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February 2007

There is a serious shortage of big diamonds on the market. When we talk to people familiar with the De Beers allocations, they mentioned that the company’s famous “specials” are given out very rarely, and only then at very high prices.

It is hard to believe that, even with De Beers’ market share down to an estimated 40 percent, De Beers has finally run dry on big diamonds after 100 years of selling them.

There are a couple of theories going around the market as to why this is so:

For the conspiracy minded, some are wondering whether De Beers is holding all the big stones for their retail chain, which recently announced it was opening stores in Las Vegas and in India. Why get a wholesale price for something when you can sell it for retail?

With the smaller stone market basically out of De Beers control, perhaps De Beers is asserting control over the one market it still dominates — big stones.

There is also the synthetic threat. (See article on page 2.) Synthetic diamond manufacturers are not able to make many big stones. Does De Beers see selling big stones as its way to counter that?

We don’t know the answer. And the real explanation may be the simplest: These diamonds are not coming out of the ground fast enough to meet consumer demand.

But we do know that when we see fast rising prices and speculation — as we see now in the big diamond market — it brings back unpleasant memories of the speculation of the 1970s. When things come up really quickly, they often go down really quickly, and we hope that is something the industry keeps in mind when paying high prices for big stones.

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