Signet Jewelers has signed a deal to acquire online retailer Blue Nile for $360 million in cash.
The purchase will boost Signet’s bridal, “accessible luxury” and digital businesses, while expanding the group’s consumer base, the US retail chain said Tuesday. The company expects to complete the transaction in the third fiscal quarter, which runs until late October. Either side can pull out if the deal hasn’t closed by November 3, 2022.
“Blue Nile brings an attractive customer demographic that is younger, more affluent, and ethnically diverse, which will broaden our customer-acquisition funnel,” Signet added.
The announcement comes around two months after Blue Nile revealed plans for a stock-market flotation via a merger with Mudrick Capital Acquisition Corporation II, a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC). The proposed deal valued Blue Nile at $873 million. Mudrick was not immediately available for comment on how that transaction progressed. The current owners are Bain Capital Private Equity and Bow Street, which acquired the e-commerce jeweler for around $500 million in 2017.
Blue Nile’s sales exceeded $500 million in 2021, according to Signet, which has stated its intention to reach total annual revenues of $9 billion in the coming years. Last October, it agreed to acquire Diamonds Direct USA for $490 million; in 2017, it bought diamond retail website James Allen for $328 million.
“By joining Signet, we will extend our premium brand and fine-jewelry offering to millions of new customers while bringing new capabilities to our leading e-commerce business that will drive additional growth opportunities for Blue Nile,” said Blue Nile CEO Sean Kell.
Meanwhile, Signet has reduced its sales guidance for the second quarter, which ended in late July, estimating revenue of $1.75 billion compared with an earlier forecast of $1.79 billion to $1.82 billion. Management cited “heightened pressure on consumers’ discretionary spending and increased macroeconomic headwinds.”
“We saw sales soften in July as our customers have been increasingly impacted by rapid inflation, so we’re revising guidance to align with these trends,” said Signet CEO Gina Drosos. The new outlook for the quarter still translates to a sales increase of around 25% compared with the equivalent period of 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, the executive noted.
There are few things that are more alluring and exciting than a diamond — but one of them is a significant new diamond discovery. Now those are truly rare.
In Canada, we haven’t had a significant diamond discovery for years — and the current lack of spending on exploration makes one less likely to happen in the future.
Globally, exploration for diamonds has nearly ground to a halt. In Canada last year, coal exploration attracted more spending than diamond exploration ($61 million vs. $50 million), which fell 21% from the previous year, hitting a 20-year low.
Adding to this downward momentum, in June, Rio Tinto suddenly pressed pause on its 75%-owned Fort à la Corne (Star-Orion South) diamond joint venture in Saskatchewan. After pouring more than $180 million over the past six years into a bulk-sampling program and other work to evaluate the project, Rio Tinto told JV partner Star Diamond it would not be spending more money this year “beyond what is necessary for care and maintenance.” Star Diamond, which holds 25% of the large but low-grade project, said that Rio also advised that it “intends to conduct a near-term review of its alternatives regarding the project, including its potential exit.”
It’s not clear yet what Rio Tinto will ultimately decide to do. But further investment, rather than pulling back, would have given the sector a much-needed shot in the arm. And the company, which saw its Argyle mine in Australia close in late 2020, certainly needs to replace that production and would be motivated to make the project work, if possible.
While the diamond trade and diamond prices were devastated by the pandemic, prices have made a strong comeback (in part benefiting from uneven efforts globally to avoid purchasing diamonds mined by Russia’s Alrosa). De Beers reported a 58% rise in its average selling price to US$213 per carat for rough diamonds in the first half of the year, and its rough price index rose 28% compared to the same period of 2021.
That’s not likely to help revive exploration immediately, however.
The fact is that there have been too many surprises in diamond development around the world, which have shattered investor confidence.
De Beers’ revenue rose 24% in the first half of 2022, but the miner gave a more somber outlook for the rest of the year.
“We can only have strong rough sales if that’s also coupled by what’s going on on the polished side,” De Beers chief financial officer Sarah Kuijlaars told Rapaport News on Thursday. “The polished position was very strong in the beginning of the year, but it has leveled off. We have much more caution about the next six months than we’ve had for the previous six months.”
Revenue jumped to $3.6 billion in the first half as strong consumer spending during the 2021 holiday season led to intense restocking in early 2022, parent company Anglo American reported the same day. Underlying earnings gained 84% to $491 million.
Rough sales grew 27% to $3.3 billion from five sights during the period. The remaining revenue relates to other businesses such as the company’s consumer brands and industrial-diamond business.
The miner’s rough-price index, which measures like-for-like prices, rose 28% compared with the same period of 2021. The average selling price for rough surged 58% to $213 per carat, reflecting the market upturn and a shift in the product mix to higher-value goods. Sales volume fell 20% to 15.3 million carats.
The higher average price resulted from the introduction of the new Benguela Gem mining vessel off the Namibian coast, which enabled the extraction of more lucrative stones, Kuijlaars explained. In addition, production at the Venetia deposit in South Africa was focused on the final cut of the open-pit mine, which has a relatively high grade — the number of carats per tonne of ore — and high quality, the executive added.
De Beers’ results painted a complex picture of the market. Last week, the company raised its production plan for the full year in response to strong demand, predicting output of 32 million to 34 million carats. It also noted that the sanctions and boycotts targeting Russian diamonds, as well as growing interest in provenance initiatives, would “underpin” demand for its goods. The sixth sales cycle of the year, which took place earlier this month, brought in proceeds of $630 million — 23% higher than for the equivalent period a year ago.
However, inflation in the US and lockdowns in China have created concerns across the industry.
“This time last year, our operation was coming out of Covid-19 [during which output slumped],” Kuijlaars pointed out. “To stabilize our production has been really important, and that strong production gives us confidence for the full year. That’s our part in delivering reliable supply. As we sell that through, we are very alert to signs of any slowdown in the remaining four sights of the year.”
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has begun accepting submissions for a new service providing consumers with source verification for diamonds.
Leading manufacturers sent the first polished diamonds to the GIA’s Source Verification Service in early July, the institute said Wednesday. GIA-graded diamonds with confirmed origin information will be available to consumers when the initial submissions are returned and as more manufacturers join the program, the organization explained.
An independent auditing firm will vet all cutters before they enter the program. The auditors will confirm the company has the ability to track a diamond from receipt of the rough through the entire manufacturing process. The GIA will evaluate all participating firms regularly to ensure they are continuing to adhere to the guidelines, it noted.
Initially, the GIA will accept only polished natural diamonds with verified source documentation, including Kimberley Process (KP) certificates and invoices from vetted manufacturers. It will add lab-grown diamonds to the service in the near future. Consumers can access the information through the GIA’s online Report Check service, it added.
“GIA’s new service provides diamond-source information to consumers as quickly as possible,” said its CEO, Susan Jacques. “The GIA Source Verification Service is ready to provide verified diamond-source information to address increasing consumer demand and government interest in transparency and traceability across the supply chain.”
Lucapa Diamond Company has recovered one of the largest pink diamonds in history: a 170-carat stone from the Lulo mine in Angola.
The type IIa rough, named the Lulo Rose, is “believed to be the largest pink diamond recovered in the last 300 years,” Lucapa said Wednesday. It is also the fifth-largest diamond from Lulo, and the deposit’s 27th over 100 carats since commercial production began in 2015. Lucapa plans to sell the diamond through an international tender conducted by Angolan state diamond-marketing company Sodiam, it noted.
“The record-breaking Lulo diamond field has again delivered a precious and large gemstone, this time an extremely rare and beautiful pink diamond,” said José Manuel Ganga Júnior, chairman of the board of state-owned Endiama, one of Lucapa’s partners in the deposit. “It is a significant day for the Angolan diamond industry.”
In addition to the pink, Lulo is also the source of Angola’s largest diamond, a 404-carat rough named the 4th February Stone.
Lucapa has begun bulk sampling at “priority kimberlites” as it searches for the primary source of Lulo’s diamonds, managing director Stephen Wetherall added.
US authorities are investigating a massive theft of jewelry from a Brink’s armored vehicle in California last week.
The truck was transporting goods to the International Gem & Jewelry Show in Pasadena, California, exhibition director Brandy Swanson told Rapaport News on Tuesday. The victims were 16 to 18 vendors. The contents included “high-end jewelry, watches and diamonds,” Swanson said.
The executive estimated the losses at $100 million to $150 million. Brink’s put the value at less than $10 million, according to media reports — a discrepancy explained by the practice of vendors underinsuring goods, Swanson noted.
“They all have invoices and paperwork to show the higher value,” Swanson said.
The theft occurred early on July 11, according to a spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Los Angeles, which is investigating the case together with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
On that day, deputies from the Sheriff’s Department station in Santa Clarita, California, were called to the “Flying J” rest stop and gas station in the mountain community of Lebec in response to the burglary of a cargo container.
They “learned that several pieces of jewelry and gemstones valued at several million dollars were stolen from a locked ‘Brink’s’ tractor trailer by unknown suspects,” the department said Monday in a report.
“According to the information the customers provided to us before they shipped their items, the total value of the missing items is less than $10 million,” Brink’s said in a statement quoted in the US media. “We are working with law enforcement, and we will fully reimburse our customers for the value of their assets that were stolen, in accordance with the terms of our contract.” The company did not respond to a request for comment from Rapaport News.
The Baselworld fair has received much criticism in recent years, but one of the final shows before its public implosion appears to have facilitated a diamond deal that counts among the biggest in history.
Antwerp-based manufacturers Taché and Samir Gems came to the March 2018 exhibition with the exquisite Lesotho Legend, a 910-carat, type IIa diamond they had bought together from Gem Diamonds for $40 million earlier that month. At the time, jewelers such as Graff and Harry Winston dominated the big-stone market. Displaying the massive rough at the prestigious Swiss event could help drum up broader interest in the category, Taché and Samir believed.
“We felt that the market was a bit saturated between one or two players,” says Jean-Jacques Taché, managing director for sales at Taché, from his office in Tel Aviv, Israel. “So we thought, let’s bring it to Basel, let’s…showcase the [rough], and let’s see the reactions.”
Plenty of visitors wanted selfies with the stone, which came from the famous Letšeng mine in Lesotho. Some suggested buying a sliver of the piece — polished of, say, 5 to 20 carats, Taché recalls. However, “none of them were really committed at that point to enter into a venture.”
The exception was Van Cleef & Arpels, a Richemont-owned luxury brand that, Taché explains, had been somewhat pulling back from big stones in recent years.
“From the minute they saw it, [Van Cleef] started to talk about the idea that they had,” the executive adds. The timing was perfect: The luxury brand had just finished a ruby collection and was seeking a new project on which to spend a few years. “Sometimes you need a lot of things to happen at the same time in order to make it a success.”
The buying executive representing Van Cleef needed approval from Nicolas Bos, the brand’s CEO, and the Richemont team. Not long after the event, Taché, Samir and Van Cleef signed an agreement calling for the jeweler to buy the final polished. The condition was that the finished goods met the French house’s high quality criteria.
Only this month did Van Cleef reveal the finished jewelry, more than four years after the initial pitch. The result was a unique collection of 25 Mystery Set jewels featuring 67 D-flawless diamonds. The largest is an oval, 79.35-carat stone that takes pride of place in a necklace called Atours Mystérieux, meaning “mysterious attire.” The smallest is 0.29 carats. The parties have not disclosed the polished sale price.
Taché and Samir both took heavy risks by splurging on the rough back in 2018. (Gem Diamonds publicly named Samir as the buyer: As is often the case, a miner only invoices one entity, but the purchase was really a 50:50 partnership.)
The two companies have a long-standing collaboration, having also bought the 341.9-carat Queen of Kalahari together from Lucara Diamond Corp. a few years earlier. They sold that polished to Chopard. Samir has its expertise in purchasing large rough stones; Taché specializes more in relationships with the top jewelry brands.
“We’re the most successful Jewish-Indian partnership on the market, by far,” says Taché.
They outsourced the cutting and polishing to Diamcad, an Antwerp firm that also manufactured the Lesedi La Rona for Graff. The goods went for grading at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in New York, where all the stones received Diamond Origin Reports stating that they were from the Lesotho Legend.
Van Cleef took delivery of the polished as each stone was ready between January 2019 and March 2020, Taché notes. However, Covid-19 delayed the launch, as Van Cleef had been hoping to hold roadshows.
Quality over size
The manufacturers agreed to include Van Cleef throughout the process, including in the planning and design. The Taché and Samir teams even traveled with Van Cleef’s Bos to Lesotho in May 2019 to experience the Letšeng mine and learn about the local community there.
The brand would accept only flawless goods, so quality became a higher priority than size. The planning process, which took about seven months in 2018, saw the parties review around 180 possible combinations of outcomes. None of them included any “monster” stones, they note.
“Instead of 67 stones, you could also have a model with probably 12 pieces only, but [it would have been] much less interesting in terms of creation,” Taché continues.
There were other complicating factors. Van Cleef tends to avoid round and heart-shaped diamonds. It also wanted matching pairs: “Practically every stone in this collection between 10 and 30 carats is a couple,” he points out.
“If we went for something which was 100-carats-plus, we would have had to go into the VS range,” comments Antwerp-based Anjal Bhansali, managing director at Samir. The team even broke up a stone of roughly 75 carats into two matching stones weighing around 30 carats each, Bhansali reveals.
Boost for big stones
The manufacturers hope the collection will succeed in reinvigorating the large-diamond sector, expanding it beyond the traditional two giants.
“The goal is to create more awareness for big stones in the market and to bring in new players,” Taché concludes. “We started it with Chopard. We [are continuing] this now with Van Cleef.”
It’s unclear whether the Basel show will ever return. However, everyone involved in the Lesotho Legend project will agree that the 2018 edition was well worth it.
Las Vegas… Diamond market sentiment received a boost from the Las Vegas shows, which demonstrated robust US demand. However, polished prices declined amid a weak global economic outlook and a rise in inventory levels.
The RapNet Diamond Index (RAPI™) for 1-carat diamonds slid 1.8% in June but increased 7.4% between the beginning of the year and July 1.
RapNet Diamond Index (RAPI™)
Year on year July 1, 2021, to July 1 2022
RAPI 0.30 ct.
RAPI 0.50 ct.
RAPI 1 ct.
RAPI 3 ct.
Trading in Las Vegas reflected jewelers’ strong liquidity after a profitable 2021. Activity slowed once the fairs ended and dealers headed for vacations at the beginning of July.
There were also renewed fears of a recession; the US economy shrank 1.6% in the first quarter, and the latest data showed inflation at 8.5% in May. Consumer confidence dropped 4.5 points in June to its lowest level since February 2021, according to The Conference Board.
Chinese demand was low as well following Covid-19 lockdowns in April and May. The lack of buyers meant local jewelers had sufficient inventory for the short term.
Polished inventory in the midstream grew in June. The number of diamonds listed on RapNet rose 4.3% during the month to 1.87 million as of July 1. The high volume came despite the Russian sanctions that limited Alrosa’s rough sales and took an estimated 30% of global production off the market. Russian rough shortages are expected to impact polished supply in the coming months; manufacturers have so far been working with goods from before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Other miners are capitalizing on the new rough-market dynamic. De Beers’ June sales rose 36% year on year to $650 million after a price hike of 8% to 10% on smaller rough — a category Alrosa usually dominates.
We predict that traceable, ethical diamonds will sell at a premium to Russian diamonds as Alrosa goods reenter the market. While US jewelers are upbeat after the shows, there are political and economic headwinds that will likely disrupt the industry in the second half.
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“The government has approved amendments to the Tax Code, said Deputy Finance Minister Alexei Moiseev
According to media reports quoted by Rough & Polished, Russia’s Deputy Finance Minister Alexei Moiseev said during the Cheboksary Economic Forum that the government of the Russian Federation “approved the introduction of a zero VAT rate on rough and polished diamonds.”
“The government has approved amendments to the Tax Code, which provide for the introduction of a zero VAT rate on rough and polished diamonds,” he said on the sidelines of the Cheboksary Economic Forum.
This decision, he reportedly added, “will facilitate growth in demand for investment diamonds within Russia.”Credit: Alrosa