What are lab-grown diamonds mentioned in Nirmala Sitharaman’s Budget speech?
Lab-grown diamonds are manufactured inside laboratories using cutting-edge technology. They have a similar physical appearance, chemical composition, and optical qualities as natural diamonds
FP Explainers Last Updated:February 01, 2023 17:14:26 IST
A supervisor inspects diamonds in a cutting and polishing workshop in Ahmedabad. AFP
You’ve doubtlessly heard of blood diamonds that come from Africa – but have you heard of lab-grown diamonds?
Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget speech today declared that the government has proposed reducing import duty on seeds used to make lab-grown diamonds.
This will be done with an eye to boost domestic manufacturing.
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Sitharaman said India is a global leader in the cutting and polishing of natural diamonds, contributing about three-fourths of the global turnover by value.
“With the depletion in deposits of natural diamonds, the industry is moving towards Lab Grown Diamonds (LGDs) and it holds huge promise. To seize this opportunity, I propose to reduce basic customs duty on seeds used in their manufacture,” she said.
Sitharaman further announced a research grant for five years to Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) to boost the production of lab-grown diamonds
“Lab-grown diamonds is a technology and innovation-driven energy-driven sector with high employment potential,” Sitharaman was quoted as saying by Moneycontrol.
But what are lab-grown diamonds?
Let’s take a closer look:
Lab-grown diamonds, also known as man-made diamonds, are grown inside labs using cutting-edge tech under specific parameters.
They have a similar physical appearance, chemical composition, and optical qualities as natural diamonds.
As per Mint, no one can tell the difference between the two without a microscope.
This is done in India’s diamond capital of Surat in Gujarat.
According to CNBC, more than 400 factories are currently producing lab-grown diamonds in the city of Surat.
Lab-grown diamonds also cost around 40 to 70 per cent less than traditional diamonds.
As per The Times of India, lab-made diamonds are formed by placing carbon seeds into a microwave chamber.
These seeds, a crucial raw material in manufacturing the diamonds, are then superheated into a glowing ball of plasma.
The process, which takes weeks, creates particles that crystallise into diamonds.
There are two kinds of lab-made diamonds: chemical vapour decomposition (CVD) and High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT).
India specialises in and leads the world in the former technology – which has been certified as the purest kind of diamonds, as per The Times of India.
According to Indian Express, the HPHT method needs extremely heavy presses to produce 730,000 psi of pressure under temperatures as high as 1,500 Celsius.
On being exposed to such conditions, graphite used as the “diamond seed”, turns into diamonds.
According to CNBC, lab-made diamonds are used computer chips, satellites, and 5G networks.
This on the account of them functioning in extreme environments and operating at higher speeds compared to silicon-based chips while using less power.
CNBC quoted GJEPC assaying that exports of polished lab-grown diamonds from India increased 70 per cent between April-July 2022 period to $622.7 million.
A 2021 Mint article said India had produced 1.5 million carats in 2020, which is behind China which produced three million carats that same year.
These lab-grown diamonds have emerged as a profitable alternative as the conventional sources of rough diamonds across the world face threats of deposit depletion, which also contribute to the exponential increase in the cost of extraction.
Gem and jewellery exporters have been demanding a cut in the import duty on these seeds.
Import cut boosts morale
The announcement of cutting import duty on raw material for lab-grown diamond seeds has boosted the morale of the industry.
CNBC quoted Vipul Shah, chairman, Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council as saying, “We thank the Government for accepting its recommendation to promote indigenous manufacturing in the emerging Lab-Grown Diamond (LGD) sector by providing Research Grants to IIT for five years. GJEPC welcomes the reduction of Customs Duty on LGD seeds to zero from five per cent. It will ensure India’s end-to-end world leadership in rough to finished lab-grown diamond and jewellery manufacturing.”
“This will not only grow the sector parallel to the real diamond sector but will provide huge domestic employment,” said Vijay Mangukiya, regional chairman of the Gems and Jewellery Promotion Council (GPEC)
Mangukiya told IANS, “At present, the lab-grown diamond sectors’ share is just 1 to 2 per cent of the overall diamond sector. After exempting 5 per cent customs duty on lab-grown seeds, domestic production will increase.
“Now the sector is hopeful that in the next two to three years its market share will increase to 5 per cent and sooner will be become an independent and parallel market to a real diamond.”
“The grant provided to IIT for lab-grown diamonds is a positive. The segment has seen a steep 54 percent growth in exports on-year, and accounted for 5 percent of total diamond exports YTD23,” CRISIL said in a statement, as per Moneycontrol.
“It was a mixed budget for the gems and jewellery industry as the finance minister did acknowledge the potential of the LGDs for exports, and to create employment,” Kama Jewelry founder and managing director Colin Shah said.
With inputs from agencies