De Beers' Dual Pricing System Undermining Rough Diamond Market

Opinion piece
16/10/2015 14:10

Charles Wyndham, founder of, addresses De Beers' "dual and covert pricing mechanism", which can only lead to a further lack of confidence in the sight system and an imbalanced playing field among their clients - though it is likely to drive prices down. Wyndham writes the last sight was initially thought to be around $150 million, but quickly increased to more than $300 million. "It would appear that at least 50% of the goods sold at the Sight ... were to a very limited number of companies" that bought diamonds at steep discounts. "Discounted means that expensive regular goods were subsidised by selling profitable articles, such as special stones or stones above 10 carats." In other words, the lucky few on the inside of this two-tiered system were set up to make a killing, while the rest were left with the option of purchasing unprofitable stones. "By acting as it has, De Beers has effectively sold the same goods at two very different prices."

An example clarifies the pending problem: "I was told by one Sightholder, not one who had been offered the special deal, that he offered on a substantial [parcel] from one of the select few, at a 15% discount for cash, and the offer was accepted within a couple of minutes. On this basis, why should anyone buy any goods from De Beers unless they know that they are getting the same deal as one of the chosen few? Or unless they are mad?" But the same has been going on for years, says Wyndham, and the only reason that sightholders have been buying unprofitable rough for several years is that they "are terrified about being cut off its list or being punished for rocking the boat."