Our boldest prediction this year is that De Beers will settle its long-running dispute with the Justice Department and be allowed in the United States. Washington sources have indicated that something like this is in the works and it might happen this year.
Switching to market news, last year, we said 2003 promised to be a “recovery year” for the trade. While this was not a great year by any means, that was more or less true.
In 2004, we think we will see further recovery—although another war, or major terrorist attack, G_d forbid, could change that. Another piece of good news: The Asian markets seem to be waking up, and we are starting to see some encouraging results from both Japan and China. This comes just in time, as many in the industry are starting to seriously worry about the industry’s huge debt level, particularly in India.
We also expect further shortages of desirable items and continued pressure on prices. De Beers also plans small but steady price increase through the years. The market for non-De Beers goods will get hotter, as all the ex-sightholders start to compete on the market.
One prediction we made last year fortunately did not come true. Last year at this time, the market was very worried about both retailers and wholesale bankruptcies. That never happened, but we do predict further consolidation in the diamond industry as well as down the pipeline.
We predict the media will continue to air stories about HPHT (high pressure, high temperature treatment) and synthetics—60 Minutes II has already talked to us for a piece. We predict this topic will start to get increased attention from industry groups, which for the last few years were dealing with the far more pressing problem of conflict diamonds.
For the time being this is more of a public relations problem than a problem of competition.
These stories seem to have penetrated the public consciousness, but we think that consumers are not ready to shell out for synthetic diamonds yet.