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Photo courtesy of De Beers.

STRONG MARKET RECOVERY RAISES DEMAND FOR ROUGH, PUSHING MINING COMPANY’S PRICES SHARPLY UPWARD

 

The mining companies supplying rough diamond to the industry are credited by many as having provided a considerable degree of stability to the industry and marketplace during the most difficult months of 2020, when not only sales of diamond jewelry ground to a near standstill, but confidence in the future of the business waned considerably. By essentially halting supply into the pipeline, they reduced pressure on companies in its midstream – comprised mainly of cutters, polishers and dealers in loose goods – while allowing them to reduce excess inventory with the limited number of sales they were still able to make.

The result was a relatively rapid recovery of the market when the lockdowns began easing, accelerated by a consumer market that seemed keen to spend disposable income on jewelry, particular when alternatives like travel remained largely out of reach.

As a consequence, polished prices began climbing, and do did demand for rough supply. The price of rough followed the same upward trajectory.

According to De Beers’ majority shareholder, Anglo American, its price index increased by 14 percent during the first six months of 2021. This the company attributed to “tightness in inventories across the diamond value chain, as well as positive consumer demand for polished diamonds.”

The Rapaport news service has reported that De Beers hiked rough diamond prices at its January, February and June sights, particular in the larger categories of rough. It returned price levels to where they were before the start of the pandemic.

“Consumer demand for polished diamonds continued to recover, leading to strong demand for rough diamonds from midstream cutting and polishing centers, despite the impact on capacity from the severe COVID-19 wave in India during April and May,” De Beers stated.

OUTLOOK POSITIVE FOR SECOND HALF, SAYS DE BEERS CEO

During its most recent sight week, which took place July 12 to 16, 2021, De Beers reported sales worth $510 million, up from $116 in July 2020.  It represented a 7 percent increase from the June sight total, and was the highest monthly sales figure since February.

“Our sixth sales cycle of the year has seen the continuation of good demand for rough diamonds, driven by strong demand for diamond jewelry in the key US and China consumer markets,” said Bruce Cleaver, De Beers CEO. “With the ongoing strength in consumer sales of diamond jewelry, the outlook remains positive for the second half of the year, subject to the risks that the pandemic continues to present across the globe.”

De Beers’ rough sales totaled $3.04 billion during the first six sights of 202, which was almost three times the $1.09 billion reported at the end of the same period in 2020.

 “With the ongoing strength in consumer sales of diamond jewelry, the outlook remains positive for the second half of the year,” said Bruce Cleaver, De Beers CEO. (Photo courtesy of De Beers)

Soring rough diamonds at Alrosa, whose rough diamond price index rose by 16 percent during the first half of 2021. (Photo courtesy of Alrosa)

 

ALROSA AUGMENTS SUPPLY FROM STATE REPOSITORY

A similar trend was evident at De Beers’ principle rival, the state-controlled Russian mining company Alrosa. There, the rough diamond price index rose by 16 percent during the first half of 2021.

For its part, Alrosa would not comment on prices, noting only that pricing policies reflect demand in the pipeline’s midstream. Speaking to Rapaport, an Alrosa spokesperson said the company “remains committed to a prudent approach when it comes to managing its sales and pricing strategy, as [a] healthy and sustainable market balance in the long term is considered as our main priority.”

The general mood in the market was underscored by report that at Alrosa had been forced to buy more than two third of the rough diamonds offered  at an auction by Gokhran, the Russian state gem repository ,so as to be able meet demand from its clients. The Gokhran sales included more than 1 million carats of rough diamonds worth featured $114 million.

“Given a physical lack of diamonds in the market and mindful of all the pandemic-related challenges and restrictions, Alrosa elected to give comfort to members of [the] Alrosa Alliance, its long-term trusted customers, by purchasing the auctioned Gokhran diamonds as they asked,” said Evgeny Agureev, the miner’s deputy CEO, as quoted by Rapaport. “Still, even with this step we will be able to satisfy only some of the demand at the upcoming session.”

“These diamonds are what the market needs right now, and they will soon move on to the cutting and polishing stage, which we believe will somewhat contribute to [balancing] the market,” Agureev said.