Inbilico’s electricity consumption is equivalent to three days’ worth of domestic electricity use; from renewable sources. At the end of around four weeks, the lab-grown diamonds are ready to be cut and polished
Inbilico’s roots and values
Valenza is the well-known district for high jewelry, in Italy. Ms. Cicogna recounts how at first their attempts were dismissed by the 75-year-old craftsman. He believed that lab-grown diamonds weren’t ‘real’ and refused the entrepreneurial efforts. The craftsman’s skepticism stemmed from misinformation which causes many to believe mined diamonds are of greater value.
The truth is, both diamonds have the exact same chemical and physical components. They are subjected to the same grading and certifying processes, using the 4C’s method; cut, clarity, color, and carat. The two are impossible to differentiate with the naked eye. Even an experienced gemmologist would not be able to tell the difference without specialized equipment. That is why when he saw the diamonds, his entire outlook changed, saying it was a beautiful stone. That was when the duo knew they would go into this business; they would share the sustainable world of lab-grown diamonds through Inbilico.
The inception of Inbilico
Inbilico – the name of the company describes the moment of realization followed by a choice. Founded in June of 2021, the company creates jewelry mainly using lab-grown diamonds. Ms. Cicogna, one of the co-founders, talks about her upbringing in Kenya and its effect on this choice. Being immersed in an environment of activists fighting for the rights of diamond miners left a mark. Coupled with her admiration of technology and all it can do for our planet, she looked towards lab-grown diamonds.
She embraced the idea of creating a gift for nature, instead of stripping nature of its gift of mined diamonds. Joined by Manuela Picciotto, the duo launched Inbilico as partners. With a background in advertising, Piciotto brought her love of jewelry design to the brand. Initially, the two were the only partners and investors. Now they are also accompanied by Andrea Incontri, who had previously worked as creative director at Tod’s. His contributions are mainly focused on refining the creative and visual direction of the brand.
How are lab-grown diamonds created?
The first step was to look for suppliers. Ms. Cicogna explains their commitment to finding suppliers fulfilling certifications. Their initial discovery was Diamond Foundry, based in the US, which uses renewable energy. They also had to think about the environmental and economic costs of shipping. Shifting focus to Europe, they started working with a lab in Norway, which is now their only supplier. This is where the entire process of creating the diamonds happens. The process starts with the seed crystal; a tiny fragment of a diamond with the same chemical components as mined diamonds. Then, pressure and temperature are applied in special ovens.
The comparison between lab-grown diamonds and mined ones
This process replicates in a couple weeks what nature does in years. Each week, one carat of diamond is grown. Water consumption is low, almost equal to a glass per carat. The electricity consumption is equivalent to three days’ worth of domestic electricity use. In addition it comes from renewable sources. At the end of around four weeks, the diamonds are ready to be cut and polished as usual.
Although the process is more expensive, the elimination of intermediaries reduces the retail price. Inbilico simply receives the diamonds from their supplier and crafts the pieces in Valenza. The artificial scarcity of mined diamonds is also abolished. Mined diamonds have a connotation of scarcity due to their history with the De beers family and how they would keep the reserves just to hike up prices. When they are created in a lab environment they are not tied to the supply coming from the big companies creating the fake scarcity. Then prices are further reduced along with the economic and social impact. Transparency is a natural consequence of the short supply chain. With few steps, everything becomes easier to monitor, and certified and disclosed. «the job, it’s so transparent and you can’t mess around».
Spreading customer acceptance of lab-grown diamonds
Inbilico’s aim is not only to be sustainable, but also to build up knowledge and culture. This is key for a brand working with lab-grown diamonds, a material that is still not widely accepted. Consumers have a lot of questions, and they want to know the technical side of things. They need this information to warm up to the idea of a technological advancement that goes against the years of narrative built by the mined diamond industry. Albeit slowly, consumer perception is changing. The idea of waiting for a special event, or to expect diamonds as a gift is leaving its place to other concepts.
Ms. Cicogna underlines the great number of consumers choosing to not only buy for themselves, but also to pay in installments. Inbilico aims for the pieces to be a communicative tool as well. If anyone asks about the lab-grown diamond piece that someone is wearing, it is bound to generate a conversation. In this way, more people get informed through word of mouth, and the culture around it strengthens. This is also why Ms. Cicogna insists on a fluid and natural communication for the brand. Inbilico avoids having social media users hype up the pieces and tag them just for the sake of publicity. The story of the brand is put on the forefront, and consumers are encouraged to buy as long as they connect with the purpose.
The next steps: Social impact and slow growth
As a made in Italy brand, Inbilico’s next move would be to establish a laboratory in Italy. Replicating what is done abroad and importing the technology would be the first step in creating 100% Italian diamonds. An even greater goal would be to make this happen in Africa. This desire is driven by the passion to give people involved in mining diamonds a different place in the industry. The initiative would create jobs and add social impact to Inbilico’s existing environmental impact goals.
«Mined diamonds’ certifications say they create jobs. But what good is a mining job with so many risks?», says Ms. Cicogna and expresses her willingness to create jobs that are safe and empower locals. With these ambitions, Inbilico still aims to stay calm and let the company grow naturally. Within such a fast-moving market, it can be hard to lose sight of the bigger picture. «Pumping the brakes doing things slowly to understand the empathy that the public has for your pieces is crucial».
Apart from lab-grown diamonds, the brand also works with recycled and certified gold. Ms. Cicogna rules out venturing into other stones for now, such as lab grown ruby and emerald. If their suppliers cannot guarantee the full system of sustainability along with the beauty of the stone, it’s a no. Similar to eating seasonally, the aim is to take and make use of what is already available.
Shipping and packaging sustainably, offsetting where not possible
The steps after production are also key to ensuring a low carbon footprint. Currently, the brand has sales only through e-commerce. This means it must create shipping and packaging processes that match its sustainability claims. Ms. Cicogna explains how they are paper-free, and only use recycled plastic. Certified like the rest of the brand’s supply chain, the material gives discarded products a new life. When it comes to transportation, Inbilico works with DHL Electric. Reducing emissions further through the use of electric vehicles, the brand offsets the remaining emissions.
The offsetting process is simple, requiring only a calculation done online. The offsetting of the carbon footprint goes through the choice of a donation to various organizations. Inbilico sometimes does this through planting trees, but its focus is investing in technologies that will build up a greener future. Ms. Cicogna’s choice is air capture facilities that work to remove the CO2 in the atmosphere. The efforts to maintain low emissions from shipping and packaging also reflect collaborations. Inbilico is starting to work with LuisaViaRoma, a luxury retailer headquartered in Florence. The retailer started some elemental sustainability efforts, such as having a section for sustainable brands and using FSC certified packaging. A step in the right direction, and a visible yet relatively sustainable move for the emerging brand.
Inbilico is a Made in Italy jewelry brand co-founded by Fiammetta Cicogna working with lab-grown diamonds and recycled gold. The company monitors each step of the short supply chain to ensure sustainable practices, achieve certifications, and contain costs.