‘A picture of normalcy returned to the diamond industry in September and October, just for the world to pull back from another brutal Covid-19 pandemic attack in Europe. Rough diamond sales started to move once again, as major manufacturers reported good sales levels in Q3. Despite the second wave hitting Europe, the diamond market is showing extraordinary resilience and versatility in the way it works now. Of course, the news of the first vaccine coming close to regulator approval gives the world great hope that there is a strong possibility of an eventual return to life as we once knew. But not yet.
Rough and medium market
De Beers and Alrosa continue to show flexibility and reason in their respective sales policies, allowing deferrals (mainly on smaller goods) and lowering purchasing levels. Smaller manufacturers have continued to sell and are generating cash flow, albeit at slightly lower levels than in January. But cash is flowing, and the market feels somewhat resilient, stable, and ready for better times.
De Beers sales for Sight 8 were reported at $ 467 million ($ 334 million for Sight 7) and the newly completed Sight 9 is estimated, by internal market contacts, to be around $ 415 million.
Shopping malls operate, despite travel restrictions that limit the ability of overseas shoppers to move around. With ingenuity, manufacturers have started to move closer to customers as we now see increased appetite for sales in Dubai (closer to India and with direct flights from Surat) and other malls. New alliances are being formed as the industry adapts to the current situation imposed on us all by the pandemic. Whether the industry returns to its former, traditional structure once life returns to normal remains to be seen. I have my doubts. New pipeline utilization efficiencies should logically continue.
The parallels, in some respects, can be drawn from the global financial crisis of 2008-9 in relation to trade paralysis. However, the industry jump in 2009 turned it back into a pre-crash mode. This time, the break caused by Covid and the subsequent structural changes may be more permanent.
So – where are we now? Roughly flowing, major manufacturers have taken a big hit this year, smaller manufacturers have falsified their individual tactics run by a hitherto unprecedented cocktail of health and safety concerns, operational requirements, cash needs and other individual challenges. Some consequences are evident in litigation between certain explorers and their partners, or between producing partners. And yet, it must be stated again that the resistance of the industry is in evidence.
Liquidity and stock levels in the middle market are reported as healthy.
Large stones keep coming and fancy colors are in the news
Recovery of very large stones continues to be reported. At the time of writing this market report, Lucara just announced the recovery of a whopping 998ct gem (reported as high flaw) [medium] quality and white in color).
Fancy colors continue to make headlines as well.
After appearing in Antwerp and Hong Kong, Petra blue stones (5 extraordinary, large blue stones, as reported in my last editorial) are currently on their way to New York for views from prospective bidders. The results are expected on November 24.
Rio Tinto’s penultimate tender Argyle Pinks is also in process. Always surpassing the market because of their unique color, despite being very small stones, these stones seem determined to break all records as the mine has now officially stopped production. Bids close on December 2nd.
The future for pink diamond prices looks bright. I think here is an opportunity for another producer to take over the mantle as the world’s leading supplier of roses; perhaps Alrosa of Russia. The Spirit of the slender 14.83ct Rose, a purple and red rose mined by Alrosa in Yakutia, Russia, sold for $ 26.6 million at a Sotheby’s auction in Geneva. As well as pink-purple, a rectangular 28.88ct vivid yellow ornament at Christies Geneva sold at auction for $ 3.1 million
Smooth and retail
Smooth prices in many areas are strengthening (except in melee and + 3 carats weaker) due to good demand and a genuine shortage of certain goods, and wholesale markets are busy fulfilling orders for the festive season .
Clearly online sales are on the rise and we can expect this to continue exponentially.
The purchase of LVMH is again, albeit at a lower price – and the deal should be completed by early 2021, subject to regulatory approvals and shareholders.
Laboratory-increased diamond production is expanding and this remains an attractive market for many players due to high margins at all stages of the pipeline. The long-term evolution of the history of laboratory-grown diamonds remains to be seen. My personal feeling is that a parallel two-tier market will develop and take shape before cannibalization begins to take place over time. It may not be a popular sight for some.
Macro issues such as global politics, a new US President, international trade tensions and the economy will undoubtedly have their various impacts along the way, but I feel a great opportunity for the diamond industry traders to catch up and restores the emotional essence and mystique of diamonds to the minds of consumers and generates a substantial return on purchases / gifts of diamond jewelry as the pandemic eventually subsides.
In a way, Bain is preparing the next industry report. It will be interesting to see what they say about where they believe our industry is heading.
Given that we are still in the midst of such a traumatic global pandemic that has paralyzed so many in the world and let’s be honest, although vaccines may come in handy, we are a long way from being out of the woods however the diamond industry has shown extraordinary depth of dexterity and resilience. When better times come back, we need to be well placed for greater business success. ‘
– By Robert Bouquet
Source – Natural Diamond Association
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