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March 2002

If you look at this issue of the Diamond Registry, you can see a lot of good news and some bad news. Zale’s sales are up, while Bulgari and Neiman Marcus are down. And if at times, it’s a little confusing, it’s because the market right now is confusing too.

We seem to be in one of those strange, in-between transition periods — hopefully towards a recovery — although no one really knows for sure. It’s likely we will see this up-and-down see-saw effect for a while.

Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan told Congress he sees signs that the recession is coming to an end, although the recovery will likely be a subdued one. He termed this development nothing short of remarkable, given the way the economy suffered after Sept. 11. Wall Street analysts generally agreed with Greenspan’s assessment.

Unfortunately, consumers are not as certain as Mr. Greenspan. Consumer confidence dipped 3.7 points in February to 94.8. It is the first decline since December. However, the Conference Board said that they think that consumer spending will be unaffected.

On the trade side, the recent trade shows were good, but far from spectacular. Consumers are buying but they are very cost-conscious and shopping around. Profit margins are still tight. The wholesale market is picking up somewhat as retailers restock even though January and February were not great retail months.

People are beginning again to buy larger diamonds (two carats and up), which were not big sellers last year. For instance, the most recent sale at Christie’s St. Moritz sold four D-Flawlesses, ranging from 1.5 to 14 carats, at strong prices.

So what’s the market looking for now? Rough, which is being squeezed. The last sight could have been double its size if De Beers fulfilled all its requests. Some dealers are even complaining that De Beers is cutting back too much. But De Beers is still paying it cautious and even telling the trade not to get too optimistic at this stage.

The stones most in demand are D – H color, VS – SI clarity, 1.25 carat up to three carats. Square cuts like princesses are still very much in demand. Ovals, pear-shapes and marquises are not as sought-after.

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