Antwerp's diamond trade bounced back in May after a modest month of April, with significant increases across the board compared to the month prior. On a year-over-year basis, the volume of rough diamond exports increased by more than 55% although their value fell by 3%, while rough imports increased more than 13% in volume while declining 18% in value. Value increases were recorded for imports as well as exports of polished goods, while the volume of imports increased nearly 5% and the volume of exports were down 12%.
May rough exports from Antwerp increased to almost 13 million carats valued at $1.24 billion, good for a 38% increase in volume and a 38% increase in value compared to April. Rough imports for the month totaled 8.77 million carats valued at $1.06 billion, representing a 56% increase in volume and a 52% increase in value over the previous month ($694 million). Rough exports are still up in volume during the first five months of 2017, as Antwerp has exported 13.5% more carats (55.6 million) thus far than in 2016, but their value is still down almost 6% at $5.4 billion. Following a slow month of April, rough imports are still down 3% in volume compared to the first five months last year, with their value declining 16%. Thus far in 2017, 41.1 million carats of rough goods have been imported to the diamond capital, with a value of $4.7 billion.
Market sentiment for the polished diamond trade was mixed in the month of May as the volume of trade fell year-over-year on the export side while increasing on the import side. On a monthly basis, however, the volume of polished exports was up 12% while their value increased 44% to $1.12 billion from $779 million. Meanwhile, polished imports jumped 30% in volume while gaining 13% in value to $1 billion. For the year 2017 thus far, polished imports are down 7% in volume and 4.7% in value compared to 2016, totaling $5 billion during the first five months. Polished exports in 2017, at $5.1 billion, are still down 14% in volume and 9% in value compared to the first five months of 2016.
In general, we have been hearing cautious sentiment in the polished diamond markets and bearish news from the main market for polished diamonds – the United States. Diamond jewelry sales have disappointed this year as anticipated economic growth in the US has not materialized. Major retailers like Signet and Tiffany are coming off poor first quarter sales and cite sluggish demand. The rough market has not been disturbed by these trends, as De Beers and ALROSA have reporting rising sales and steady demand for rough diamonds, although they have both limited supply during the last two months to match lower levels of polished demand.