A century of first-hand experience in the art of managing markets is helping diamond producers accomplish what the rest of the mining industry has been unable to during the commodity collapse: shut down supply.
De Beers, the one-time world diamond monopoly, is bowing to market forces.
The Anglo American Plc unit, still producing about 30 percent of supply, is said to have lowered prices almost 10 percent last month, and is plowing tens of millions of dollars into an advertising push to spur jewelry sales. That’s after two reductions in its annual output target, by a total of as much as 15 percent, failed to halt an accelerating slump in prices of the uncut gems.
The 2.62-carat diamond Calvin Mills bought his fiancée in November is a stunner. Pear-shaped and canary-yellow, the gem cost $22,000. A bargain. Mills, the chief executive officer of CMC Technology Consulting in Baton Rouge, La., says he could have spent tens of thousands more on a comparably sized diamond mined out of the earth, but his came from a lab. “I got more diamond for less money,” says the former Southern University football player, who proposed last year at halftime during one of his alma mater’s games at the Superdome in New Orleans.
What makes a diamond valuable? History shows a slick marketing team and a killer tagline help.
“A Diamond is Forever,” voted the best slogan of the 20th century by Advertising Age, helped De Beers convince people for almost 70 years that it’s worth parting with two months’ salary for a gem. Yet the end of its monopoly a decade ago blunted its role as the industry’s marketing edge.
Diamond buyers are leaving stones on the table, prompting De Beers, the world’s biggest producer, to back down on pricing.
After 30 percent of its rough diamonds went unsold at its March sale, the Anglo American Plc unit unexpectedly reduced prices by about 3 percent last week. In February, the company said it expected an increase this year.
The global diamond industry today is facing challenges that are heavily impacting the way business is done and moreover will be done in the future. Never before has the diamond trade’s financing model, the lifeblood of the industry, been under more pressure. While more and more financial institutions have pulled out of the industry, those that remain have taken a cautious stance on providing the much-needed financial oxygen diamond traders crave in virtually every diamond hub. Against this backdrop, many questions have emerged: is the industry on its way to consolidation? How can we attract new financial players to enter the market? Is the industry confronted with overreach in terms of (financing) regulation? Are we in the midst of a transformation that will radically change the industry’s financial models and, to a larger extent, how business is being done ?
By all accounts, the mood at this week’s De Beers sight in Botswana was grim, particularly for January—traditionally an upbeat meeting. De Beers did adjust prices (somewhat) but not enough for some, given the expected coming correction in rough.