Sustainability is a big part of our lives now. We all seek better clothing, relationships, and even food. But there are so many things in our lives that, at first, I just couldn’t imagine being sustainable. Well, one of them is diamonds. So I sat down with Viktorija Jonutyte-Kancinian to talk about her sustainable laboratory-grown diamonds and a new venture she has been developing since the beginning of the pandemic.

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Hi Viktorija, very nice to have you here on Abstract Stylist! Could you introduce yourself a bit? What is your story?

Hello, I am honored to be here with you. I have admired your work for years. I was lucky enough to grow up in a family of jewelers – I was always sensitive and creative, and the environment of my home helped to reveal the best of me. I could see how the first jewels were born in my father’s workshop. My parents started jewelry sales and manufacturing business as soon as Lithuania became independent from the Soviet Union, and now they have become one of the biggest and most trustworthy companies in our country. I saw this family business as a miracle – my parents started with very little in their hands.

The most important part of my story started with the pandemic – I found my new self. Before, I developed my parent’s fine jewelry brand and authentic luxury products for a decade until the lockdown. 

I loved my job very much, I was always busy managing, communicating, and creating, and suddenly a huge part of me felt so depressed from getting stuck at home and losing an opportunity to meet other people and implement new custom orders that neither books, movies or even nature and sports helped me enough anymore. 

Soon enough, I sat down next to the computer and started creating. Totally new designs, new sustainable concept, new responsible and youthful brand that could be relevant during such times. And it all went so naturally. It seemed as if the whole world wanted to help me.

Before we begin talking about your own brand, could you tell us a bit about the jewelry itself, why it’s important to you, and what you think it does to people? Accessorizing is something we all do, but why?

I have always had an inner urge to express myself, and I found jewelry as my medium. To create it, I am mindful of the feelings, finest innovative materials, and techniques. I believe that we all strive to create something time resistant, beautiful and inspiring. From my point of view, jewelry creations allow us to achieve that and feel proud when wearing them. 

Fine jewelry is usually bought when something important happens – a significant achievement, graduation, childbirth, weddings, anniversary, or something similar. Jewelry always has a reward and an uplifting effect and secures the best memories of our life. When life tries to bring us down, these small and significant reminders always with us help us get back on track faster and start dreaming again.

And last but not least, buying a fine jewel asks us to get to know ourselves better as we spend more for it and we want it to comply with our personalities forever and at its finest. An interesting fact is that lately, women have started to invest in more expensive and finest quality jewelry themselves. The current self-love trend and equal rights movement brought a whole new view to jewelry consumption – women don’t have and don’t want to wait for it to be gifted to us by someone else. It’s us who reward ourselves now.

You created a brand FORMÉS, that specializes in sustainable jewelry. Why do you think this is the future?

I have been a vegetarian for 16 years already, and I am becoming vegan now, little by little. This choice later opened my eyes wider and made me buy things carefully and try to support sustainable businesses by choosing their products and services. And lately, it made me question the natural diamonds and gold industry. Luckily I am not alone like this – a huge part of us is becoming more and more conscious and caring of the right consumption, of the world and its resources, and about the future of our children. 

There are a few decisions that helped to build a sustainable jewelry brand. Firstly I choose to work with recycled gold only. Not only does it help us to give new birth to old and boring jewelry, but it also prevents harmful mining. Also, I choose laboratory-grown diamonds over naturally born ones. Of course, natural diamonds will always stay here as the icons of rare luxury, but the consumer should know that they are usually mined in very rough conditions for both the people and the planet. 

I believe that choosing laboratory-grown diamonds is the right thing to do today. They just offer more to people and the planet. 

What are laboratory-made diamonds, and why should we all know about them?

Laboratory-grown diamonds are almost the same as naturally born diamonds. There’s only one factor that sets man-made diamonds apart from natural ones. Lab-grown diamonds have all of the same crystal structure and physical, chemical, and optical properties as natural diamonds essentially.

Today the quality of laboratory-grown diamonds reached its peak – the newest laboratories now use advanced technology to mimic the conditions that natural diamonds undergo when they form beneath the earth’s crust. There are two ways to grow a diamond: HPHT (High-Pressure High Temperature) and CVD (Chemical Vapor Deposition). 

If speaking in simple terms, it all starts with placing a tiny diamond seed into a new home in a laboratory. Within a few weeks or even months, massive pressure and temperature are applied, and with the help of science, the ionization process begins. Finally, pure carbon begins to crystalize and grow. 

These diamonds grow in various shapes, with different color and clarity grades, just like natural ones. Later they are cut, polished, and certified by the same prestigious international institutions as natural diamonds. 

Overall, people might think that owning a laboratory-made diamond might not be as prestigious as traditional. Could you elaborate more on this topic?

This topic is widely discussed now, and as far as I understand, even though lab-grown diamonds are widely seen as the right thing for our future and the planet, natural diamonds and other precious stones will always stay with us. Mined diamonds are perceived as a symbol of status and prestige, as icons of rare luxury and growing investment, and they will still retain the biggest share of the jewelry market. The other brands interested in contributing to more conscious and responsible consumption will use innovative and earth-friendly materials and get a significantly smaller market share. The great news is that this proportion is getting more and more advantageous to these niche market participants.

Can anyone make this kind of diamond? How can the customer be sure that it’s legit? Are there any regulations?

Only advanced laboratories can create these stones, and only the biggest corporations can allow themselves to step into this industry – a significant investment is inevitable to train scientists and create an environment for diamond growth.

Sadly the certificates are still optional, and this may mislead the client when looking for quality over the massively produced lower quality synthetic diamonds. Diamonds of premium colors, clarities, and cut properties are rarer, have a bigger value, and are much more aesthetic.

There are two ways to be sure – either one can count on the brand quality promise or search for certified diamonds instead. The sellers may provide the customers with reliable enough national Assay Office certificates or/and, if the diamond weighs more than 0,30 ct, they can offer informative certificates from prestigious international HRD, GIA, or IGI laboratories. 

How does sustainable jewelry contribute to stopping climate change? I am sure it is!

Yes, you are right. It does help to save the planet. I love what it offers to people and the earth compared to the natural diamonds industry, and it is not only about the prevention of climate change. It brings a positive shift in ecological, political, and social matters. 

Firstly, adults and even children that are mining natural diamonds face very poor food and sanitation conditions and frequent diseases following very low or no payment. Ecosystem destruction, deforestation, and soil erosion are the most important detrimental impacts on the environment caused by the diamond mining process. Also, there is still a blood diamonds industry existing – where diamonds are produced in war zones to finance civil wars.  

The idea of laboratory-grown diamonds was presented over 100 years ago. Since then, man-created diamonds have been developed by some of the largest corporations in the world. Followed by scientific research, these laboratory-grown diamonds today offer the same chemical, physical and aesthetic characteristics as natural diamonds, but also they can be CO2-free if produced in certified laboratories. 

Is there any difference between working with traditional, not-so-sustainable materials and laboratory-made materials? 

Because I have ten years of practice in the traditional luxury jewelry sphere, I can see the laboratory-created diamond industry as more calm. There is no need for aggressive marketing and discount policy as it is usually practiced in traditional jewelry. Usually, the man-created diamond clientele is full of younger talented artists, entrepreneurs, IT specialists, scientists, and other highly educated and creative people, while a wider audience buys traditional jewelry. They are very different but usually have more conservative beliefs. Man-made diamonds clients value their contribution to science, the planet, and our future while purchasing lab-grown diamonds. They don’t seek investment and safety as much as traditional jewelry buyers.

What is the future of jewelry? What is your take on fashion jewelry? 

The future is very capricious – it is about innovative design and materials, crystal clear production, shopping experience, social responsibility, and super creative communication. 3D technologies will become more and more important, and soon clients will not want to order anything before checking the printed model first. And one new and challenging trend – unisex design jewels. 

Viktorija, I can’t ask you the question about what we should all have in our jewelry box! Could you advise on how to choose your very first sustainable jewelry piece? 

From my point of view, we should always start with a ring, the one that could determine our personality, values, lifestyle, and taste and give a direction for the following items. Then we should own the fine diamond studs and hoop earrings and maybe a diamond eternity band. These are the basics from my point of view. 

How to choose? I see no other way but just trying them on. 

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