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Why Crystal-Maker Swarovski Is Getting Into Diamonds

Daniel Swarovski, who started his eponymous crystals company 125 years ago, used to say, “diamonds are for royalty, but I want to create a stone for every woman, that every woman can afford.”

Now his great-great-granddaughter, Nadja Swarovski, a member of the company’s executive board, is on a path to create diamonds that are accessible by making them not only more affordable but also more sustainable.

Her solution: creating diamonds in a lab that are bio-identical to the real thing. “They use little energy to produce, and they don’t affect people or the planet,” she said at Fortune Most Powerful Women International Summit in London on Tuesday. “It is truly about better ways,” she later added.

Up until this point, the company had mostly stayed out of the diamond business. “We have been talking to diamond people,” Swarovski said, “and I could only say, ‘We are totally for everything that sparkles. The minute you are able to mine the diamonds, sustainably, we will be your customer.’”

Swarovski said that the diamond industry is “very worried” by the company’s arrival into the market. In response, De Beers has launched its own line of lab-grown diamonds. Lab-grown diamonds cost about 50% less than those extracted from the earth, but Swarovski said that the influx from De Beers will drive prices down further.

Swarovski also said that it’s possible for companies to come up with a better way of extracting materials from the earth but they haven’t yet wanted to invest the time or money.

Since joining the family business in 1995, Swarovski has been on a path to return the company to its fashion roots. Her grandfather had partnered with the likes of Coco Chanel and Christian Dior, and she decided to find her own iconic designer, eventually collaborating Alexander McQueen. She’s also pushed other partnerships—including working with architect Daniel Libeskind to design the star for the top of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree.

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