Jason Kohn’s muckraking documentary examines tensions in the diamond and jewellery trade that are currently heating to magma-hot levels over lab-grown diamonds, now being manufactured to such a high standard they’re indistinguishable from “natural” mined diamonds. That is a big problem for those with an interest in keeping the two types of gem siloed off from one another so that the prices for mined diamonds remains high. Many industry players, who control the majority of the supply chains, want them to remain so.
But with so much money at stake and an industry swathed in secrecy, of course there is likely to be mischief and malfeasance afoot, with lab-grown diamonds potentially being passed off as mined ones. One interviewee reckons as much as 20% of the diamonds sold as “real” in jewellery shops are actually lab-grown.
Managing to get access to some of the biggest names in the industry, including De Beers CEO Stephen Lussier (who perhaps not coincidentally retired this month), Kohn opens up a bijou microcosm of capitalism in the age of quantum reproduction. Lussier is reasonably frank that being in the diamond business means also being in the mining and marketing businesses – but all the same he gets defensive and at one point hypes everything his corporation has done for Botswana. Kohn appears to question that argument by cutting in footage of a lion eating an elephant.
Interlocuters elsewhere are much more engaging and persuasive. Designer Aja Raden, for example, is eloquent and deliciously snarky about the diamond industry’s romanticised spin around “authenticity”, which is exactly the type of statement jewellery mogul Martin Rapaport gives throughout the documentary. Elsewhere, patient gemologist Dusan Simic tries to interest the industry in a way of watermarking lab-grown diamonds so customers and retailers know what’s cultured and what’s not but – guess what – they don’t, in this film, seem to want to know.