In his latest blog, industry analyst Edahn Golan isn't sugarcoating the message, the diamond industry is suffering as the pandemic is exacerbating the long-term downward trend of polished wholesale prices as well as the steep decline in jewelry share of wallet.
A recent survey, conducted by De Beers, gauging consumer sentiment among 2,800 men and women aged 20 to 65 with household incomes of at least US$75k or similar parameters in the US, India and China, concludes that while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to weigh heavy on sentiment, respondents feel they are returning to (a new) normal and regaining confidence, with the most positive feedback coming from Chinese respondents.
Alrosa today announced that the company has mined the largest Russian, natural colored rough diamond to date, a 236ct stone of intense yellow-brown color, from its Ebelyakh mine in Yakutia, Russia. The stone is sent Alrosa's research center where it will be studied to decide whether the company will sell it as a rough or cut it in-house. It is not the first time natural colored diamonds are discovered at the alluvial diamond deposit, located on the Anabar River of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia).
Following the success of the Online Diamond Trade Show, held earlier this year, the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) and Israeli Diamond Institute (IDI), have re-joined forces to host a second edition of the show from the 14th till the 17th of September. The 'virus-free trade show' will take place on VDB Expo, a platform for conferences and trade shows created by and powered by Virtual Diamond Boutique.
First Element Diamonds Services recently held the Jagersfontein Developments and Rooipoort Developments tender which concluded on Friday the 7th of August at the Antwerp Tender Facility. According to the company, the tender was exceptionally well attended and delivered strong results. Both of the mines offered their full Run of Mine productions which consisted of everything from Special +10.8Ct stones down to Melee goods.
Alrosa, the Russian mining giant says it is close to finalizing a deal in which the Gokhran, the Russian State Repository will buy a significant volume, ranging between US$500 million and US$1 billion, worth of diamonds. “It’s a question of state-government support to our company,” Evgeny Augurev, Alrosa's Vice CEO commented, “And not only to our company, but to the whole industry.”
According to data from Edge Pulse, The Edge Retail Academy's aggregated jewelry sales data platform, US independent jewelers' uptick in sales in June is continued and even amplified in July, with a 10% increase in gross sales. Remarkably, diamonds are driving the improved sales trend, with a 16% increase in gross sales and 19% in the amount of units sold in July.
Rapaport reports that their price index shows polished prices have improved in July, as a reduction in diamond supply, on both rough and polished side, are causing supply shortages for certain goods. The RAPI index for 1ct diamonds was up 1.9%, which Rapaport claims is boosted by increased demand from investors for high-end, D - IF stones. Year to date, the index fell 4.8%. Rapaport believes that in the long run, the need for more efficiency in supply and demand, enabled by technological innovations will result in a more profitable trade.
According to MiningMX, GEM Diamonds, operating the high-quality diamond yielding Letšeng mine in Lesotho, halved its net debt to $5.5 million (compared to $10.1 million at the end of 2019) as a result of improving efficiency and successfully reducing costs, such as management salary cuts that remain in place, as well as higher than expected sales results, with an average of $1,707 per carat in the first half of the year.
Alrosa, the world's largest diamond producer and Brilliant Earth, the retailing company that focuses on responsibly sourced fine jewelry including natural and lab-grown diamonds, have partnered for an exclusive jewelry collection under Alrosa's "Diamonds That Care" campaign. The pieces, ranging in price from $790 to $2,190, are made of recycled gold and include natural brownish diamonds mined in the Russian Yakutia region.
After months of a virtual standstill in most of India's polishing industry, the Indian diamond industry trade bodies say polishing activity in Surat is now at 20-30% capacity, and they are no longer calling on the local manufacturing sector to voluntarily ban imports of rough diamonds.
At its Annual General Meeting presentation, Lucapa, the Australian company operating two of the world's highest $ per carat diamond mines, Lulo in Angola (alluvial) and Mothae in Lesotho (kimberlite), sized up the effects of the COVID pandemic on the company's operations and performance.
Despite the global pandemic and the challenges it poses on the diamond industry at large, Rio Tinto, owner of the Argyle mine in Australia and partial (60%) owner of the Diavik mine in Canada, has continued to produce and market its rough diamonds. By implementing health and safety measures at the mines, as well as support programs for local communities, Rio Tinto managed to keep the mines operational. Via its Antwerp office, the only diamond hub that remained open for business throughout the crisis, the miner also recently held a Rio Tinto Specials Tender.
The Gemological Institute of America and IBM Research today announced they are partnering to develop an advanced artificial intelligence system, based on data from tens of millions of stones graded by GIA, to grade one of the diamond "4C's", clarity. The partnership is another step in GIA's move into digital transformation of its grading operations. The system, currently deployed in the NY and Carlsbad GIA labs initially focuses on the most popular sizes and cuts, but will gradually be scaled up to more sizes, shapes and qualities, the statement reads.
The COVID pandemic, so much is clear, is far from over, and continues to put pressure on the global economy. Sales of personal, aspirational luxury items are taking a hit, but for the super rich, the Financial Times reports, that doesn't necessarily mean they are spending less. The so-called "ultra high net worth individuals" have shifted consumption patterns, from spending on high-end travel and restaurants, to buying real estate closer to home and exclusive items, from paintings over autographed sneakers to exlusive diamonds and jewellery pieces online.
Chinese retailer Luk Fook has announced a 71% drop in sales in the first fiscal quarter, with largest same-store sales declines in Hong Kong and Macau (76%). Of the company's self-operated stores, a large proportion is located in Hong Kong and Macau (60) compared to the amount of shops in Mainland China and other locations (118). Hong Kong, a popular destination for luxury shopping tourists, has been under continued restrictions, such as a compulsory 14-day quarantine, as wel as renewed outbursts of civil unrest.
Bloomberg reports that in a letter to De Beers' staff, seen by Bloomberg News, the company's CEO, Bruce Cleaver, has communicated the company is looking into ways to reduce costs and increase revenue across all operations. Sales have dropped dramatically since the outbreak of the pandemic and the company fears demand for diamonds is not likely to improve in the short term. According to Bloomberg, insiders believe the restructuring could also involve job cuts and changes to the traditional selling system of sights and sightholders.
In a recent update on the website of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, published Wednesday July 22, COVID-19 restrictions for foreigners traveling to Hong Kong have been prolonged to the end of the year, Dec 31st and are likely to remain in place until that date, considering across the globe, including in Hong Kong, the number of cases has been rising in the past weeks.
For the sixth sight of the year, De Beers will continue to offer their clients the possibility to view goods in Antwerp and also Dubai, starting on Monday. Alrosa announced earlier this week it will drop mandatory buyout minimum requirements for the July sale, also starting on Monday, and as of August, the volumes will be reduced to 50% leaving clients the option to purchase additional goods via auctions and tenders.
During its latest specials tenders, held in Alrosa's Antwerp and Israel local offices, Russian miner Alrosa sold 156 special size (10.8ct+) rough diamonds, combined weight of 2,416 carats for a total amount of $6.8 million, $4.1 million of which was achieved in Antwerp, $2.7 million in Israel.
The Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) and RESOLVE, both pioneers in the field of artisanal and small-scale mining and the responsible sourcing of conflict minerals (diamonds, gold, cobalt and 3T), have announced they will be joining forces, merging the experience of both organizations to bolster conflict-free sourcing, KP Compliance, climate and biodiversity commitments and economic development of local communities under the name DDI@ RESOLVE. DDI's current Executive Director, Ian Rowe, will take the seat of DDI@ RESOLVE director, guiding the transition of the partnership.
Gibb River Diamonds, the company holding the lease on the Ellendale mine in West Kimberley since December 2019, welcomes a recent drop in royalty rate - from 7.5% to 5% - by Western Australia authorities. The Ellendale mine, which in the past produced 50% of the world's typical fancy yellows for Tiffany & C° hasn't produced diamonds since 2015, when former owner Kimberley Diamonds decided to only focus on their Botswana project.
According to Africa Intelligence, for the first time in 45 years, Ivory Coast could be at the brink of restarting diamond mining at four concessions, around the town of Séguéla, owned by company Transactysglasol, with trading office Glasol in Antwerp, headed by new CEO and French national Nicolas de Lesguern. According to Africa Intelligence, production is scheduled to start in November, when the semi-industrial mining sites are operational. In recent years, the country barely produced any rough diamonds, representing 0.02% of global rough diamond production.
Firestone Diamonds is extending the temporary closure of the Liqhobong mine in Lesotho, until April 2021 or until the market improves. Firestone slashed salaries and has let go most of the workers operating at the mine, which is Firestone's main asset. The company's BK11 operation in Orapa region Botswana, has been under care and maintenance for several years.
In an in-depth piece, Forbes' Pamela N. Danziger concludes that while official statistics on (diamond) jewelry consumption in the COVID era are scarse, the likely negative effect of the pandemic in the short and medium turn has caused two rivalling segments, the natural and LGD diamond industries, to have ceased hostilities.
Botswana Diamonds PLC today announced it has acquired 100% of the Sekaka (Sekaka Diamonds (Pty) Limited (Sekaka) is Petra’s wholly owned operating subsidiary in Botswana) shares of the KX36 diamond discovery in Botswana, alongside two prospecting licenses and a diamond processing plant. The consideration comprises a cash payment of US$300,000 and a 5% royalty on future revenues.
Everledger has announced an updated version of their Blockchain Platform, a meeting space for diamond suppliers and retailers underpinned by blockchain technology, that allows industry players to leverage transparency and sustainability in their business models. According to Everledger’s release, the diamond industry, accelerated by the COVID pandemic, can no longer afford to ignore a new reality of consumer awareness on provenance and ethical considerations, and their updated platform aims to help them to get on board.
National Jeweler reports that independent retailers, according to data rom The Edge Retail Academy performed better than expected with a revenue increase of 2 percent compared to June 2019.
Lucara Diamond Corp has announced a unique partnership with the Antwerp-based company HB in which HB will buy all of the diamonds in excess of 10.8ct produced at the Karowe mine in Botswana, since March, and for the remainder of the year. About 70% of the rough mined by Lucara consists of larger, high value stones, and none of those have been up for sale since the pandemic broke out. In this unique supply agreement, HB will pay a price based on the estimated polished outcome, based on scanning and planning results.
After a large number of diamond workers again tested positive for COVID-19, the Surat Diamond Association has decided to shut down all manufacturing and trading operations as well as private vaults for another week, through to July 19, putting the world's largest manufacturing hub for diamonds at an effective standstill once again. The situation will be reassessed on July 19, Indian Express reports.
It was a good week for exceptional fancy colored diamonds, as a 12.11 carat marquise shaped fancy intense blue diamond was bought for 15.9 million US$ at Christie's Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels auction, exceeding expectations.
Bloomberg reports that in a response to France's plans to start taxing US-based tech companies, which were the result of failed EU-US negotations a month ago when the US representative walked out, the US is now planning to impose a 25% tax on luxury (especially handbags) and beauty products imported from France. The total value of the goods listed by the US Trade Representative's website, Bloomberg reports, amounts to roughly 1.3 billion US$.
On July 10th Grib Diamonds sold over $16M of rough diamonds from its fully owned Grib Diamond Mine in Russia. The rough diamond market is going through continued tough times with re-imposed lockdowns in the main cutting centre, India. However, Grib was able to sell more than 92% of the goods on offer and approximately 300k carats. According to Grib Diamonds, prices were slightly softer than the June sale with a small single digit reversal on June.
Rapaport reports on a letter, sent by Israel Diamond Exchange President Yoram Dvash, to the Israeli government, pleading for more support for the Israeli diamond industry, which is "on the verge of collapse". Barely reopened after months of standstill in the trade, Israel recently has been facing an increase in COVID-19 cases and consequent tightening of pandemic restrictions, once again halting the trade on the Ramat Gan bourse floor. The ramifications for the Israeli diamond industry are severe, the letter explains, and the crisis is getting worse.
Currently on tender in Antwerp, Bonas Group and Namakwa diamonds are showcasing two exceptional rough stones from the KAO mine in Lesotho; a 88.21ct white and 13.74ct pink, part of an offering of singles stones and more than 60,000ct of the mines regular production. The tender is ongoing in the Bonas Group offices in Antwerp, through to July 16.
According to market sources, INFORMA MARKETS (IM) will be announcing the postponement of the mother of all trade fairs, commonly known as Hong Kong September, to November shortly. However, many believe the postponement is just putting off the evil hour of a cancellation.
DMCC announced yesterday that LGD producer Lumex, established in 2018 by the Rosy Blue Mehta family, has joined Dubai's diamond bourse. According to a press release, DMCC is hoping to expand its synthetic diamond segment further, alongside the trade in natural diamonds. In 2019, DMCC already ventured into the LGD space by organizing an LGD exclusive tender of 50.000cts.
In a response to The Diamond Loupe, the International Gemological Institute (IGI), says to be shocked about a media post that is circulating among diamond trading communities. The visual, a screenshot of which can be viewed here, calls on diamond traders "to boycott China" by not using IGI certificates. In 2018, Chinese conglomerate Fosun acquired an 80% stake in IGI, the Antwerp-based diamond grading lab.
In an extensive report, Rapaport spoke to a number of jewelers across the US, gauging how businesses are faring through the COVID-19 pandemic. Although circumstances were different throughout the US, with states deciding independently on how strict they applied lockdown measures, the majority of retailers came up with ways to adapt, through appointments, curbside pickups or even home deliveries. The impact of the global pandemic is hitting jewelry retail sales, but many jewelers seem optimistic.
After trade in both rough and polished diamonds came to a near standstill on a global level due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the past three to four months, Antwerp figures for June indicate cautious signs of recovery on the Antwerp market.
India's woes continue as more COVID-19 cases in Surat, which some deem a veritable infection hotspot, forced a week-long closure of manufacturing units. Meanwhile, the GJEPC and other industry bodies are extending the voluntary ban of rough diamonds from July 10-31st and said they will be calling on large producers to continue their flexibility towards long-term customers. At the same time, as tensions continue to rise between India and China, traders are forced to reroute polished exports to Hong Kong, which are being blocked by Chinese customs.
Petra Diamonds has announced it is open to offers for (parts of) the company, after a strategic review of mounting debts, now at US$650 million. Only last year, Richard Duffy took over from former CEO Johan Dippenaar, with the task to turn around the troubled miner's balance sheets. The Covid-19 pandemic now foils the ongoing optimization and restructuring introduced by Duffy, as mines were forced to shut down and the global diamond market came to grinding halt.
As the tensions between India and China continue to rise after the military standoff at Ladakh, a fierce trade war between the two countries is looming, and imports and exports are already being affected. India Today reports that while in India, the call to boycott Chinese goods is sounding louder and louder, exporters are experiencing trouble to export goods to Hong Kong and Mainland China, as shipments are blocked by Chinese Customs. On Indian side, the article says, shipment containers from China are also being blocked by Indian Customs in Mumbai and Chennai.
According to Business Standard, the voluntary moratorium on rough diamond imports into the country, might be extended, citing spokespersons of the GJEPC saying that inventory levels remain high, estimated at 2.3 billion US$, with no need for imports to resume as "it would take another two or three months to service previous orders".
Rapaports trade analyis of the import and export figures of polished diamonds in April in the world's largest consumer market for diamonds demonstrate the massive effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest. According to the report, polished imports dropped to the lowest level, with net polished imports (polished imports - polished exports) sinking to -807 million US$, where in the same period (January to April) last year, the net imports stood at a surplus of 474 million US$.
With more than 150 new positive tests among diamond workers in Surat, India's polishing hub, local communities and industry organizations have instated new restrictions, including an 8-day closure of each manufacturing sub-unit if one person, full closure if more than two persons test positive. Already more than 25 units have been close and cafetaria's are not allowed to open.
Economic Times India reports that fears are rising that one of Mumbai's top angadia's, according to the article "holding several millions of dollars worth of diamonds", has vanished, after closing shop early in the Bharat Diamond Bourse on Wednesday. According to the article, rumours are circulating that the person in question was in financial trouble, due to property deals falling through. In India, the angadia's are an informal but highly popular network of couriers that transport cash and rough and polished diamonds between Mumbai and the country's polishing hub in Gujarat, Surat.
De Beers is currently holding its 5th cycle sight viewings in Antwerp, a new initiative allowing sightholders who wish to do so, to view the goods outside of the usual sights held in Gaborone, Botswana. The goods will continue to be sold from Botswana, but the country has closed its borders for foreigners, forcing De Beers to literally think outside of the box. As the city is home to a large number of De Beers Sightholders, Antwerp is the first location to have such viewings.
In a statement Gem Diamonds has announced it has sold all large diamonds during its latest Antwerp tender, organized in strict compliance with COVID-19 measures. The company realized an average $/ct price of $1707 in H1, up from an average $/ct of $1687 in H1 and $1506 in H2 2019 respectively. A 13 carat pink diamond achieved $40,110 per carat, and a 61 carat white Type II diamond achieved $31,400 per carat. 15 diamonds sold in H1 2020 for in excess of $1 million each and one diamond for over $5 million.
By just about any measure - with the exception of last month - Alrosa's diamond sales in May 2020 scraped rock bottom as the Russian miner enabled its long-term clients to postpone their purchases in an attempt to lower the pressure on the market. Alrosa expects buying activity to improve in the middle of the third quarter.
Beleaguered by the unprecendented challenges now dragging on for nearly a year, luxury brands have started throwing in the proverbial towel on their Russel Street shops in Hong Kong’s bustling Causeway Bay, considered the world’s most expensive shopping street. "Already struggling for survival after months of civil unrest crippled Hong Kong’s economy," writes Pearl Liu for the South China Morning Post, "the final blow for many came this year with the coronavirus pandemic, which killed off any remaining consumer sentiment."
Grib Diamonds, the Antwerp-based marketing arm of Russian miner AGD Diamonds, on June 16 sold over $20 million of rough diamonds from its fully-owned Grib Diamond Mine in Russia. Despite the troubled times the rough diamond market is going through, Grib was able to sell more than 90% of the goods on offer and approximately 350k carats.
Local authorities have ordered the partial closure of about eight diamond-cutting firms in Surat after 23 workers tested positive for COVID-19. Several of their staff members will also undergo a 14-day quarantine, as will the families of those confirmed to be infected.
Rio Tinto has ended speculation about a potential move to acquire Dominion Diamond Mines' 40% share in the Diavik mine in Canada's Northwest Territories, which would give the global miner full control of the mine in which it currently owns a 60% stake. According to a May 28 court filing, Rio "does not seek to bid" on Dominion's stake, nor does it intend to acquire Dominion's Ekati mine.
In a press release, Sodiam, the state-owned body that markets of Angolan rough diamonds, announced its 2019 figures, with a net profit of US$27million, less than in 2018, as new legislation introduced in 2019 allows miners to market a portion of their production directly instead of through Sodiam. In September of last year, Sodiam introduced its online platform for competitive sales, and according to the release has reduced its operating cost by 17% in 2019. Tax contributions amounted to US$26,6 million, an increase of 21%.
The Indian diamond industry has lost an iconic figure, with the passing of Arunkumar R. Mehta, born in 1940, one of the founding fathers of the diamond trading and polishing industry in the country. Coming from humble beginnings, Arunbhai set up a small diamond polishing unit in 1960, which under his tenure would grow to become one of the biggest names in the industry, multinational diamond company Rosy Blue. Revered for his insight and leadership, Arunbhai Mehta served many positions in various Indian trade organizations.