grown by replicating the diamond creation process that occurs below the surface of the earth.
YSW: What attracted you to lab-grown diamonds in particular?
PS: I was very impressed with the fact that this technology had been indigenously developed, and grown to a scale that made India the leading exporter of these diamonds. Fortunately, since we launched two years ago,
Limelight has created a strong impression in the gems and jewellery industry by building a differentiated product category in the class of luxury consumer goods. We were only able to do this because of our niche product. Now, we are recognised as the largest sustainable brand that offers lab-grown CVD diamonds.
YSW: Please tell us about the technology used.
PS: Lab-grown diamonds are grown in India through the process of Chemical Vapour Deposition. It is similar to the concept of test-tube babies, which are born through a different process with the same result.
Hence, CVD diamonds are 100 percent real diamonds that are grown by replicating the diamond creation process that occurs below the surface of the earth, bearing the exact same composition, properties, and characteristics. The process of creating CVD diamonds also starts from a natural diamond seed, which is replanted from the CVD diamond production itself.
Therefore, the only change is that these diamonds are grown in labs and not in mines, reducing the pressure of mining on the earth, as well as the cost of manufacturing.
I believe the biggest appeal of these diamonds to our millennial audience is the fact that they help sustain the earth and its depleting resources, as lab-grown CVD diamonds save 109 gallons of water per carat and 250 tonnes of land extract per carat.
YSW: How long is the process of making diamonds in the lab? Is it easy to tell the difference between natural ones and lab-grown ones?
PS: Lab-grown diamonds typically take less than a month to grow. However, there is absolutely no difference as they are composed entirely of carbon and have the same optical, thermal, physical, and chemical composition as naturally-sourced diamonds. As a result, nobody can tell the difference except for high-tech diamond grading labs.
Numerous celebrities, including Gauhar Khan, Divyanka Tripathi, Debina Bonnerjee, Yuvika Chaudhary, and Nauheed Cyrusi, have also sported Limelight pieces.
YSW: Tell us about the trajectory of your business growth and your noteworthy achievements so far.
PS: My team of 30 is backed by the world’s largest labs that produce lab-grown CVD diamonds. This has really helped in our overall business growth.
Most recently, I have been selected as the Lab-Grown Diamond Committee Representative at the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), as the only woman in a committee of industry stalwarts and the Indian government. I believe this has taken me a step closer to achieving my ambition of developing this product as a present from India to the world.
Limelight Diamonds also won the Economic Times Business Icon Award 2020 for technology leaders in Sustainable Diamond Creation. This gave us immense confidence in the acceptance of these diamonds for their environmental benefit.
YSW: Do you believe Indians are receptive to lab-grown diamond jewellery or has it been difficult to break into the market?
PS: The perception of diamond jewellery and consumer preferences for purchasing diamond jewellery is rapidly changing in India. Instead of being seen as an investment, more value is now being assigned to the design and aesthetic value of jewellery.
Consumers in the US have of course been more receptive, as evident from a recent study where 70 percent of millennials surveyed admitted they would consider buying a lab-grown diamond.
India is also catching on.
A recent Deloitte report on millennials in India stated that climate change and the environment have become the top-most concern for them. Statistics also state that these millennials are willing to pay a 44 percent premium on sustainable products/materials.
As India’s young population is the largest in the world, with 410 million people, this is a huge business opportunity. This target group is looking for ethical, sustainable, and affordable alternatives in precious jewellery as well.
YSW: With sustainability becoming an important mantra post-pandemic, have you seen a surge in business?
PS: Oh yes, absolutely! In these changing times with growing consciousness and responsibility towards the planet, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers are increasingly wary of purchasing mined diamonds, opting for sustainable alternatives instead.
The shift in consumer preferences and consumption patterns has been a key contributor to our success so far. We now have several millennial brides who have chosen eco-friendly sustainable diamond-studded jewellery engagement rings from Limelight.
YSW: Where and how do you retail?
PS: We retail out of our flagship boutique in Mumbai and have over 11 retail partners across Mumbai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Goa, and over 20 business associate partners. We also have a global presence through our digital channels.