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Fortnite’s Summer Skirmish kicks off today, with $8 million prize pool

Fortnite Battle Royale has swept the gaming world. Alongside its 125 million users and record-breaking Twitch streams, the game has also drawn many competitive players away from their usual titles to try their hand at Battle Royale.

Today, that competitive play reaches at inflection point. At 4pm ET, Fortnite Battle Royale’s Summer Skirmish will kick off, with $8 million going to tournament winners over the course of the competition, with a whopping $250K going to the winners of today’s tournament.

This isn’t the first competitive Fortnite tournament we’ve seen. Celebrity Twitch streamer Ninja held a charity tournament in April, and Epic held a ProAm tournament combining competitive players and celebs who play Fortnite in June. Plus, sites like UMG and CMG have been holding smaller tournaments since Fortnite first rose to popularity. And then there are $20K Fortnite Friday tournaments for streamers held by UMG.

But today, the ante has most certainly been upped. This will be one of the highest paying Fortnite tournaments to date, and is yet just a small fraction of Epic Games’ promised $100 million prize pool for competitive play this year.

For some context, Dota 2 (previously the biggest competitive esports title out there) had a $25 million payout for the International Championship tournament in 2017, with the winners taking home $10.8 million. Call of Duty, one of the most popular titles over the last decade, is only paying out $1.5 million for its own Champs tournament this summer.

In other words, Fortnite is catching up quickly to the competitive gaming scene, not only in terms of talent but money. Epic Games’ Fortnite pulled in a record-breaking $318 million in June alone. In fact, Battle Royale is generating so much revenue for Epic that the company is now only taking a 12 percent share of earnings from its Unreal Marketplace.

But with that growth comes increased scrutiny. Though the company is passing along its fortunes to developers on the Unreal Engine and competitive players, some have noticed situations in which Epic might have been a bit stingy.

Fortnite should put the actual rap songs behind the dances that make so much money as Emotes. Black creatives created and popularized these dances but never monetized them. Imagine the money people are spending on these Emotes being shared with the artists that made them

— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) July 13, 2018

The stream for Fortnite Summer Skirmish begins at 4pm ET and is embedded below:

Watch live video from Fortnite on www.twitch.tv


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The excitement is building for #TheEuropas, next week in London

Startups are strange beasts. Founders and investors are obviously so super-focused on building their companies that sometimes they forget to delve into the big issues behind tech and startups. Plus, do they ever know what’s going on outside their laser-focused view? Sometimes it’s good to take stock.

That’s why we’ve built The Europas Awards & Unconference (July 3) in association with TechCrunch, to give you a heads-up on the big issues, time to network, and time to celebrate with peers and friends, on a great day in London.

So what is The Europas?

• Key Founders and investors speaking
• No secret VIP rooms, maximum Speaker interaction
• Ultra-high quality crowd, largely invited
• Convivial, relaxed atmosphere conducive to networking
• Intimate “breakout” sessions with key players
• Journalists from major tech titles
• Percentage of profits will be donated to charity
• A stunning awards dinner and party which honours both the hottest startups and the leading lights in the European startup scene

The Unconference

Pull up a front row seat at our Unconference as some of the most incisive and prescient thought leaders in tech will discuss and debate some of the biggest issues, opportunities and challenges in tech. You won’t want to miss these panels:

• Should We Stay or Should We Go Now? What next for European’s tech economy as Brexit looms? We’re joined by LocalGlobe partner Suzanne Ashman, BGF partner, Wendy Tan White, and Eloise Todd, CEO of Best for Britain to dissect what the Leave ramifications are for the tech ecosystem.

• The Disinfoconomy: We were all shocked, shocked, to learn that Facebook had allowed commercial entities access to our private data with no oversight into how that data was being used and for what purpose. Our panelists debate what next for businesses peddling in private data, do consumers care enough to change their behaviour, what impact has this had on the media, and is there a way to sort all this mess out?

• Mapping the Future of Transportation in an Autonomous Age: The era of the autonomous vehicle is nigh! But how will AVs interact with our existing transportation landscape in our current gridlocked cities? Bill Gross-backed AIPod thinks it has a solution. CRO and co-founder Steve Gledden unpacks the details.

• AI + Startups – A Non Starter? So you wanna be an AI startup, but there’s the pesky little problem of enough data. Paul Dowling of Dreamstake Ventures leads a discussion with Steve King of social prediction startup Black Swan and Draper Esprit partner and long-time health tech investor Vishal Gulati on the data challenge.

• APPily Ever After or APPocalypse now? Dating Apps in a Post #MeToo World. Dating apps have radically reshaped how we form relationships, our attitudes toward sex, sexism, objectification and desire — and quite frankly, what constitutes good manners. We’re joined by Olivia June, founder of vina.io, and more to come.

• TWO tracks on Crypto and Blockchain:

We’ve got TWO tracks on Crypto and Blockchain this year, one dedicated to understanding the ins and outs of investing, token economics, and ICOs; the other to the industries being disrupted by the use of blockchain or DLT. We have panels looking at social impact; the media, creative industries and visual arts, digital identity, and financial services. These panels are meant to get you clued up quickly and to explore the most exciting startups in these verticals.

• Startup Central Zone

Finally, we’ve got Startup Central, with panels packed with advice on fundraising from seed to C and beyond. You’ll want to join the Future of Funding panel, a deep dive into raising money through ICOs, traditional venture capital, and crowdfunding. We’re excited to be joined by Ali Ganjavian, founder of Studio Banana. Yes, he’s the Kickstarter darling behind the Ostrich Pillow. Our favourite tech journos, including Steve O’Hear of TechCrunch, join our popular Meet the Press panel, where you’ll get to turn the tables and grill reporters on what they think makes a tech story.

• Pitch Roulette

At the end of the day, join us for Pitch Roulette, where some of Europe’s biggest VCs will be giving selected startups feedback on their pitch.


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The hottest investors at The Europas, & your specially discounted ticket

In partnership with TechCrunch, The Europas Unconference & Awards, features smaller breakout sessions on key subjects for startups, followed by a glittering awards show for the hottest startups in Europe, based on voting by expert judges and the industry itself. Plus loads of networking opportunities with investors, and the super-fun Pitch Rolette pitch competition. See below for your special discount offer!

Just some of the investors coming to The Europas this Tuesday, July 3, in London include:

Alliott Cole, Octopus Ventures

Andrei Brasoveanu, Accel Partners

Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Seedcamp

Damir Bandolo, Columbus Capital

Eileen Burbidge, Passion Capital

Eze Vidra, Reimagine Ventures

George McDonuagh, KR1 (Blockchain/Crypto)

Jamie Burke, Outlier Ventures (Blockchain/Crypto)

Jason Ball, Qualcomm Ventures

Jeremy Yap, Angel Investor

Joe White, Entrepreneur First

Maria Wagner, Beringea

Michael Jackson, Mangrove Capital Partners

Nancy Fechnay, Angel Investor (Blockchain/Crypto)

Paul Dowling, Dreamstake Ventures

Richard Muirhead, Fabric Ventures (Blockchain/Crypto)

Scott Sage, Crane Venture Partners

Sitar Teli, Connect Ventures

Stephanie Hospital, OneRagtime

Suzanne Ashman, LocalGlobe

Thomas Graham, TLDR Capital

Tugce Ergul, Angel Labs

Vishal Gulati, Draper Esprit

Wendy Tan White, BGF

Instead of thousands and thousands of people, think of a great summer event with a selected 800 of the most interesting and useful people in the industry, including key investors and leading entrepreneurs.

Here’s the agenda.

And here’s 14 reasons to attend The Europas:

• Ultra-high quality Investors, speakers & featured guests

• New startup founders brought into the eco-system

• New deal-flow for investors

• Our “Diversity Matters” Free pass bringing in more women and POC

• Expert speeches, discussions, and Q&A

• Intimate “breakout” sessions with key players on vertical topics

• The opportunity to meet almost everyone in those small groups, super-charging your networking

• Convivial, relaxed atmosphere conducive to networking

• Key press including WSJ, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, attending

• A stunning awards dinner and party which honors both the hottest startups and the leading lights in the European startup scene

• Content independently curated by journalists

• The only truly independent, industry-backed awards in Europe

• Percentage of profits will be donated to charity

• All on one day to maximize your time in London

Plus, as a special offer for TechCrunch readers, we have discounted tickets of up to 60% off:

Daytime conference plus evening awards tickets (£250, 60% discount) (valid all day, July 3rd) – this ticket includes the daytime conference and the awards dinner with ceremony and after party. It includes refreshments and lunch during the conference, and the awards drinks reception and dinner.

Daytime only, Unconference tickets (£75, 60% discount) – this ticket includes the afternoon Unconference only.

Evening Awards-only tickets (£195, 60% discount) – this ticket is for the awards dinner with ceremony and after party. It includes the awards drinks reception and dinner.

If you wish to sponsor the events or to purchase a table for 10 or 12 guest or a half table for 5 guests, please contact [email protected]

The conference and awards are supported by TechCrunch, the official media partner. Attendees, nominees, and winners will get deep discounts to TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin, later this year.


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Apple adds camera effects like stickers, filters, and Memoji to messages

Apple is invading Snapchat’s territory with new effects that let you embellish what you shoot through the Messages camera. Today at WWDC, Apple announced that iOS 12’s Messages camera will offer a variety of sticker packs, style transfers like a “comic book” filter, drawn shapes, and both Animoji and the new personalized avatar Memoji.

These effects will also be available in FaceTime, which now supports group video conversations with up to 32 people. That could spell trouble for dedicated group video chat apps like Houseparty and Facebook’s Bonfire, as well as bigger apps that offer it like Snapchat.

These effects could make people who want more visual communication choose Apple’s native messaging app rather than third parties like Snapchat, Instagram Direct, or Facebook Messenger. The new features will be available in iOS 12 that launches today.

Stickers were previously only available in message threads where they’d appear on a white background. But now you can overlay them on photos, videos, and FaceTime. That opens opportunities for new fashion stickers that let you add sunglasses, hats, mustaches, clothes, and more that only make sense when stuck to your selfie.

Apple is starting far behind here. Snapchat’s been adding creative features since 2013, and Instagram joined in with its clone of Stories in 2016, followed by Facebook in 2017. They’re all now equipped with GIFs, color filters, augmented reality, and more. Animoji and Memoji are the Messages camera’s biggest differentiators, so Apple may need to aggressively promote the ability to overlay these on imagery if it wants to steal attention from Snap and Facebook.


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AARP commits $60 million to a fund backing new treatments for dementia

Dementia, the syndrome caused by several brain illnesses affecting memory, motor skills, thinking and behavior, affects 47 million people around the world and is projected to afflict 75 million by 2030, according to the World Health Organization.

It’s a syndrome that’s not only debilitating for the people who live with it but also for their families and caregivers. According to statistics from WHO the economic cost of dementia is roughly $818 billion.

Yet, it’s also one that’s the most poorly understood by researchers. Now, thanks to a $60 million commitment from the US AARP, a London-based fund has closed with $350 million to invest in new medicines to combat dementia and its underlying illnesses.

Initially formed by the UK Department of Health and Social Care and the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK) alongside a consortium of pharmaceutical companies, including Biogen, Eli Lilly and Company, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Otsuka (Astex), Pfizer and Takeda, the Dementia Discovery Fund had initially targeted $200 million to invest in new treatments.

Commitments from other wealthy individuals (like Bill Gates) and interested organizations like (ahem) the NFL Players Association, and UnitedHealth Group helped round out the commitments to get the fund closed at its $350 million hard cap.

Founded in October, 2015 by SV Health Investors, a venture capital and growth equity firm with offices in London and Boston and roughly $2.5 billion under management, the Dementia Discovery Fund has already invested in 16 companies in the U.S. and the U.K. focused on microglial biology and inflammation, mitochondrial dynamics, trafficking and membrane biology and synaptic physiology and functions.

“At the DDF, we are focused on scientific approaches that look beyond the amyloid beta pathway into other areas, such as inflammation, mitochondrial function and the preservation and enhancement of healthy brain cells,” said Kate Bingham, managing partner of SV Health Investors, in a statement. “These areas are highly likely to be important to chronic traumatic encephalopathy or traumatic brain injury, leading to renewed hope for treatment of these terrible disorders.”

For the AARP, the investment in finding cures for dementia is central to the nonprofit’s mission going forward, according to chief executive Jo Ann Jenkins. “Dementia doesn’t just affect those with the disease. It takes a devastating emotional, physical and financial toll on families and caregivers. The projected doubling of the size of the 65+ population over the next generation makes finding new ways to treat dementia, including Alzheimer’s, even more critical,” she said.


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Lemonade files lawsuit against wefox for IP infringement

Lemonade, the insurance platform based out of NYC, has filed a lawsuit against German company ONE Insurance, its parent company wefox, and founder Julian Teicke.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court Southern District of NY, alleges that wefox reverse engineered Lemonade to create ONE, infringing Lemonade’s intellectual property, violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and breaching its contractual obligations to Lemonade not to “copy content… to provide any service that is competitive…or to…create derivative works.”

In the filing, Lemonade alleges that Teicke repeatedly registered for insurance on Lemonade under various names and for various addresses, some of which do not exist. Teicke also allegedly filed claims in what appeared to be an attempt to assess and copy the arrangement of those flows.

Lemonade’s counsel says Teicke started seven claims over the course of 20 days, prompting Lemonade to cancel his policy.

Alongside Teicke, a number of other executives and members of leadership at wefox also filed fake claims, despite having opted in to Lemonade’s user agreement and taking an honesty pledge, which is required of all Lemonade users.

This, according to Lemonade, violates the Computer Fraud and Abuse act. Lemonade also alleges that the ONE app infringes Lemonade’s IP, and that in assessing the Lemonade app and building a competitor, Teicke also violated Lemonade’s TOS.

Lemonade has revolutionized the insurance business in two key ways: First, it made the process of actually buying insurance as easy as a few clicks on your smartphone. Digitizing the process makes the issue of getting home or renters insurance far less daunting and more approachable to consumers. Secondly, Lemonade rethought the business model of insurance.

Normally, insurance providers charge you a certain monthly rate based on the value of the property/items looking to be insured. But at the end of the year, the money remaining in that policy becomes profit, putting the insurance company in direct opposition to the consumer any time a claim is filed.

Lemonade takes its profit directly out of each payment, and if a file isn’t claimed, it sends the rest of the leftover money to the charity of your choice, ensuring that Lemonade and the consumer are on the same page when a claim is filed.

In keeping with that thesis, any proceeds generated from this lawsuit will go directly to Code.org.

“We’re not trying to enrich ourselves by poking another startup,” said Lemonade CEO Daniel Schreiber . “We’re not anti-competition. We’re just saying ‘Play by the rules, play fair and square.’”

Folks interested in the lawsuit can check out the complaint here.


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Amazon starts shipping its $249 DeepLens AI camera for developers

Back at its re:Invent conference in November, AWS announced its $249 DeepLens, a camera that’s specifically geared toward developers who want to build and prototype vision-centric machine learning models. The company started taking pre-orders for DeepLens a few months ago, but now the camera is actually shipping to developers.

Ahead of today’s launch, I had a chance to attend a workshop in Seattle with DeepLens senior product manager Jyothi Nookula and Amazon’s VP for AI Swami Sivasubramanian to get some hands-on time with the hardware and the software services that make it tick.

DeepLens is essentially a small Ubuntu- and Intel Atom-based computer with a built-in camera that’s powerful enough to easily run and evaluate visual machine learning models. In total, DeepLens offers about 106 GFLOPS of performance.

The hardware has all of the usual I/O ports (think Micro HDMI, USB 2.0, Audio out, etc.) to let you create prototype applications, no matter whether those are simple toy apps that send you an alert when the camera detects a bear in your backyard or an industrial application that keeps an eye on a conveyor belt in your factory. The 4 megapixel camera isn’t going to win any prizes, but it’s perfectly adequate for most use cases. Unsurprisingly, DeepLens is deeply integrated with the rest of AWS’s services. Those include the AWS IoT service Greengrass, which you use to deploy models to DeepLens, for example, but also SageMaker, Amazon’s newest tool for building machine learning models.

These integrations are also what makes getting started with the camera pretty easy. Indeed, if all you want to do is run one of the pre-built samples that AWS provides, it shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes to set up your DeepLens and deploy one of these models to the camera. Those project templates include an object detection model that can distinguish between 20 objects (though it had some issues with toy dogs, as you can see in the image above), a style transfer example to render the camera image in the style of van Gogh, a face detection model and a model that can distinguish between cats and dogs and one that can recognize about 30 different actions (like playing guitar, for example). The DeepLens team is also adding a model for tracking head poses. Oh, and there’s also a hot dog detection model.

But that’s obviously just the beginning. As the DeepLens team stressed during our workshop, even developers who have never worked with machine learning can take the existing templates and easily extend them. In part, that’s due to the fact that a DeepLens project consists of two parts: the model and a Lambda function that runs instances of the model and lets you perform actions based on the model’s output. And with SageMaker, AWS now offers a tool that also makes it easy to build models without having to manage the underlying infrastructure.

You could do a lot of the development on the DeepLens hardware itself, given that it is essentially a small computer, though you’re probably better off using a more powerful machine and then deploying to DeepLens using the AWS Console. If you really wanted to, you could use DeepLens as a low-powered desktop machine as it comes with Ubuntu 16.04 pre-installed.

For developers who know their way around machine learning frameworks, DeepLens makes it easy to import models from virtually all the popular tools, including Caffe, TensorFlow, MXNet and others. It’s worth noting that the AWS team also built a model optimizer for MXNet models that allows them to run more efficiently on the DeepLens device.

So why did AWS build DeepLens? “The whole rationale behind DeepLens came from a simple question that we asked ourselves: How do we put machine learning in the hands of every developer,” Sivasubramanian said. “To that end, we brainstormed a number of ideas and the most promising idea was actually that developers love to build solutions as hands-on fashion on devices.” And why did AWS decide to build its own hardware instead of simply working with a partner? “We had a specific customer experience in mind and wanted to make sure that the end-to-end experience is really easy,” he said. “So instead of telling somebody to go download this toolkit and then go buy this toolkit from Amazon and then wire all of these together. […] So you have to do like 20 different things, which typically takes two or three days and then you have to put the entire infrastructure together. It takes too long for somebody who’s excited about learning deep learning and building something fun.”

So if you want to get started with deep learning and build some hands-on projects, DeepLens is now available on Amazon. At $249, it’s not cheap, but if you are already using AWS — and maybe even use Lambda already — it’s probably the easiest way to get started with building these kind of machine learning-powered applications.


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Nike debuts its most ambitious SNKRS stash drop for the Championship Tour featuring Kendrick Lamar and SZA

On a mild Thursday night at the Los Angeles Forum, Nike’s public relations team and a group of journalists from some of the country’s leading lifestyle, tech, and general interest websites gathered to see the debut of Nike’s most ambitious SNKRS stash drop.

Launched in conjunction with Kendrick Lamar’s Top Dawg Entertainment, the collaboration between Nike and Lamar marks a series of firsts for the world’s largest sports and lifestyle brand.

The combined effort is the first capsule collection that Nike has done with a musician. It’s also the first time that anyone currently working at the company can remember the apparel company signing on with a musician for select tour merchandise, and the debut of the stash drop through the SNKRS app was the largest the company’s tech had tried to tackle.

For concertgoers, rolling up to the concert in Supreme sweats, Yeezys, Adidas, Pumas… and, of course, Nikes, the SNKRS stash drop would be a surprise. For folks who had downloaded Nike’s SNKRS app, they’d be able to buy and reserve a pair of Kendrick Lamar’s limited edition Cortez Kenny IIIs at the concert.

At least on the first night, things didn’t go as planned.

Working with live events like concerts, where timing is less regimented than at a typical sporting event (which are marked by tip offs and halftimes that adhere to a pretty regimented schedule), proved too much for the initial rollout of the company’s stash drop.

Select NikePlus members received an initial push notification of the Stash drop and a card in the SNKRS feed also advertised the special stash drop, in addition to a notification that flashed onscreen between the (amazing)  SchoolboyQ set and SZA’s (equally amazing) performance.

There will be other chances to get the timing down, but for the first concert in Los Angeles, concertgoers were prompted to launch the SNKRS app and try and snag a pair of the limited edition shoes well before the activation actually went live.

Once the shoes did go on sale, the user interface for finding and reserving the shoes didn’t work for everyone there — in fact, only one reporter from the group was able to reserve a pair of the shoes (since that reporter hadn’t saved payment information onto the SNKRS app, those shoes were released).

“I can’t get the app to do what I need,” said one concertgoer trying to snag a pair of shoes.

The team at Nike said the concert’s late start caused the miscue. Roughly 30 minutes after the sneakers were supposed to onsale, the activation went live — something journalists were only made aware of when notified by Nike’s public relations team.

Once the sale did go live, the shoes sold out within the first five minutes, although it’s unclear how many were made available through the stash drop (Nike declined to provide a number).

Nike’s repeating the stash drop for shows in Houston, New York, Boston and Chicago.

The SNKRS app is only one example of Nike’s innovative approach to integrating technology and fashion. In April, Nike launched the first sneaker that’s integrated with its NikeConnect technology.

Unveiled earlier this year through a collaboration with the NBA, the NikeConnect app allows users to access information on players and stats through a label enabled with near field communications chips.

Nike’s Air Force Ones enabled with the NikeConnect tech will open a special limited release sneaker sale opportunity called “The Choice”, but Nike has higher hopes for the technology.

“We would love to be able to award sweat equity with access to exclusive products or a partnership,” said a spokesperson for the company in an interview last year.

“NikeConnect [is] a great way for us to get interesting data about our members and deliver unlocks that are relevant to those members,” the spokesperson said.

Beyond the unlocks for exclusive sneaker offers, Nike is thinking about ways to include all of its technology partners in ways that benefit NikeConnect, NikePlus, and SNKRS users.

“We’re excited to learn how unlocks are being received right now,” said the spokesperson. “There is a pretty comprehensive ecosystem of value that we’ve been building for our members… Members who are really active with us are getting rewards or achievements [and] that could include partners like Apple… that we’ll be bringing to the table to round out your whole holistic sport experience.”

 

 


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Diamond dynasty De Beers stoops to conquer with new line of man-made diamond jewelry

They first launched nearly a decade ago with names like Diamond Foundry, Brilliant Earth, Mia Donna and Pure Grown Diamonds, with millions of dollars in financing and a mission to reshape the diamond industry. They were startups that were going to popularize man-made diamonds for the masses in a way that would make the industry more sustainable and wring billions of dollars from the roughly $100 billion diamond market.

Now, it looks like they’re going to be quarrying up the industry’s remains thanks to news that the De Beers Group, one of the giants of the jewelry and mining industry, is going to start selling its own brand of jewelry crowned by lab-grown diamonds. Called Lightbox Jewelry, the new brand will launch in September. The idea is to sell the jewelry at a lower price point to consumers who want diamonds but don’t want to have to pay luxury prices for them.

Diamonds will retail from $200 for a quarter-carat stone up to $800 for a one-carat stone and will be available in different hues from pink, blue and white diamonds in earring and necklace designs.

It’s sure to be a blow for lab-grown manufacturers like Diamond Foundry, which raised $100 million from high-profile investors like Mark and Alison Pincus; serial entrepreneur Ev Williams; early Facebook COO Owen Van Natta; and actor Leonardo DiCaprio — who played a mercenary gem smuggler in the 2006 film “Blood Diamond.”

For De Beers, today’s announcement of a new jewelry line was a very public reversal from a company that two years earlier had turned up its nose at the thought of man-made jewelry providing a competitive offering to existing products.

Source: Lightbox Jewelry

“Lightbox will transform the lab-grown diamond sector by offering consumers a lab-grown product they have told us they want but aren’t getting: affordable fashion jewelry that may not be forever, but is perfect for right now,” said Bruce Cleaver, the CEO of De Beers Group, in a statement.

For De Beers the trick is walking a fine line between acknowledging that there’s no real difference between the lab-grown products it’s shilling and the higher-end stones that it mines without making the jewelry come off as sounding cheap.

It’s also a bid to undercut the legitimacy of competitors that are trying to impinge on De Beers’ high-end turf.

Source: Lightbox Jewelry

“Our extensive research tells us this is how consumers regard lab-grown diamonds — as a fun, pretty product that shouldn’t cost that much — so we see an opportunity here that’s been missed by lab-grown diamond producers. Lab-grown diamonds are a product of technology, and as we’ve seen with synthetic sapphires, rubies and emeralds, as the technology advances, products become more affordable,” Cleaver continued.

That quote cuts to the heart of De Beers’ problem, which could mean the end of its diamond days. De Beers wants the lab-grown business delegitimized so it can hold on to core profits, but once it starts down the path, there’s a danger that it could just be seen as a maker of cheap jewelry for the mall crowd set.

In any event, De Beers’ own lab-grown jewelry business didn’t come cheap. Emerging from the research work that the firm had done on diamond products for other industries through its Element Six subsidiary, the new Lightbox line of gems will also require an additional $94 million investment for a new facility outside of Portland, the company said.

“We’ve learned from our research that there is a lot of confusion about lab-grown diamonds – what they are, how they differ from diamonds, and how they are valued. Lightbox will be clear with consumers about what lab-grown diamonds are and will offer straightforward pricing that is consistent with the true cost of production,” said Steve Coe, Lightbox Jewelry’s general manager, in a statement.

Technically, lab-grown diamonds only differ from natural diamonds in that they’re made in a lab. Differences in the physical composition of the stones are nearly undetectable. It’s one reason why De Beers is etching a Lightbox logo into its stones, invisible to the naked eye but easily identified under magnification.

As Ariel Baruch, a jeweler at a company that sells lab-grown diamonds, told Popular Science, “If anyone tells you they can tell the difference without the machine, they’re lying.”


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