By Chere Di Boscio
Most savvy women today know that diamonds are NOT a girl’s best friend – mining diamonds destroys the environment and wildlife habitats; they are so small that they can be easily smuggled to buy drugs and arms, and there are many clever, rogue diamond miners that can slip their gems past international regulators. Oh, and did I mention that huge gem companies like DeBeers monopolise the industry by creating price walls to control the market almost completely?
Laura Chavez and Katie Rowland were frustrated by these nasty facts because frankly, they love the beautiful brilliance of these stones, and the feeling they get when they wear diamonds. So they created a fine jewellery label called Lark & Berry that they knew would always be ethical – because they create the stones themselves in a lab.
Cultured diamonds have the exact same chemical structure of a mined diamond, and are created in the same way the earth creates the stones, through heat and pressure. Not even most trained experts can tell the difference – but you can rest assured lab-created diamonds are 100% conflict free because you know exactly where they came from.
I caught up with Lark & Berry founder Laura to learn more.
What initially sparked you to create a jewellery brand based on lab-grown diamonds?
I had always dreamed of starting my own luxury jewellery brand, but I was very leery of where diamonds came from. People in this industry confirmed that some dealers will mix questionably sourced diamonds into batches billed as conflict-free. These poor ethics, plus the high cost of diamonds established by some of the industry’s biggest players made it tough to enter this market. So, when I discovered you can ethically grow real diamonds with technology, thereby avoiding so much political, humanitarian and environmental turmoil—I knew that was my answer.
Tell us a bit more about the process of making the stones?
Cultured diamonds are created in a process which exactly replicates how natural diamonds form in mines—by applying immense heat and pressure to carbon. Then, when you have your rough diamonds, they have to be cut and polished, just like mined diamonds would. That’s the basics, anyway! Chemically and optically, these lab-grown diamonds are absolutely the same as mined diamonds. Jewellers and gemologists cannot distinguish them from their mined counterparts—simply because there is literally no difference. It’s truly amazing!
What is it you love so much about diamonds?
I love how diamonds can accentuate a simple outfit or look—they truly cause people to notice an extra glow about you. I love how versatile diamonds are. They can be everyday casual and cool as well as the dot on the exclamation point of classy evening wear. Being noticed no matter where you are is just nice and fun. And I love how diamonds last forever. And when they’re set beautifully in gold, as they are in our collections, you have an amazing piece of jewelry you can hand down for generations.
Why do you feel the Kimberley Process is so flawed?
The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme is a program to which many jewellery companies have subscribed—it’s supposed to ensure a conflict-free supply chain of diamonds but we found flaws in it, frankly. I think some of the big jewellery players have been better than others in offering traceability of their diamonds, especially those that can control the whole supply chain and ensure no one, from top to bottom, is getting their hands dirty so to speak. However, this is very difficult to do.
Such small items exchange so many hands and pass through so many stages. It’s impossible to know from a rough diamond where it was mined—and if in that process, lives were endangered. Even if the Kimberly process was flawless, there are still huge emission costs and ecological damage done to our planet by diamond mining. We found ourselves asking along with consumers: What’s romantic about causing more damage to Earth in 2018 when we have an identical diamond substitute made with cool tech!
What inspires your designs?
Lark & Berry’s designs were born from two things—first, my desire to craft jewellery that was complimentary to all looks and styles. Diamonds that can be worn every day, for every situation. My designer Katie Rowland was perfect for this mindset, because she is inspired by everything around her. You can see it in the names of the collections: Dune, Flora, Interstellar… right there you have sand, life and space. We wanted pieces that evoked the ultimate beauty of the universe.
Would you consider working with recycled metals and gems?
We have started using recycled gold in some of our newer designs. We hope to do this for everything in the near future. However, with our company’s size it’s hard to guarantee the sourcing of recycled metals. Regarding gems, there are such beautiful stones out there but since we don’t know how these were sourced, or even if they are legitimately recycled, I cannot bring myself to use them in any of our products. We’ve actually had to change designs when we could not source a lab-created stone. Knowing where our stones come from is critical.
Who would you love to see wearing your jewellery?
Everyone! If you like diamonds and the idea of luxury pieces you can wear anywhere, in any situation and with any outfit—then Lark & Berry is for you!
What were some of the challenges you faced when setting up the company?
There was a lot of resistance from this industry in the beginning. It took us a while to find factories that would work with us, as we required 100% traceability. But the times are changing. Now, we get requests all the time from people wanting to work with such a forward- thinking brand as Lark & Berry. It’s great to see this shift in approach!
Which 3 reasons would you give someone to buy Lark and Berry over another jewellery brand?
Beautiful designs, great pricing for luxury items and to be a part of something that is disrupting the diamond industry—lab-grown is so much safer and just as stunning an end product. I am confident I could just show anyone that didn’t know about us a picture of any of our rings and they would be amazed! The pieces speak for themselves.
Any last words?
We started this company with our online store and the demand quickly just went through the roof! Now, only a short time later, we’re opening our first store in Marylebone, London. It’s just been so surreal. We can’t keep up! It’s exciting, too, because we are the first brick-and-mortar store to open in the world that works exclusively with lab-created diamonds. Come check everything out, London readers! And if you can’t make it yet, don’t worry, we are already far long in the planning stages of opening locations in NYC and Hong Kong!
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