While it is clear COVID-19 had a major impact on what will be recorded in history as one of the most difficult years ever for the global diamond industry, one thing is certain, as far as diamond trade is concerned, Antwerp managed to keep the engines running in 2020, fueled by nearly 100 rough tenders that were held in the city in the past year.
2020 proved to be quite a challenge with regards to hosting in-person trade fairs, and although online alternatives accelerated the digital revolution within the industry, there is no doubt that in-person viewing and buying is still very much the norm.
Rough & Polished reports Angola's authorities have greenlighted the further exploration of the Luaxe concession, located roughly 20km from the Catoca mine, jointly operated by the Angolan governement and Russian miner Alrosa, consisting of one of the most promising deposits discovered in over a decade worldwide. Experts believe the concession has a potential reserve of 350m cts, and estimated annual production of 10m ct, which would effectively double the country's annual output and thus also generate significant aded value in terms of state revenue.
According to Zimbabwe Independent, Anjin Investments, has regained control of a diamond claim in Marange (Portal B), "in unclear circumstances", the news outlet claims in an extensive article. Anjin had to shut operations back in 2015 as the Mugabe administration forced the closure of seven mining companies and the subsequent merger of their assets into the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC).
Lucapa reports strong Q4 results at its Lulo operations in Angola (volume of carats mined was up 55%, grades were up 47%, amount of carats sold was down 48% (4,269ct) but prices were up 31% y-o-y.
Israeli mining tycoon Beny Steinmetz was found guilty of bribing Guinea officials close to former president Conte, to give him access to an iron-ore mine for a mere US$200m, now valued at US$5bnb, a Geneva judge ruled, sentencing Steinmetz to five years in jail and a US$56.6 million fine. The controversial Steinmetz has been the object of many accusations and investigations which he has managed to escape scot-free, until now. Steinmetz lawyers have already announced they will appeal the court's decision.
In the last quarter of 2020, the Natural Diamond Council surveyed 5,000 respondents to better understand the desirability, perceived value, and shopping habits of American Millennials (25 – 39 y/o) and Generation Z (18 – 24 y/o). Together they represent 38% of the adult population and 60% of the demand for natural diamond jewelry. Within the next decade, their income is projected to rise by more than 70%.
In its first trading session of the new year, Alrosa is maintaining its flexible trading conditions for long-term clients, to support stability and long-term health of the industry. The flexibility allows clients to defer allocations and purchase diamonds aligned with real needs, viewings are remote through video-viewer or, under strict procedures, in Moscow.
Namakwa Diamonds has announced the discovery and upcoming sale of an exceptional Fancy Pink "Pink Dawn" diamond, 25.97ct, which was uncovered in October last year by Storm Mountain Diamonds at Namakwa's Lesotho KAO Mine. Viewings take place at Bonas Group's offices in Antwerp, during the first KAO sale of this year (KAO-2101), between January 25 and closing on February 4, 4PM CET via online highest bid tender (https://kaobids.com).
Opsydia, a UK-based diamond security innovator, announced its sub-surface laser technology can create nano-scale identifiers requiring a 100x microscope to be read. This breakthrough would make it possible for internally flawless natural diamonds to have a logo, serial number, or encrypted code placed beneath its surface without affecting its clarity grade.
Barely three weeks into the new year, Lucara reports another big find, a massive unbroken, 341ct top quality white rough, recovered in recent weeks from the South Lobe M/PK(S) unit, the 54th 200ct+ diamond the company has produced at its Karowe mine. Lucara recently obtained a renewed and expanded mining licence that enables the further development of the (underground) mine, through to 2026.
Signet's preliminary holiday sales results indicating the retailer's Path to Brilliance digital first transformation is paying off. JCK reports. E-sales increased 60.8% compared to the same period (Nov 9-Jan 2) y-o-y, while sales in physical stores dropped 4.1%.
Alrosa, the Russian mining giant, ended 2020 on a high note with total sales figures of US$521.6m, which, according to Rapaport, were the highest since March 2018, marking what deputy CEO Evgeny Agureev said was strong demand from the market.
According to Jing Daily, China is ready for lavish Chinese New Year Celebrations, after last year's festivities were cut short by the outbreak of the Corona virus pandemic, luxury brands are eager to take full advantage of the upbeat sentiment and expectations for strong sales of luxury items are high. The threat of a new wave of the pandemic hitting mainland China however remains.
In a first sale of Mothae goods this year, Lucapa's Mothae operation sold 4,676ct of rough for nearly US$5.6m, with a number of high value "specials" diamonds (10.8ct+), including the 101 D colour rough recovered at the end of 2020. The rough diamonds, achieving a record price of US$1,198/ct were prepared, analysed and sold in Antwerp to partners, in line with the new marketing agreement Lucapa and the Government of Lesotho made last year, to see Mothae benefit from the cutting and polishing of its precious resources.
Now that the acquisition of Tiffany & C° is complete, LVMH's Bernard Arnault is wasting no time, replacing a significant part of Tiffany's executive management with LVMH insiders. The luxury conglomerate has appointed Anthony Ledru as CEO, who stood at the helm of LVMH's Louis Vuitton up until recently, effective immediately and Arnault's own son, Alexandre as executive vice president, product and communications. Another high profile exec, Michael Burke, current chairman and ceo of Louis Vuitton will be chairing Tiffany's board of directors.
Botswana's Minister of Mineral has approved the renewal and extension of Lucara's mining licence through to 2046, or another 25 years, "another important milestone for the underground expansion of Karowe", Lucara President and CEO Eira Thomas commented. Although the expansion, estimated cost US$514m, has experienced slight delays due to Covid-19 budget restrictions, the five year development period remains on track, with first ore expected to be processed in 2026.
Following a vote on Monday, members of the Bharat Diamond Bourse (BDB) have decided to lift the ban that was instated in 2015, prohibiting the trade in LGD. According to BDB officials, companies will have to adhere to a set of rules to be able to trade LGD, such as the creation and registration of separate entities for those trading in both (natural) diamonds and LGD, implementation of separate inventories and processes etc. Earlier, India's GJEPC announced the addition of a LGD membership category, following requests of members.
In a press release, SODIAM, the state controlled diamond marketing arm of Angola has announced that together with special advisor and former Dubai frontman Peter Meeus, they will continue talks with five tender houses (Bonas, First Element, I-Hennig & C°, Koin International and Trans Atlantic Gem Sales) who responded to a request for proposal and expressed interest to set up operations in the Angolan Diamond Bourse (ADB), to be established in Luanda.
In its last auction of the year, Antwerp-based GRIB sold 100% of 450Kct, of Arkhangelsk, Russian and Angolan goods for a total of US$35m. GRIB commented "prices were exceedingly strong with 2CT goods showing increases in the high single digits and smaller goods increasing in the low single digits. Overall prices increased around 5%."
Today AWDC President Chaim Pluczenik and AWDC CEO, Ari Epstein, honored retiring ALROSA BELGIUM Managing Director, Sergey Panchekhin, who worked for the Russian miner for more than 20 years, and welcomed his successor, Akil Zubir to the Antwerp diamond community. Apart from leading the Belgian branch of ALROSA, Mr. Panchekhin, who started his career in diplomacy, took up several mandates, including setting up and managing ALROSA offices and operations in Angola.
Mining.com reports the troubled Dominion Diamonds has brokered a deal to sell its Ekati mine, not the 40% stake in the Diavik operation, both in the Canadian Northwest Territories to an entity controlled by DDJ Capital Management LLC and Brigate Capital Management LP, in exchange for the assumption of US$70m in debt.
HKTC announced today that due to continued restrictions on international travel, the organizers have decided to postpone the HK March shows, The HK International Diamond, Gem & Pearl Show (1-5 March) and HK International Jewellery Show (3-7 March) are rescheduled to 2-6 July 2021, at AsiaWorld-Expo.
Lucapa has recovered its 16th 100ct+ rough diamond at its Lulo operation in Angola, the 3rd to date this year, a 127ct gem-quality white, which was recovered from the leziria flood plain in mining block 24. The discovery, the first large stone for this particular block, supports the potential of the Lulo alluvial deposit, Stephen Wetherall, Lucapa's MD added in the release.
Lucapa Diamond Company announced the result of a partnership deal with Safdico, cutting and polishing the 46ct pink rough diamond recovered by the Sociedade Mineira Do Lulo (SML). The exceptional rough stone was studied and polished in Antwerp and cut into a 15.2ct, Fancy Intense Orangy Pink heart-shaped diamond, alongside two pear-shaped diamonds of 3.3ct and 2.3ct diamonds.
Mining company De Beers has launched an ambitious vision to reach 12 milestone KPI's, three in each of four key area's - Thriving Communities, Ethical Practices, Protecting Nature and Equal Opportunities, to be achieved by 2030.
By 2030 De Beers wants to
In an elaborate update on the impact of COVID-19 on the global luxury industry, Bain & Company details how the luxury goods industry, has witnessed its sharpest drop in decades, estimated to reach recovery by 2022-2023.
Changing dynamics, such as little to no travel or tourism, changing spending patterns and beliefs and enduring restrictions are shaping the luxury industry of the future, which Bain believes is resilient enough to transform and redefine its purpose to remain relevant, especially towards new, young consumers.
A few key takeaways:
In the auction concluded on November 24, GRIB Diamonds, the Belgium based diamond trader, owned by AGD Diamonds, netted US$23 million for a total of 8,700ct of rough diamonds, significantly exceeding expected revenue, especially for white goods, including three type IIa stones of 199.43ct, 86.29ct and 50.32ct respectively, each sold for US$1m+.
While the pandemic brought about an unprecedented shock to the whole diamond value chain in 2020, in a way it may also have acted as a catharsis of sorts for an industry that has been struggling to regain footing in recent years, in part due to a misalignment of supply and demand.
Following new outbreaks of the COVID-19 virus across the globe, the organizers of Watches & Wonders, Richemont backed Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) have decided to cancel the live event, scheduled for beginning of April 2021 and replace it with an all online event.
A Canadian court has granted Rio Tinto's Diavik subsidiary the permission to sell the rough stones from the troubled Dominion Diamond Mines, partner in the Diavik mine, which Rio Tinto was holding to recoup US$90+m in debts, unpaid cash calls to operate the mine.
In Luanda, the state-owned diamond company Sodiam has opened a retail store, in collaboration with KGK, the diamond company that also operates a polishing factory in the country. Earlier, Mines minister Diamantino Azevedo announced the government is going ahead with plans to develop a diamond hub in a free-trade zone, which is said to include a research and training facility as well as a diamond bourse.
In Geneva, the 14.83ct fancy vivid purple pink elegantly named "the Spirit of the Rose", after the Russian ballet by Niijinsky, was sold for US$26.6m at the Sotheby's auction to a telephone bidder who remains anonymous, a record price for a fancy vivid purple pink ever sold at auction.
AWDC’s figures for October indicate that increased trade, particularly rough imports and exports in the diamond hub, continue to narrow the gap, caused by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global diamond industry, with 2019. Rough exports for October were up 82% in terms of carats, 76% in terms of value, compared to October 2019. Imports increased 78% in carats, 65% in US$.
Lucara Diamond and HB Antwerp announce the discovery of another massive rough diamond, coming in at 998ct, destined for Antwerp, where it will be analyzed, cut and polished by HB Antwerp, as part of the partnership between the miner and manufacturer, in which HB Antwerp receives all 10.8ct+ rough stones produced at Lucara's Karowe mine in Botswana, in return for a share in the profit of the resulting polished.
In its recurring Diamond Insight Report, De Beers Group released new results from ongoing consumer and retail research, especially focusing on the effect of the pandemic.
Lucara, HB Antwerp and Louis Vuitton have added another exceptional stone to the miner, manufacturer and retailer collaboration that started with the 1.758ct Sewelô, announced earlier this year.
In an elaborate report, availabe in full via Idex Online here, industry veterans and experts Chaim Even-Zohar and Pranay Narvekar dissect the 2019 and 2020 pipeline with surgical precision. A few key take-aways from the report:
Last week, the Chinese diamond, gem and jewellery industry gathered in Guangzhou for the 2020 International Jewellery & Diamond Conference, an event organized by the Guangzhou Diamond Exchange (GZDE) and the Guangdong Gems & Jade Exchange, that was organized both physically and offline, to allow representatives of the major diamond and jewellery hubs across the globe to contribute and follow the conference via livestream.
As restrictions to combat a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic tighten in countries across the globe, Antwerp continues to be operational, a communication from the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) which was sent to the local trade community states. Last Sunday, Belgium's Federal government, following other countries across the globe, announced new measures to flatten the curve, but business operations in Antwerp's famous diamond square mile can continue, including at the Diamond Office, where all diamond imports and exports pass through.
In a press release Alrosa, the Russian diamond miner, announced the results of its latest specials tender, held in Antwerp in October. At the tender, where 28 companies participated in bidding, the miner sold 112 rough diamonds, 10.8ct plus or specials, for a total volume of 1,733ct at a total price of US$6.9m. Alrosa choose Antwerp for its sales as the company "tries to meet the needs of customers by offering rough diamonds in the countries where they operate", Evgeny Agureev, Deputy CEO of Alrosa commented.
According to Mining Weekly, citing Botswana Central Bank data, exports of rough diamonds in Q3 nosedived to -66%. Debswana, the 50/50 joint venture between miner De Beers and the Government of Botswana, representing the bulk of the country's diamond exports, reported exporting a mere US$287m worth of rough in Q3 2020, compared to US$863m in Q3 2019.
The Antwerp diamond industry mourns the death of Jacques – Jacky – Korn, who passed away today.
In a press release, that notably contains not a single mentioning of the mining company De Beers that established the LGD brand, Lightbox today announced the completion and opening of its US-based production unit as well as a deal with jewelry e-tailer Blue Nile, for a dedicated fashion jewelry collection available on the online retailers website as of today. The manufacturing facility in Portland will produce an estimated 200,000ct of "USA made" lab-grown diamonds annually.
In a joint statement, both parties have announced they have lowered the agreed share price down from US$135 to US$131.5, a significant US$400m less than the original merger. JCK's Rob Bates reports about the rumors that Tiffany and LVMH, who got caught up in a legal battle after the latter announced they would back out of the deal to buy the iconic jeweler, might be back in negotiations to conclude the deal after all.
In a contribution on Rough & Polished India correspondent Aruna details India's figures for September, released by the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council.
Key take-aways comparing September 2020 to September 2019:
- polished exports were down 19.6%
- rough imports increased modestly with 16.18%
- LGD polished exports were up 89.55%
- LGD rough imports increased 117.6%
Gem Diamonds reports that its Q3 Antwerp tender results achieved an average of US$2,215 per carat, exceeding (pre-covid) H2 2019 prices. The strong results, excluding a little under US$30m of proceeds of the September tender that arrived after the Q3 period ended, and continued cost control are further boosting the miner's balance sheets, to positive cash flow. The latest tender in September included the sale of the 439 carat Letšeng Icon. The miner reopened the mine in Q2 and has fully resumed all activitities at the Lesotho Letšeng operation, including waste mining activities in July.
Petra Diamonds in its trading update for Q1 FY 2021 (July through to September) reports a 10% decrease in production to 974,346ct, which the miner attributes largely to the continued care and maintenance status of the Wiliamson mine in Tanzania. The miner also reports a 33% increase in revenue, to US$82m, as Petra released inventory from Q4 2020 and rough prices at the latest tenders (September and October) firmed up significantly, although still 10% below pre-covid tender results, the company statement adds.
Rapaport reports that Rio Tinto's Diavik subsidiary Diavik Diamond Mines Inc (DDMI) has asked a Canadian court to allow a sale of Dominion owned rough diamonds from the mine, to compensate for outstanding payments to Rio Tinto, amounting to US$90+ million, to be able to continue operations at the mine. Previously, the court had already granted DDMI the right to hold some of the rough as collateral while Dominion is under protection from creditors.
Rapaport News reports that the Holiday Season rush is boosting markets, demonstrated by a rebound in De Beers third quarter sales, up to 6.6m ct in Q3, compared to barely 300k sold ct in Q2, at the height of the global pandemic. Rapaport calculates that sales increased 10% y-o-y, reflecting pent up demand and easing restrictions in trade and manufacturing hubs across the globe.
In a press release, Russian miner Alrosa has announced it will extend its long-term customer 2018-2020 contracts through to Q1 2021. Normally, the miner would be evaluating its long-term contracts as well as prospective members of its Alrosa Alliance. Due to the pandemic disrupting normal trade and the continued uncertainty, Alrosa has decided to maintain flexibility towards clients and postpone the planned review of clients and the decisions on new three-year contracts for five months.
In a latest update, Australia based miner Lucapa has adjusted its indicated and inferred diamond resource estimates at the Mothae operation to an estimated 280k ct, 3.1cpht at an average value of US$635/ct and 960k ct, 2.44cpht at an average value of US$601/ct respectively. In the release, Lucapa managing director Stephen Wetherall commented on the 280% increase in indicated resource; " The increase in tonnes and carats, ..., strongly supports an expansion in production at Mothae that the partners are considering"
Rob Bates, well-known and widely respected trade journalist and industry expert is debuting as an author with a first in what will be a series of mystery novels, titled A Murder Is Forever. Bates draws from over 30 years experience in the diamond industry and the New York diamond district in particular. Bates says he hopes his friends, sources, and acquaintances in the Diamond District enjoy the novel for its escapism and insider-y details. But he’s keeping his second career in perspective: “I really enjoyed writing the book, and I hope people like it.
Junior miner BlueRock operating the Kareevlei mine in Kimberley, South Africa, reports stronger than expected production and higher grades in Q3, or 5,577 ct compared to 3,973ct in Q3 2019, at an average price of US$330 per carat. In May, BlueRock announced it will be collaborating with Antwerp-based tender specialist Bonas Group for the sale of its rough diamonds.
On November 12, Sotheby's will have another exceptional diamond for sale, with the 14.83ct fancy vivid purple pink elegantly named "the Spirit of the Rose", after the Russian ballet by Niijinsky. The rich pink is one of the largest in its kind and was discovered in Yakutia almost three years ago by Russian mining giant Alrosa. Expectations for the unique diamond are high, with estimates as high as US$38 million.
De Beers reports selling US$467m worth or rough diamonds at its latest sales cycle, 57% more than the same sales period in 2019, 40% higher than the previous sale, further confirming rough demand has picked up significantly in view of the holiday season. The miner, who discounted prices by 5 to 10% according to industry insiders, went through several months of near zero sales, at the peak of the pandemic's first wave, and implemented maximum flexiblity to its long-term customers. In the latest cycle, it also extended the usual one-week sales momentum to more than 3 weeks.
AWDC's Head of Public Affairs, Karla Basselier, is leaving the Antwerp umbrella organization after 9 years in office. The jurist who was, among others, in charge of lobbying for the diamond industry on local, national and supranational political levels, is taking up the post of chief of staff in the cabinet of Belgium's Vice Prime Minister Van Quickenborne, in the recently formed new Belgian Federal government, effective immediately.
The new AWDC Board of Directors has elected Chaim Pluczenik as new President the AWDC among its members replacing outgoing President Nishit Parikh, who retired after two years in office as President and didn’t apply as a candidate in the recent elections. Board members Bart De Hantsetters, representing the (manufacturing) industry and Isi Morsel, representing the trade have been appointed as Vice Presidents.