Antwerp’s Rough Diamond Imports Surge in January

Market Analysis
07/02/2020 16:01

The anticipated increase in rough-diamond trading activity as the calendar flipped to 2020 lived up to expectations in Antwerp, as the volume of rough imports to Antwerp during the month of January surged 43% compared to the first month of 2019. The 8.1 million carats imported was the most since December 2018 and outpaced January 2019 imports by over 2.4 million carats.

The significant upswing in the volume of goods traded, however, was not matched by an equivalent surge in value, which increased only 14% to $829.5 million as the average price per carat of imported rough diamonds ($102/ct) was 20% lower than in January 2019 ($128/ct), reflecting almost exactly the decline in average rough prices from the start to the end of 2019. Notably, while the average price was 20% lower year-over-year, it increased 20% from the average price per carat in the prior month, December 2019. 

Rough-diamond exports for the month fell 5% to 7.7 million carats from 8.1 million carats in January 2019. The average price slipped an insignificant 2% to $90/ct. from $92/ct. Combined, the volume and price declines led to a 7% decrease in the overall value of exports from the diamond capital, which totaled $691 million. The volume of rough exports also declined significantly from December 2019, both in volume (7.7 million ct compared to 12.3 million ct) and value ($691 million compared to $980 million), yet here as well the average price increased 14%.

Key takeaways:

  • Rough-diamond imports were very strong to begin the year, but did not translate into an equivalent rise in exports. The November & December 2019 surge in exports to India likely satisfied January rough demand to replenish stocks. February exports will give a better indication concerning a manufacturing recovery.
  • The average price of rough-diamond imports and exports showed a marked increase in comparison to December 2019 and about a 2% increase compared to the full year 2019. It is too early to tell if prices are ready to rebound from 2019 recession levels.

January polished-diamond trade declines on yearly comps, picks up pace from end 2019

Starting on the export side of the equation, the Antwerp diamond trade exported just under 300,000 carats worth $605 million. This represented 6% decline in volume and 22% in value compared to January 2019. The significant decline in comparative value is due to a combination of factors: firstly, the high price-comparison point of January 2019 ($2,446 per carat); secondly, a disproportionate amount of smaller goods on the move, which led to a lower-than-usual average export price of $2,022 per carat, 7% lower than in December 2019.

Polished-diamond imports declined 23% in volume to 500,000 carats and 20% in value to $750 million as compared to January 2019. It is worth noting, however, that the volume of imports was the highest since June 2019 while the value of those imports was the highest since September 2019. The average price per carat of polished imports, at $1,668, increased slightly from January 2019 ($1,617/ct) but fell well below the 2019 annual average of $1,971 per carat.

Key takeaways:

  • Antwerp’s polished-diamond trade continues to be lower than historical levels but showed increased activity compared to last 3-6 months of 2019.
  • After reaching historical highs two years in row, defying global trends, the average price of polished-diamond exports declined significantly in January. The average price of polished imports fared no better in comparison to the past year. This is worth watching moving forward.