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1990: Diamond Pricing Instability and Present-Day Diamond Market

April 1998

This week, we offered for sale, a large parcel of rough containing good qualities, but darker cape colors from K and down. Despite the pricing at 25% less than last year, there was little interest in the goods. The reason: in the polished market, the large (5 cts. and over) off-color goods, the only customers were the now completely dormant Far East.

Cutters who are stuck with some inventory don’t want to buy more of the rough that produces the same product.

In fact, some dealers told DRB that they are going so far as buying back diamonds from customers in the Far East because of the strength of the dollar, and realizing excellent value in the process. Does this mean that diamond prices are falling? The answer is no. As a matter of fact, diamond prices are moving in all directions — up, down and not at all — depending on the specific category in question.

Prices of medium and better goods from D-H between 1/2 carat and 2 carats are actually going up slowly, although not dramatically. And while the cape, and to some extent, even the fancy yellow larger stones which depended exclusively on Asian demand, have fallen drastically in price, demand for the staples of the American market, including both certified and non-certified stones, remained strong. Thus, prices of cheaper, imperfect goods and even of melees and full cut, which dropped in price last year, have stabilized.

While De Beers’ small sights are a must to keepthe market stable, the practice might have to be fine-tuned somewhat to meet the new market realities and economies.

Traditionally, De Beers has restricted the flow of those diamonds that are most in demand in order to set the stage for eventually raising prices. But this time, De Beers needs to hold back on capes, which are the slowest moving segment of the market. And unlike small stones, the capes are also produced in De Beers’ own mines — which prevents De Beers from allowing cape prices to free fall.

The rescue, in this case, may come from Russian scientists, who are known to be in the process of perfecting a technique to whiten the yellow diamonds. A similar technique is already in use by the Russians with synthetic diamonds.

For now, the market is more advantageous to the diamond wholesaler, who can buy selectively, than to the cutter, who is compelled to buy an assortment of goods which frequently if not inevitably contains some material the cutter may find harder to sell in the present market.

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