Beware a Supply Bottleneck

rough diamonds

The positive sentiment the diamond market experienced during the past few months was a welcome change from the gloomy tone that characterized 2020. Buoyed by holiday sales that proved better than expected, the trade gained the confidence to buy again, even with activity limited mostly to online platforms.

For the first time in many years, polished suppliers struggled to fill orders due to shortages during the fourth quarter. Just a year earlier, the midstream was plagued by what seemed to be a chronic oversupply that pushed down polished prices and caused profit margins to tighten. Among the few benefits of the Covid-19 lockdowns was that manufacturers were forced to freeze rough purchases, stop production, and start depleting the excess inventory they had.

With fewer goods available, it was understandable that the rough market would wake up again in the fourth quarter. The resurgence was a remarkable one, too: The combined volume of De Beers’ and Alrosa’s rough sales rose 57% year on year to 23.9 million carats in the final three months of the year. That’s more carats in a quarter than the two have sold since the beginning of 2017 — itself an anomaly period that arguably fueled the ensuing oversupply crisis.

The positive momentum continued into the new year with reports of sizable rough sales last month. De Beers notched its largest sight in three years, while Petra Diamonds and Mountain Province continued to see good demand at their tender sales, with prices up 8%.

In the February issue of the Rapaport Research Report, we consider the question of whether the strong rough sales are a product of polished demand or of the low supply that typified the market earlier in 2020. It could be both. What’s certain is that the rough market must cool in the coming months or risk throwing the industry back into a polished-oversupply scenario.

Such an event would undo the hard work that went into restoring an equilibrium between the rough and polished markets. It would also fuel skepticism about the stated intention — by miners, manufacturers and retailers alike — of ensuring the diamond market becomes demand driven and more efficient in its operations.

Now, at the start of February 2021, the industry is at a crossroads. Manufacturers must curb their rough purchases to maintain the balance we’ve achieved in recent months and ensure a sustainable recovery. While the holiday season was relatively positive for the industry, global diamond jewelry sales have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels and are unlikely to do so this year. For now, this means the recovery remains a supply-driven one, and the industry needs to walk the fine line between caution and its enthusiasm to do business again. 


Natural Diamond Council makes marketing push

Natural Diamond Council

The Diamond Producers’ Association (DPA), established only five years ago by a coalition of diamond miners including De Beers and Alrosa, has relaunched as the Natural Diamond Council.

In addition to continuing to advertise natural diamonds as the DPA did previously, the council is also hoping to reach younger consumers by producing catchy editorial content on trends and innovations in diamond jewelry and the heritage of natural diamonds.

The rebranding comes at a difficult time for the diamond sector, with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic depressing demand and prices.

“The current economic climate creates unprecedented challenges for the luxury industry. But, as the climate improves, natural diamonds will connect stronger than ever before,” said Natural Diamond Council CEO, David Kellie in a release. “Consumers will have a greater respect for all things natural and seek brands that have an honest mission to be truly sustainable. They’ll be purchasing luxury goods with a greater meaning, particularly those celebrating connections between friends and loved ones. We need to speak to the younger audience in a different way and we’re delighted to have brought in a number of partners that will contribute to the new world of natural diamonds we’re creating.”

The website will offer coverage under six categories: Epic Diamonds, Hollywood & Pop Culture, Love & Diamonds, Style & Innovation, Diamonds 101 and Inside the Diamond World. The council has also started a new, biannual trend report written by style experts, forecasting diamond jewelry trends, and incorporating styling tips.

In addition, the DPA’s Real is Rare, Real is a Diamond campaign will be replaced with the council’s new branding: “Only Natural Diamonds” (OND).

“Our new digital platforms will inspire and inform consumers globally about the values and heritage of natural diamonds, as well as promoting the significant innovation happening throughout the world of diamond jewelry,” added NDC’s managing director, Kristina Buckley Kayel. “The younger audience is clearly engaged and inspired when we present ourselves with authority in the digital world. It’s our aim to be number one across all digital platforms in our industry and our ambitious plans reflect these goals.”

The Natural Diamond Council will also aim to educate consumers on the sustainability and ethical practices of diamond producers, as well as everything they need to know when buying diamond jewelry.

In a release, the organization said the relaunch reflects the collective commitment of its members, Alrosa, De Beers, Dominion Diamonds, Lucara Diamond, Petra Diamonds, Murowa Diamonds, and Rio Tinto, to the growth of the industry beyond the current economic crisis.

“Our mission is to educate consumers on the industry and positive social contribution diamonds make to the world today,” said Stephen Lussier, Chairman of the NDC. “Our members are committed to these goals and the launch of the NDC marks an exciting step on this path.”

Visit for more information.

Dominion Diamond unveils plan to avoid bankruptcy

Ekati diamond mine

Canada’s Dominion Diamond Mines has unveiled a transaction that would allow it to exit court protection from creditors and access short-term operating funds, which would pave the way to eventually restart its idled Ekati mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

The company, which owns and operates the iconic Ekati diamond mine and also has a 40% interest in the nearby Diavik, said it had signed a letter of intent with an affiliate of The Washington Companies.

The privately held Montana-based conglomerate bought Dominion for $1.2 billion in 2017 when the miner was the world’s third-largest producer of rough diamonds by value.

Under the agreement, which requires court approval, Washington would buy the company’s assets for about $177 million, while assuming its operating liabilities.

It would also provide Dominion with up to $84 million in short-term debtor-in-possession financing.

Ekati has been halted since March to help slow down the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The operation was left with about $180 million worth of inventory, which it has been unable to sell since its Belgian retailers remain closed. 

The diamond miner said at the time that covid-19 had a “devastating impact” on the global diamond mining industry, affecting the company.

According to court documents seeking bankruptcy protection from creditors, Dominion revenue from diamond sales last year reached about $528 million.

The company said the proposed sale would be conditional on reaching an agreement with Rio Tinto on the Diavik joint venture. Failing that, Dominion would exclude its interest in the Yellowknife diamond mine from the transaction.

The miner is a major employer in the Northwest Territories, with 634 workers, 60% of whom are locals. Only 212 people are currently at the mines, which are fly-in and fly-out operations. This allows for a pre-screening of the staff before they are allowed to board flights to Ekati and Diavik.

Shattered dreams

The global coronavirus outbreak squashed diamond miners’ dawning hopes of a recovery in a sector already reeling from weak prices and demand since late 2018.

De Beers, the world’s largest producer by value, cut 2020 production guidance by a fifth last month after earlier cancelling its April sales event.

Russia’s Alrosa, the world’s top diamond producer by output, saw sales for rough and polished diamonds drop to $15.6 million. The figure stood in stark contrast to the $152.8 million the diamond miner fetched in March and the $405 million in January.

Lucara Diamond, another Canadian company, posted earlier this month a net loss of $3.2 million, or $0.01 a share, for the first three months of the year.

The figure was in sharp contrast with the $7.4 million in net income, or $0.02 in earning per share the miner reported in the same period last year.

South Africa’s Petra Diamonds recently delayed interest payments to borrow $21 million in new debt, a crucial move to keep the company afloat.

Investment banks are increasingly reluctant to extend credit to diamond producers, as inventory is not being sold and defaults are possible, analysts have warned.

“We are concerned about an oversupply of rough diamonds following the reopening of economies, as a lot of inventory could potentially be flooded into the system and the market might not be able to absorb all of it, resulting in increased pricing pressure,” Citi said in an early May note.


Sarine Ushers In Era of In-Factory Grading

DiaExpert Sarin

Sarine Technologies has launched a new platform enabling manufacturers to tap its automated grading systems and issue a report in-house to support the needs of jewelers.

The company this week introduced its eGrading innovation via a video campaign on YouTube claiming the concept would “change diamond grading forever.” It allows manufacturers to self-execute third-party grading of the 4Cs — cut, carat weight, color and clarity — along with other personalized parameters required by the jeweler, without having to send the diamond to a grading laboratory.

“We believe the market is moving in this direction and our technology is now mature enough to make that happen,” CEO David Block told Rapaport News in a briefing at Sarine’s innovation center in Hod Hasharon, Israel.

“The digital aspect opens up the possibility to customize the report, which is difficult for a lab to achieve,” Block explained. “Once you grade the diamond at the source, the manufacturer is now responsible for its own destiny.”

The initiative builds on Sarine’s automated grading systems, with the company first announcing its ability to automate the grading of color and clarity, and therefore all the 4Cs, in 2016. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) machine learning to assess the grading results of tens of thousands of diamonds to arrive confidently at its color and clarity decision.

Empowering the manufacturer to execute the report enables it to provide a more personalized service to the jeweler. Block believes eGrading will improve efficiency for manufacturers, since they don’t have to send the stone out to the lab, while still using third-party verification. This saves on the time, expense, and opportunity cost of not having the diamond available to sell. And the retailer benefits from being able to tap the right goods from its supplier in a shorter period.

“Diamond grading is still in the Blockbuster days, where I need to send my diamond to the lab and wait for them to finish grading. They decide what goes in first and I get the stone back with certain criteria that are generally not good enough for me as I go out and sell the diamond,” he added, explaining that lab certificates are too generic.

While the retailer might want to emphasize other parameters such as the stone’s fluorescence, or different types of inclusions, among others, Block asserts it is difficult and expensive for the labs to go into the required level of detail.

Market ready

Sarine claims its technology will provide those details as the system evolves, using the same AI machine-learning principles in other parameters as it applies for color and clarity grading.

In that sense, its eGrading program isn’t a finished product, and probably never will be, because Sarine’s systems are constantly evolving and improving, according to Block. “We’re presenting our vision for where the market is heading and we have developed the technology that we believe makes this possible,” he stressed.

The company expects to reach several new milestones in 2020 as it rolls the program out to the market, Block assured, without divulging what those might be.

He believes the industry is more than ready to embrace the cultural change the company is proposing, observing that the “the midstream is very tech-savvy.”

A means to an end

Block also recognized that others may be entering the same space. Representatives from De Beers and the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) joined Block in a panel discussion at the Dubai Diamond Conference in September by asserting that automation of diamond processes will come “sooner than you think.” Each independently stressed that they’re ready to propose a solution.

Sarine is confident it can lead the way in the diamond industry’s “tech revolution,” given that technology is its core competency. Other companies that develop technology are also focused on other areas within the diamond pipeline. Technology, he emphasized, is going to play a big part in bringing about dramatic changes in the diamond industry.

In that spirit, the objective of Sarine’s eGrading initiative is to realign the emphasis currently placed on grading reports, Block added.

“Diamond grading is not a goal in and of itself. Rather, the objective is to help price a diamond and to help source what you’re looking for,” Block said. “We’re looking at how we can improve the process to get to that goal of how to source the diamond. How people source diamonds will change. It’s natural that the industry will shift in this direction.”


Rio Tinto to Sell Largest Argyle Vivid Pink

Argyle pink diamonds

Rio Tinto will offer a 3.14-carat, vivid pink diamond at its 2018 tender, the largest stone of its color in the history of the annual sales event.

The emerald-cut Argyle Alpha (pictured, third from left) is one of 63 rare pink, red and violet diamonds — weighing a combined 51.48 carats — featuring in this year’s Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender. It is part of a collection of six “hero” diamonds the miner will offer at the sale.

“Rio Tinto’s Argyle mine is the world’s only source of these highly coveted pink, red and violet diamonds, and we expect considerable interest in this year’s collection,” Rio Tinto CEO Jean-Sébastien Jacques said Thursday. “The combination of strong demand and extremely limited world supply continues to support significant value appreciation for Argyle pink diamonds.”

This year’s tender, which the company has called Magnificent Argyle, also includes the Argyle Muse, an oval-cut, 2.28-carat stone, which is the largest purplish-red diamond ever offered at the tender, and came from a 7.39-carat rough. A second diamond, cut from the same stone, will also be up for sale.

The other hero diamonds include the square-radiant-shaped, 1.29-carat, fancy vivid purplish-pink Argyle Maestro; the princess-shaped, 1.57-carat, fancy dark grey-violet Argyle Alchemy; the Argyle Odyssey, a round brilliant, fancy intense pink stone weighing 2.08 carats; and the radiant-shaped Argyle Mira, a 1.12-carat fancy red.

Rio Tinto will unveil the gems at a world exclusive preview in Sydney, and will also showcase them in Hong Kong and New York. Bidding for the diamonds closes on October 10.

The company held its first Argyle Pink Diamond Tender in 1984.


Israel Gives $284M Boost to Diamond Trade

Israel diamonds

The Israeli government has pledged $284 million (NIS 1 billion) to guarantee bank loans to diamond companies in an effort to ease the trade’s severe credit difficulties.

A lack of credit is stifling growth, especially among the smaller firms that constitute about 70% of the Israeli trade, according to a special committee set up to investigate the sector’s challenges.

The team — led by Naama Kaufman-Pass, deputy director-general of the nation’s Ministry of Economy and Industry — released its findings earlier this month, highlighting several ways in which the industry had hit a crisis.

Banks’ perception of the diamond sector as high-risk has led to a decline in total lending to the Israeli trade from $2.5 billion in 2008 to about $1 billion last year, the committee said in its report. Financial institutions are also refusing to accept dealers’ inventory as collateral, while competition from India and Belgium has added further damage to Israel’s market position.

To this end, the government fund will back companies’ borrowing, meaning that if they fail to repay a loan to a bank, the state will pay. While the committee submitted the policy to Eli Cohen, minister of industry and economy, as a recommendation, the lawmaker said the government was set to go ahead with the program.

“We have decided to allocate another billion shekels over the next five years to the diamond sector through credit guarantees,” Cohen told an audience at the International Diamond Week in Israel last week.

In addition, the committee suggested the government provide money for the bourse’s newly launched innovation laboratory, put cash into bringing more diamond buyers to Israel, support efforts to develop e-commerce opportunities, and contribute to other projects to boost the industry.

“The committee identified the main hurdles in small businesses’ activities in the sector, and its recommendations offer a comprehensive response to its needs,” Kaufman-Pass said.

The diamond trade is an important segment of the Israeli economy, representing about 13% of total exports, and employing about 9,500 people, according to the report. However, the 2008 global financial crash led to a 27% slump in Israel’s polished-diamond exports between that year and 2016, with the Chinese market slump in 2015 also denting demand.

“Implementing the committee’s conclusions, alongside other steps, is essential, considering the crisis the sector has been through,” Cohen added in a statement. “Their purpose is to provide new tools to help deal with challenges in the trade and to ease regulation, thereby growing both production and exports.”

Shay Rinsky, director-general of the Ministry of Economy and Industry, set up the committee in September to delve into issues of credit and growth in the diamond trade and examine how to bring the industry forward.


World’s largest rarest and most valuable D Flawless round diamond

102.34 carat D colour Flawless round diamond

To celebrate its one year anniversary, this morning Sotheby’s Diamonds revealed its most exceptional gem to date: a 102.34 carat, D Flawless, Type IIA round brilliant diamond, which the auction house describes as “the rarest and most valuable white diamond ever to come to market”.

The diamond was cut from a 425-carat rough mined by the De Beers group in Botswana. The cutting process took over six months and required the diamond to be transported between Johannesburg and New York.

New Guidelines Clarify: ‘Diamond’ Means ‘Natural’

DCLA Advanced Diamond Testing

Leading groups in the diamond and jewelry sectors have collaborated to publish a universal standard to use when referring to natural diamonds and synthetics.

The Diamond Terminology Guideline is a reference on diamond vocabulary for all sector organizations, traders and retailers to use, nine industry bodies said in a joint statement Tuesday.

The document stipulates that the words “diamond” and “gemstone” imply natural origin. The industry should use “synthetic,” “laboratory-grown” or “laboratory-created,” and should avoid the terms “real,” “genuine” and “authentic,” when describing such man-made products.

“Protecting consumer confidence is of paramount importance to the long-term success of our industry,” World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO) president Gaetano Cavalieri said. “The Diamond Terminology Guideline is an important tool in achieving this, by helping standardize the terminology used to clearly distinguish between diamonds and synthetic diamonds, in all communications, among ourselves and with our customers.”

The guidelines are based on the ISO Standard 18323 for jewelry and on CIBJO’s diamond Blue Book, which are internationally accepted benchmarks in the field.

The parties that created the document, in addition to CIBJO, are: the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), the Diamond Producers Association (DPA), the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC), the Israel Diamond Industry (IDI), the International Diamond Manufacturers Association (IDMA), the US Jewelry Council (USJC), the World Diamond Council (WDC) and the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFBD).


DCLA provides reports for natural origin Diamonds only.

Two 100 carat plus rough diamonds recovered at Lesotho mine

Gem Diamonds Lesotho mine in southern Africa

The two Rough diamonds  each weighing more than 100 carats were recovered by Gem Diamonds at the Lesotho mine in southern Africa.

Both rough Diamonds weight 117 carats and 110 carats are D color Type IIa diamonds.

Type IIa diamonds carbon bonds contain little or no nitrogen atoms making them very white and rare. These are the most expensive white diamonds.

Graff Blue Diamond Ring Fetches $12.5 Million

Graff Vivid Blue Diamond Ring

A crossover ring with two fancy vivid blue diamonds designed by Graff Jewellers has smashed its pre-sale estimate.

The ring has sold at the Christie’s New York Magnificent Jewels auction fetching more than $12.5 million USD.