Brilliant Inc uses up-to-date technology to produce lab-created diamonds, transforming a precious jewellery stone into an everyday wearable item, as Janelle Butterfield discovers
From family heirlooms to sparkling engagement rings, diamonds have always been a coveted possession. But until recently, affording them has been a different story; often received as a gift or purchased only for a special occasion.
However, sister act Emma Canning and Dervla Cogan, who founded ‘simulated’ diamond brand Brilliant Inc in 2005, have breathed new life into the market with their lab-created jewels; creations that look just like the real thing, without the price tag to match.
‘When we started out, the idea of simulated diamonds was still a relatively new concept and there was a lot of educating to do with our customers,’ explains Dervla at their King’s Road store. ‘But from the beginning, the idea was that all women can have diamond jewellery without breaking the bank.’
Made in laboratories under conditions that match the natural volcanic process, the stones, with an impressive cut, clarity and colour have all the sparkle of a traditional diamond – often with only professional gemologists being able to tell the difference. But back in 2005, the process was still relatively unknown in the UK.
‘I was given some diamond studs for my 25th birthday and absolutely adored them,’ says Dervla. ‘That summer I was working and wanted to save to buy a matching pendant but when I saw the price I couldn’t believe it. We realised that for women who wanted to enjoy fine jewellery regularly, it was impossible at those price points.’
The business-minded duo immediately set out to discover all they could about this new process. ‘Our parents were business owners and we travelled a lot as children, living in Australia for many years, where the simulated-diamond market was far bigger. When we came across them we saw a real opportunity to provide more women with access to the jewels.
‘People had got used to things like crystals but it didn’t match up to the clarity, cut and durability of diamonds and a lot of the stones that were available were in clumpy settings.
‘Our aim was to use the best quality stones in designs we love but still at an achievable price. We wanted women to be able to buy them for themselves, wear them always and not have to wait for special occasions.’
Having returned to London to set up Brilliant Inc, the pair instantly received requests from all walks of life, from those unable to afford the real thing, to millionaires keen to wear their favourite gemstones outdoors without worrying about losing them. ‘Initially we were inundated with diamond lovers who recognised the quality of the gems, then followed on the younger generation who wanted a diamond but were perhaps also saving for a house or a wedding – our prices made it possible to have both,’ says Dervla.
‘We’re lucky to have a great following as our jewellery appeals to people on so many levels, everyone from music, fashion, the TV industry and a few royals! We’ve grown through a large local and international customer base, this mix is the key to our business as they have their fingers on the fashion pulse which helps us stay ahead in both design and service. Our online base is a great success as well.’
Opening their first boutique just off the King’s Road seven years ago, the pair have seen the market for lab-grown gems go from strength to strength.
‘Like any fashion, it’s fun to mix high street and luxury,’ says Dervla. ‘They’re great for women who want a beautiful collection for everyday wear. It’s also stress free for travel as there’s no insurance worries.’
Originally from Ireland, but having grown up in Australia, London has always been a constant touchstone for the sisters, who insist they love working together; ‘we always manage to laugh during the more challenging times.’ Both living in the capital, with easy access to their SW3 boutique, the duo have big plans in the pipeline. ‘We’re hoping to expand to department stores and want to continue to provide women with beautiful jewellery.’ Sounds like a brilliant idea to us…
41 Duke Of York Square SW3 4LY; brilliantinc.co.uk