Antwerp’s Rough Diamond Trade Spikes in September, Prices Still Soft

Rough Market
05/10/2019 14:38

The Antwerp diamond industry’s import and export figures for the month of September were mainly in line with what we could call ‘2019 normal’ – prices down, polished trade slow – but the volume of rough goods traded in Antwerp’s hit its highest levels of the year, with the quantity of rough exports more than doubling those in August, according to figures from the Antwerp World Diamond Centre's Diamond Office.

In September, imports as well as exports of rough diamonds increased by about 20% year-over-year. However, with prices still depressed compared to the same month a year ago, the value of the rough trade was more than 20% lower than in September 2018. While rough diamond exports totaled over 10 million carats last month, the average price was 34.5% lower than in 2018 at $74/carat. This actually represented an uptick from the $69/carat achieved last month. As a result, while nearly 21% more carats were exported, their value still declined by 22% to $752 million. Similarly, the volume of rough imports increased by 20% to 7.6 million carats while their price declined 16% to $80/carat, leaving the value of rough imports 24.5% lower at $608 million. The average prices cited are across all categories, including industry stones and diamond powder.

For the year to date, the average price per carat of rough-diamond imports and exports has declined by 15-16%, as has the volume of carats traded. As a result, the value of Antwerp’s rough-diamond exports, at $9.6 billion, is 29% lower than last year; the value of rough imports, at $8.2 billion, is down by 28%. These figures correlate with the rest of the industry in the midst of this full-blown recession, with the major miners recording their lowest sales figures in years and manufacturing in India slowing significantly, but the drop in average rough prices is sharper than expected.

On the polished side of the trade, there was a notable decline in the volume of polished goods imported and exported. Two factors seem to be at work here: first was the uncertainty surrounding the Hong Kong trade fair, which caused many buyers and suppliers to simply stay home, while those who did make purchases did so mainly to meet present demand rather than stock up for the holidays; second, the early date of the Diwali holiday has led to earlier closures of Indian manufacturing units, with traders waiting until after the holiday to stock up on goods. Furthermore, India’s cut and polished diamond exports declined by 25% year-on-year in August as the average export price tumbled by 19% to $658 per carat, the lowest level in two years.

The volume of polished-diamond imports to Antwerp in September declined by 10%, and the average price fell 21% year-over-year to $1,986/carat. The result was a nearly 29% decline in the value of polished imports during the month, at $860 million. The volume of polished exports was down 20% and the average price fell 6% year-over-year to $2,553/carat. This led to a 25% decline in the value of polished exports at $873 million. The average price of polished-diamond imports did jump 35% compared to last month and the average price of polished exports increased by 27% compared to August, but both of these increases are attributable to goods traveling to and from the Hong Kong show.

For the year to date, the value of Antwerp’s polished imports is down 8% at $8.2 billion, while the value of polished exports has fallen 10% to $8 billion. The average price of polished imports is now down 1% on 2018 at $2,027/carat, while the average price of polished exports is still 3% higher than 2018’s record level, coming in at $2,521/carat.