Born into the Cartier luxury jewelry family legacy, Jean Dousset is now carving his own niche in the category with a modern take on classics built around lab-grown diamonds and contemporary design.
As the great-great-grandson of Louis Cartier, the jewelry empire was always in the background, even though Dousset’s family wasn’t heavily involved in the business.
But despite the distance, Dousset found himself drawn to the industry, custom designing pieces for celebrities including Eva Longoria, Amy Adams, Morgan Stewart, and Paris Hilton.
In 2010, after working with jewelers including Chaumet, Boucheron, and Van Cleef & Arpels, Dousset launched his namesake brand — but with a twist.
While many of these heritage brands have eschewed lab-grown diamonds, Dousset leaned in, crafting bespoke jewelry with luxury, lab-grown diamonds.
The diamond industry is notorious for human trafficking and forced labor, but Dousset is the first to say sweeping statements about the industry are a disservice; many companies are enforcing human rights efforts. Blockchain technology, like that coming from HB Antwerp and its Botswana mining partner, are helping to promote transparency. There are also efforts to support ethical gold mining and restoration projects for neighboring communities.
For Dousset, lab-grown diamonds offer a new avenue for jewelers seeking absolute clarity about their sources; it’s also offering consumers a more affordable option. Lab-grown diamonds can costs 50 to 70 percent less than their mined counterparts.
Jean Dousset’s first ever ready-to-ship luxury collection launched last December, featuring lab-grown diamond tennis bracelets, pendant necklaces, studs, huggies, and hoop earrings handcrafted with 100 percent recycled gold. Dousset says the new collection was inspired by the label’s popular Chelsea ring.
“Designer lab-grown diamond jewelry is an exciting innovation to be embraced,” Dousset said in a statement. “Now consumers can have it all, where their desire finally meets reality with no compromises. We are proud to give people access to expertly designed and handcrafted fine jewelry that they couldn’t consider before, including higher-quality diamonds. Now with our Ready to Ship collection, the ‘mystique’ of timeless, luxury diamond jewelry is at your fingertips.”
Ethos caught up with Dousset via email to learn more about his inspiration, his approach to jewelry, and life as a Cartier.
Ethos: Can you speak to life in the Cartier universe? How did that shape your understanding of luxury and responsibility?
JD: I was born around the time Cartier had been sold to outside investors in the ’70s. Louis Cartier is my mother’s great-grandfather, and her side was not closely involved when it was family-owned, but I did grow up surrounded by some memorabilia of the era, like jewelry and heirlooms. We also spent many summers vacationing in a beautiful house that belonged to Louis Cartier.
You can say I have since become a planet in the Cartier heritage universe by proxy. Jewelry was not an obvious career path to me until I stepped foot into an iconic jewelry store in Place Vendome in Paris — call it an instant connection to the world around me, the historical magnitude of the building, and the jewelry. I definitely feel much more connected to my family’s jewelry-making legacy now that I have built my own identity and aesthetic.
Ethos: When did you realize you wanted to use your platform for ethical diamonds?
JD: I am very careful using words like “ethical” and “sustainable” when describing our motivation to pivot to lab-grown. Firstly, It would be disingenuous to blanket label natural diamonds as “unethical.” There is an unfortunate stigma around how diamonds are procured based on how it has been portrayed in movies and TV, but that is not a fair representation of what all natural diamonds are and where all natural diamonds come from. That being said, lab-grown diamonds continue to increase in popularity.
I truly believe lab diamonds are the future, and the category does represent the future generations’ eco-friendly mindset and values. Buyers are now able to own diamonds created by these standards.
We, as a company, are working towards creating a more sustainable business. All of our jewelry is made-to-order, which means no excess waste, and we will continue to innovate when it comes to packaging and our products, such as utilizing recycled precious metals and more.
Ethos: Legacy brands are steering away from lab diamonds — do you think that will change?
JD: I do. You have to realize they are contending with a long history and legacy that requires a thoughtful period of contemplation before making any sort of switch. They need to evolve very carefully so as not to antagonize one side or the other for gains.
I know with my own thought process in making the pivot to lab-grown, I wanted to keep true to my mission and to be honest and transparent. You hear the term “greenwashing” in marketing and this goes for the jewelry industry, too. Lab-grown is an alternative to natural; this is not a good vs. evil marketing battle.
Ethos: Can mines and lab diamonds co-exist in the luxury market? What about hybrid pieces? Is that something you or other designers are exploring?
JD: We started with hybrid pieces where the center stone would be lab-grown, and the diamonds used in settings would be mined. Now we are dedicated to using lab-grown diamonds exclusively in all of our pieces to avoid any confusion about what exactly we offer. Our goal remains the same in making the beautiful diamond attainable; many consumers are hindered by the price tag of their dream center stone alone. We want consumers to be able to get what they want, and lab-grown is our way of making desires a reality.
Ethos: Can you speak to your new collection? What was the inspiration?
JD: The new Ready-to-Ship collection is a story of evolution and liberation. We have taken the legacy designs we have created over the years and have reimagined them with lab-grown diamonds of the same outstanding quality as the mined diamonds we used prior.
Thanks to lab-grown, we have the opportunity to be more creative with our designs and diamond sizes. The cost of natural diamonds has historically been a constraint on creativity. I now have the freedom to use the size of diamond I think looks best in a design versus keeping a price limitation in mind. This in turn has allowed us to expand our assortment immensely with this first-ever Ready-to-Ship collection.
Ethos: What do you love about lab diamonds? Are you producing your own or working with a 3rd party?
JD: I love that you don’t need to compromise most of what makes a diamond special, i.e. size and color, to have what you really want. For most of us, unfortunately, our desires and expectations do not match the reality of natural diamond accessibility. You would always have to abandon some desired element. Lab-grown lets you have it all. It’s very compelling.
I pride myself on sourcing and using only the highest quality lab-grown stones that embody the perfect cut and polish in my designs. These partners have decades of experience in the diamond industry and grade and evaluate lab-grown diamonds as strictly as natural diamonds.
It’s very important to remind everyone that not all lab-grown diamonds are created equal. There is a wide range of growth processes that yield a very different quality diamond. Lab-grown take as much care and consideration as mined diamonds in terms of the artistry of cutting.
The main advantage to diamond cutters is a more predictable amount of rough to cut, whereas mined diamonds come in all different sizes and shapes, which limits the number of diamonds you can cut each time.
Ethos: Do you design setting’s differently for lab diamonds?
JD: Just like the chemical makeup of a lab diamond and mined diamond are the same so is my design approach. With each design, I want to capture the maximum amount of light to help the diamond come alive. The only difference is that I do not have as many constraints on how many diamonds I use and the size. The opportunities are limitless!
Ethos: What are questions consumers should be asking about their diamonds—mined or lab?
JD: It depends on their preferences and belief system, but I think the root focus should be comparing diamonds visually rather than focusing on stated parameters as a decision factor. Of course, everyone aspires to have a superior, exceptionally white-looking diamond, but at the end of the day, the way the diamond was cut, and therefore how it looks to the naked eye, is going to be the ultimate way to appreciate its beauty. Normally you would have to see the best and the worst in order for you to really appreciate what a really pretty diamond looks like. We have made it our mission since day one to only display and propose the best-cut diamonds from the entire market to those that visit us.
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