Last month, The New York Times posted an article entitled “Atelier Swarovski Turns to Man-Made Gems”. Jean-Marc Lieberherr, CEO of the Diamond Producers Association, would call this an oxymoron. Gems by definition are not man-made, not to mention the fact that calling them such contradicts the standards of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
The vanguard of independent diamond-industry journalism, Chaim-Even Zohar, last week announced his retirement, bringing more than 40 years of uncompromising investigative reporting to an end.
At the start of Positive Week, an initiative run by Positive Luxury to encourage environmental practises in business, Jo Blake, head of communications at De Beers' brand Forevermark, argued that the regulations that govern diamond mining allow the practice to be more eco-friendly and sustainable than synthetic diamonds, which are hardly regulated at all. “The [synthetics] industry is not particularly regulated in comparison to the natural diamond mining," she said.
I’m not here to throw mud at the Diamond Producers Association or its efforts. What they do is great and very much needed. However, I do want to suggest that we need to go beyond general promotion. The augmenting campaigns, those that create a specific desire followed by a specific action, is the kind of marketing we are missing today.
- Edahn Golan highlights need for diamond marketing, wonders if DPA getting consumers into stores.
I am bullish on the future of the diamond business. Three reasons for this optimism ... new discoveries, extending mine life and the increasing demand for diamonds.
- Martin Leake, independent diamond consultant, former head of sales at Grib Diamonds, interview @ Rough-Polished
Currently, the Federal Trade Commission is considering letting the term 'cultured' be added to these currently accepted descriptions of man-made versions, such as 'lab-created' or 'laboratory grown'. The mined-diamond industry is fighting this addition tooth and nail, while the man-made producers are intent upon dropping any reference to 'laboratory created' or 'laboratory grown' in favor of 'cultured' alone ... In the end it's marketing that is going to make or break the cultivated-diamond industry’s potential to disrupt the natural-diamond market ... It’s likely to all come down to a battle over words: cultured vs. man-made, cultivated vs. laboratory-grown. In marketing, perception is reality. The future potential for cultivated diamonds will largely depend upon what the FTC allows them to be called.
- Pamela N. Danziger, market researcher, speaker and author.
Diamond trader and brick & mortar crusader Melvin Moss is back at his provocative best in his most recent diatribe, "The #Diamond Family is Dysfunctional". He argues that major diamond miners producing too much rough at prices unsustainable for the rest of the industry (which deals with underpriced polished) and are extending their reach across the pipeline at the expense of everyone else - particularly retailers. "The diamond pipeline is dysfunctional", he writes. "Miners have a primary obligation to their shareholders.
Innovation is the key to sustained success, even for a traditional industry such as the diamond trade. Successful innovation, however, starts with questioning what we do and why we are doing it.
A new investigative report by Global Witness shows how smugglers are using social media platforms such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp to get diamonds linked to the ongoing conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) out of the country and into international markets. Representatives went undercover by creating a social media profile for a fictitious diamond buyer that claimed to be based in Antwerp but operates internationally. They managed to speak to several dealers who promised easy access to CAR’s diamonds.
JCK news director Rob Bates takes a look at the resurgence of independent bookstores in the U.S. and sees parallels with independent jewelry retailers: "It’s clear the jewelry industry - and in particular the number of independent jewelers - is shrinking. But that’s true of retail overall. And, until recently, it was true of independent bookstores. If you compare today versus decades ago, the number of brick-and-mortar booksellers has fallen. But the independent segment has reversed that trajectory. The number has risen for the last eight years.
Diamond expert, industrialist and industry analyst Ehud Arye Laniado takes an incisive look at the value proposition of synthetic diamonds, taking their producers and marketers to task on their main selling points. Reprinted in full with the permission of the author.
“To me, synthetic diamonds are not diamonds. It is a different product. We don’t know what their value is now or how this is going to evolve. So we are not financing lab-grown at the moment, but we may consider it over time, when it is a more mature product."
- Erik Jens, when asked by moderator Rob Bates (JCK) if ABN AMRO is currently financing lab-grown diamond companies during SRK panel debate with Paul Rowley (De Beers) and Tom Moses (GIA) at JCK Las Vegas
The video is incorrect when it states baldly, “Diamonds can’t be tracked.” True, there is nothing gemologically in a diamond that offers any proof of origin. But there is no reason that diamonds can’t be tracked. Bananas are tracked. Coffee is tracked ... If a manufacturer buys directly from a specific mine, establishing a diamond’s origin should be relatively easy. All it has to do is segregate those specific goods and then make its systems open to audit ... Brilliant Earth, like other e-tailers, stocks virtual inventory. It is also true that the stones it sells sometimes appear on other sites. I wouldn’t call any of that a smoking gun. And I wouldn’t call a company a scam based on one supplier’s purported comments on a hidden-camera video.
- JCK's Rob Bates on the 'Brilliant Earth Diamond Scam" video.
JCK's Rob Bates conducted an in-depth and personal interview with Cecilia Gardner, who recently stepped down after 18 years as president and CEO of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, a not-for-profit trade association dedicated to compliance with laws pertaining to the jewelry industry.
Continuing the published opinions on whether or not the Kimberley Process (KP) is "bullshit" - in the words of Martin Rapaport - JCK's Rob Bates invited Ian Smillie, chaair of the Diamond Development Initiative, president of the Canadian Association for the Study of International Development and formerly one of the key architects of the Kimberley Process, to respond to Brad Brooks-Rubin's response to Rapaport's original
"The Kimberley Process (KP) is one of the key institutions that the diamond industry depends on to deliver the assurance that not only are rough diamonds responsibly sourced," writes Vinod Kuriyan, chief editor of GEMKonnect and a veteran analyst of the diamond industry, "but that they deliver fair value to artisanal miners and the local communities in the sourcing area." His defence of the KP was prompted by Martin Rapaport's statement on stage last week at the
The diamond industry's famous supply and demand chart - the 'hungry crocodile' - representing its forecast of rising rough diamond prices as production falls to shortage levels, "Not only has never materialized, it oversimplifies the fact that the industry’s 15,000 different categories of diamonds are performing in very different ways," writes Thomas Biesheuvel for Bloomberg.
"Martin Rapaport, chairman of the Rapaport Group, called on India to show reciprocity in its trade relationship with the United States," writes eponymous Rapaport News of their founder's “State of Diamond Industry” presentation at GJEPC's "Mines to Market" conference yesterday, marking 50 years of India’s Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council.
Diamond industry analyst Paul Zimnisky, author of the Zimnisky Global Rough Diamond Price Index, provides his thoughts on the recent struggles of diamond mining stocks. Given what is now being widely considered as a recovery and stabilization of the diamond industry last year, an optimistic post-election U.S.
"When I joined the diamond industry 10 years ago, I discovered the significant contribution diamond mining makes to entire regions and communities, through local employment and investments, construction of infrastructure, and development of health and education programs. I would assume that most consumers today are not aware of the contribution diamonds make to the world. Diamonds matter to the livelihood of millions, and they matter to all of us who want to express to our loved ones the sincerity of our commitment. Not all is perfect, but it is good today, and it will be better tomorrow. I take pride in the fact that diamonds make the world a better place."
- Jean-Marc Lieberherr, CEO of the Diamond Producers Association (DPA)
Canadian jeweler and diamond industry analyst Mel Moss explores a core dilemma concerning the value proposition of diamonds. It is a dlemma the diamond industry has yet to resolve, leading to confusion and false expectations among consumers: how can a diamond be presented both as a luxury product and a price-based commodity? "Some in the diamond industry are pushing hard to promote generic diamonds as a commodity that can be traded transparently in futures markets, commodity exchanges and as a wealth preservation asset", writes Moss.
Since the real (forgive the pun) possibility of cultured diamonds being produced economically in volume started to become apparent, the industry has reacted with a completely closed mind ... The good news is that the woeful performance of polished diamonds is at least forcing some people to think, but thinking in the same old box is not going to do much good. Nothing is being aggressively promoted by the industry about the enormous benefits [created by] the vast majority of natural diamond mining, the jobs and wealth it creates in often very impoverished areas of the world. [Critics'] throw-away lines about the mining footprint, which they use to mislead and denigrate the natural product, such as ‘draining lakes’ in the Vogue article, are not challenged and put into a meaningful context.
- Charles Wyndham in polishedprices.com, "A Fake Jerome and real diamonds?"
In his latest Diamond Intelligence Briefs, “Keeping Stock of U.S. Kimberley Process Certificates”, industry analyst Chaim Even-Zohar takes another hard look at the U.S. rough diamond trade and the country’s half-hearted approach when it comes to implementing Kimberley Process (KP) certification standards domestically.
National Jeweler’s Editor-in-chief Michelle Graff made 3 Predictions regarding the retail market for 2017 based on current market trends and the way consumer demand is changing with the times. Retailers, including larger chains, will continue the 2016 trend of closing down. Women’s clothing retailer The Limited announced that they were closing all their stores and operating strictly online.
The diamond industry is changing, and the global environment in which we operate is changing too. There is a constant and inseparable interaction between the two. We must continue to evolve ... The diamond industry should change its traditional approach towards consumers. My proposed new approach towards current and future consumers is one based on openness and transparency. For most consumers, the diamond mining and manufacturing process is opaque. If we become more open about how diamonds reach the consumer, we will change the consumer’s perception of the diamond industry and of diamonds themselves. In my opinion, it is transparency that will transform end consumers’ behavior and bolster their confidence.
- Ehud Arye Laniado, from his "Year-End Wrap Up: How the Diamond Industry Can Move Forward in 2017"
Reflecting on the impact of the Trump election victory on the future of the diamond trade, particularly on the U.S. and India, independent industry consultant Pranay Narvekar writes in GJEPC's Solitaire International that America's share of the global polished diamond market - already the highest by far at 45% of total value - should only increase in the coming years, while the strength of the dollar and other expected policy moves will only exacerbate uncertainty throughout the trade.
"The ethical aspect of trading does not weigh more heavily now than in the past. It remains as critical as it has always been. Indeed, we may be confronted with a more inquisitive public than in the past, but our focus on ethics has never changed. People who intentionally misrepresent their product are criminals and must be treated as such. Diamonds must continue to be traded, as in the past, responsibly and ethically. The challenge is for the synthetics producers to find their own niche not by denigrating diamonds but by praising their man-made product in, and I stress it again, a both responsible and ethical manner."
AWDC President Stéphane Fischler on ethics, synthetic diamonds and the Antwerp diamond industry in an interview on Rough & Polished
The diamond and jewelry trade will benefit as the new policies create a more prosperous middle class and greater numbers of wealthy consumers. Global uncertainty will also increase demand for investment diamonds as a store of wealth.
- Martin Rapaport, Chairman of the Rapaport Group, on his positive view of Trump presidency for diamonds & jewelry.
Two weeks ago, IDEX Online published an opinion piece by Thierry Silber, CEO and founder of Diamaz International and Madestones, entitled "How to Kill Four Birds With One Stone". Here Silber makes the following proposal on the way to tackle the heated issue of undisclosed mixing of natural and synthetic diamonds: "Why not remove the mixing issue by selling both types of smaller diamonds at the same price up to a certain size?" The main problem as he sees it is the cost of detection involved in screening for synthetic diamonds, particularly for smaller manufacturers.
On 15 November in Geneva, Christie’s Magnificent Jewels auction will be led by the exceptional jewels of Bulgari, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, David Webb, Harry Winston and Boehmer et Bassenge, the newly launched Maison de Haute Joaillerie.
In his latest article, JCK news director Rob Bates looks at the impact of GIA reporting the discovery of the biggest ever undisclosed CVD synthetic diamond at its Hong Kong lab. Bates argues that even though most cases of undisclosed synthetic diamonds occur in India and China, this latest discovery demonstrates synthetics pose a real and present threat to the entire industry, including the retail segment.
By Chaim Even-Zohar. Reprinted from Diamond Intelligence Briefs by special arrangement. Click here to read the first article.
By Chaim Even-Zohar. Reprinted from Diamond Intelligence Briefs by special arrangement. Read the second part of this article here.
JCK's award-winning news director Rob Bates sat down for a chat with Internet radio program "The Daily Beat" on Breakthru Radio (BTR) to talk all things diamonds, and in particular the Kimberley Process and diamonds in American culture.
BTR: What effect did the movie Blood Diamonds (2006) and reports after that have on the diamond industry?
In his latest contribution to the diamond debate, "Diamond Trade a Medical Diagnosis: Self-Destructive" Melvin Moss, president at Regal Imports Ltd, argues for a unified marketing strategy - together with a standardized grading system - to benefit all in the diamond value chain. Currently, the situation is one where each company is promoting its own brand, thereby working against the interests of the diamond industry as a whole. "The multitude of new proprietary brands ... are making generic diamond marketing complicated.
In the lastest installment of the Diamond Intelligence Briefing (DIB), diamond industry analyst Chaim Even-Zohar presents a searing indictiment of the rough diamond trade in the United States, "The world's most convenient and 'uncontrolled' rough transfer market", claiming that, "The main justification for the overwhelming bulk of the (U.S.) rough trade is pure transfer pricing*." This rough diamond 'stopover' in the U.S. also "endangers the integrity of the legitimate U.S.
Diamond industry analyst Avi Krawitz presents his rundown of the India International Jewellery Show (IIJS) that took place last week in Mumbai. While noting that IIJS is currently a niche domestic show focusing on gold jewelry - which saw steady business, with jewelers expecting demand to rise along with gold's upward trend - Krawitz sensed optimism about the diamond market even though domestic diamond consumption has slowed recently. "India’s jewelry industry has some hurdles to climb before the diamond trade can grow domestic supply [and demand - DL].
The term ‘mined diamonds’ is slowly entering mainstream language in the press and elsewhere, and I find it troubling. We need clear differentiation between natural diamonds and lab-grown goods, and it needs to be far more distinct than mined vs. lab-grown. Natural diamonds were always diamonds. They were formed billions of years ago and were mined after huge sums of money were put into exploration. Comparing these ancient, historic, difficult-to-find wonders of nature to a simple, mass-produced product invented only recently and pounded out of a factory puts both on the same playing field – and does not make sense. That is why we should not use the word ‘diamond’ in connection with lab-grown goods. ‘Diamond’ should be used exclusively for diamonds.
- Ehud Arye Laniado, on why price of synthetic diamonds should not be pegged to natural diamond prices.
Comparing the current mentality of the diamond industry - in particular the midstream manufacturers - to that of mass production in the textile industry, Ehud Arye Laniado argues that the way to restore dwindling profitability is by restoring the luxury aspect of diamonds, and not by slashing labor costs, seeking favorable tax regimes and free trade zones. "How is it possible that an industry that manufactures luxury products is operating as though it provides low cost, price-point driven items?
The Zimbabwe Independent today published an opinion piece accusing the government and the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) of everything from violation of property rights to compliance failures, lack of transparency and failing to meet promised revenue targets due to the very low prices received for their diamonds.
New De Beers Group CEO, Bruce Cleaver, has highlighted the importance of relationships with all the company’s partners, saying they are the “cornerstone of the business”, the company stated in a press release citing his blog for the company website. Mr Cleaver, who took up the role on 1 July, said: “De Beers holds a unique position with consumers, our rough diamond customers, governments, communities and retailers ...
These messages can be sobering for the industry, but they serve as something of an impromptu focus group of how young people view our business and provide some insight on its current challenges. We are caught in a demographic vice: Boomers are retiring/dying, Gen X-ers have money but no numbers, while millennials have numbers but no money (and are fickle, regardless). When you add in e-commerce, heavy debt, income inequality, the aftereffects of the fiscal crisis, and an unstable world, it’s not surprising this industry—and the rest of retail—is feeling challenged. Things may perk up in a few years as millennials mature. In fact, given the millennial generation is even bigger than the baby boomers, we may see a nice upturn. But that’s not where we are now, and it’s important to recognize that.
- Rob Bates of JCK on Twitter discussion of The Economist's question: "Why aren't mIllennials buying diamonds?"
Drawing a worrying analogy between the film The Big Short (2015) - which depicts how everyone took part in the ultimately disastrous play on U.S. subprime mortgages even though the fundamental truth was, or should have been, known to those familiar with the mortgage market - and the current trend in the diamond market, Ehud Arye Laniado issues a warning about ignoring the lessons learned as a result of the diamond downturn of 2015.
The vast majority of the diamond bankruptcies of late, however, have NOT been a result of business miscalculations, market downturns, or bad timing. They have all been planned, well-orchestrated moves to intentionally defraud other diamond industry stakeholders, particularly banks, of large sums of money. Many of these people - particularly in India - have been declared wilful defaulters by the banks and the authorities. And we’re all braced for many more. In the Indian diamond industry, you can declare yourself bankrupt, leave dozens of banks and other diamantaires poorer by tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars, and exit without any action being taken. What is really shocking is that within months of declaring bankruptcy, many of these people are back in the diamond business, usually with a newly set-up company or in partnership with a relative already in the diamond industry.
Sanjay Kothari, former multi-term chairman of India’s GJEPC, on bankruptcy fraud in Indian diamond industry.
Industry analyst Edahn Golan provides a rundown on last weekend's JCK show in Las Vegas, touching on traffic in the jewelry and diamond areas, the Diamond Producers Association's (DPA) marketing campaign, the hot topic of synthetic diamonds and ALROSA's strong presence in the desert. Particularly the high-end jewelers reported positive results, though much of the time the area was distinctly quiet.
Rob Bates of JCK writes that De Beers sightholders are likely to be relieved by the appointment of Bruce Cleaver to replace Phillippe Mellier as CEO, noting that he is already "striking a different tone than his predecessor." Bates summarizes Mellier's tumultuous five-year tenure, during which, "Oppenheimer’s family sold its shares to Anglo American, De Beers transferred sales to Botswana, the company settled its U.S. antitrust issues, and it decided to move from its longtime home on Charterhouse Street.
I don't simply throw diamonds at buyers and pressurize them into buying with all kinds of sales tricks. Buyers have faith in me; everything is on the table and very clear. Integrity is very important to me. Rough needs to be seen and inspected before it can be sold. This is a business that needs a personal touch. You have to create a pleasant atmosphere and give clients the feeling that they will not lose out and that they can make a profit on the goods. [The same need for transparency is true of the industry in general]. If sellers try to cover up information, then buyers will have no belief in their suppliers and that can stop the flow of prosperous trading. If you act in good faith, then people will return to buy again. Many people in the diamond trade simply do not understand this.
- Nurit Rothmann, rough diamond trader, on women in the diamond trade and the recovery of the industry
Following a week that saw the Oppenheimer Blue break all auction records for a polished diamond, and in which the sale of his own Unique Pink Diamond broke the record for a pink stone, industry analyst and veteran diamond trader Ehud Arye Laniado examines the 'how' and 'why' of the recent spate of diamonds achieving record prices.
"The unsurprising news being shouted from the rooftops is that De Beers has signed a 10 year marketing agreement with the Government of Namibia," writes Charles Wyndham in his latest candid commentary on polishedprices. "Of much greater interest to me was the price that the 815 [813, ed.] carat stone from Lucara fetched, namely some $77,000 per carat or total price of $63 million. This I did find surprising, surprisingly good ...
Award-winning news director of JCK Rob Bates, in his opinion piece "Why the NGOs and Dubai Still Can’t Get Along", addresses the persistent conflict between Kimberley Process (KP) chair UAE and the KP civil society coalition - the group of 11 human rights groups that participate in the KP - that is threatening to turn the upcoming KP interessional meetings into a failure: "the recent turn of events looks like we are in for another year of stagnation and animosity, and the scheme will once again fail to make needed improvements, despite the UAE’s promises last year of a fruitful, pr
The goal is to change the perception that a diamond is a financial expenditure and to facilitate the perception of a diamond as an asset ... With the increase in synthetic diamonds, which when placed in jewelry are no less beautiful than natural diamonds, we must highlight the financial value of natural diamonds. I believe that synthetic diamonds are here to stay but their existence and usage in the jewelry industry can only boost the notion of natural diamonds as an asset with potential wealth preservation value. This value of natural diamonds is derived from their economic rarity: the difficulty involved in locating them underground and in mining them, and not just their beauty. If we fortify diamonds’ resale value, we will create a new attitude towards the value of diamonds, a value beyond their use in jewelry. Buying diamonds must be seen as an investment in an asset and not as an expense.
Ehud Arye Laniado, global diamond expert, on the need for a transparent and precise diamond valuation method.
The natural and lab-grown diamond industries are now openly feuding with each another, and some are calling for a ceasefire. Yet that might not be as easy as it seems. For one, there is little overlap between the companies that produce man-made diamonds and those that mine naturals. Both sectors have no obligation to help the other. To the contrary, they both have reasons for the current cold war to continue. [Lab-grown diamonds are] a threat to [natural diamonds'] business model. It may not be a large threat, but why take that chance? You are ultimately gambling with the fate of not just an industry, but the livelihood of several countries. [On the other hand], eco-friendly and conflict-free pitches have taken center stage. Millennial consumers clearly care about these issues more than past generations, and the natural industry has done a poor job in responding to concerns about diamond provenance. The lab-grown industry smells an opportunity. Why pass it up? ... The current standoff hurts both sectors. A cessation of the hostilities indeed makes sense. I’m not counting on it happening soon.
Rob Bates, news director of JCK, "Can the Natural and Lab-Grown Diamond Industries Really Get Along?"
My perception of the diamond industry is that it is probably doing a little bit better than most of the other commodities. The only reason is that it’s a very different market. So if you look at the bulk commodities … those guys are dependent on infrastructure growth, development in the countries where they are doing their production ... So where the economies start to diminish, you cut back on infrastructure, you cut back on the major projects ... De Beers [production cutting] strategy is probably right as the world economy is down. They have to ensure that they are not flooding the market with product, which drives the prices down and obviously affects their own profitability ... The days of mining companies just putting production onto the market, whether its diamonds or any other precious or base metal, I think those days are over for a while. The mining companies are going to look at low cost, high quality diamonds to put onto the market and slow down on the inefficient and high cost production.
Tony Zoghby, mining analyst and partner at Deloitte, interview with Rough & Polished
Diamond industry analyst Ehud Laniado takes an in-depth look at why diamonds are not fulfilling their economic 'promise' as a luxury investment that will appreciate in value. Comparing the performance of diamonds to other luxury items bought out of 'passion', he determines that the lack of marketing is hurting diamonds' potential to be perceived as an asset rather than just an expense. But he has a plan.
"I see or rather have been told that my mate Boney (ed: Rapaport) has lowered prices in the better end of the larger sizes
Given that his price list is concocted by him for him, except those who willingly enrich him by buying it, he of course has every right to do whatever he wants with prices…, which of course is exactly what he does anyway.
I would presume that most in the industry would be less than amused at his latest participation in the workings of their daily life.
But as Boney can so correctly point out, no one is forced to use his information."
Industry analyst Charles Wyndham comments on industry news on PolishedPrices.com
Martin Rapaport has written an in-depth diatribe rejecting the claims of sythetic diamand producers that their product is more ethical than naturally mined diamonds, exposing the value proposition of synthetic diamonds as a ruse and calling natural diamond miners to join together to aggressively market and natural diamonds and attack synthetics. It is nothing less than a call to arms for the natural diamond industry, and he goes so far as to call the way synthetic diamonds are marketed as "evil".
Diamond industry analyst and wholesale diamond supplier Melvin Moss believes the diamond industry is heading down the same road that led to a "glut of unwanted goods" last year, and that this will soon lead to a fully-fledged buyers' market. He writes, "Total rough supply to the market in the first quarter of 2016 is estimated at 3 billion dollars. Manufacturers have purchased large quantities of rough but their purchases are not converting into a greater demand for polished diamonds.
Diamond industry analyst Ehud Arye Laniado reflects on uncertainties and lingering questions about the direction the diamond trade is taking in the wake of BaselWorld, and wonders whether it is even appropriate to sell loose diamonds at such a high-luxury show? We have selected a few choice comments: "Business [in the diamond section] was not good. This luxury-oriented show is not a good fit for small goods or even 1-2 carat items.
Bart De Hantsetters, Chairman of the Syndicate of the Belgian Diamond Industry, discusses the need to embrace the new forces ‘disrupting’ a traditional business like the diamond trade. The ship of innovation is setting sail with or without you, so it is better to get on board – as Antwerp has – and build the new on the foundations of the old.