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20% increase in rough diamond revenue despite waning consumer demand

The diamond industry has rebounded since the start of the pandemic as stuck-at-home consumers bought stones. (Shutterstock Image)

A recently released annual report by the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) and Bain & Company revealed that diamond producers experienced a 20% revenue increase in 2016 from the year prior.

For the top five diamond producers, aggregate operating profit for 2016 rose about 3%. While rough-diamond prices experienced declines during 2015 and 2016, the industry turned around in 2017. Polished diamond prices, which also declined in 2015 and 2016, stabilized in 2017.

“The continuing slowdown in global diamond jewelry demand and the resulting downward trajectory of polished diamond prices translated to a slight revenue drop in the cutting and polishing segment in 2016,” according to authors of the report. “Despite this drop, the midstream bought 20% more rough diamonds (by value) from producers in 2016 than in 2015.”

The profitability of midstream players improved in 2016. However, pressure renewed on midstream markets after the first half of 2017 saw rough-diamond prices increase by 3% and polished-diamond prices drop by 3%.

Midstream 2016 revenues fell in US dollar terms. A downward trend continued for polished diamond prices, which the report states is a reflection of “soft consumer demand for diamond jewelry across key markets.” Rough prices declined even faster than polished, “restoring profitability to many players in the segment.”

Meanwhile, the first half of 2017 saw rough and polished diamond prices converge.

Three challenges of the diamond industry were covered, including “slowing long-term demand for diamonds, further developments of the lab-grown diamonds field, and the financial sustainability of the midstream.”

Generic marketing spend by rough diamond producers decreased from “5% to less that 1% of rough diamonds.” However, rough-diamond players are now investing more into both generic and private-brand marketing in attempts to reverse this trend.

While technology for lab-grown diamonds evolved, report authors suggest that “[c]oexistence of markets for natural and synthetic coloured… for more than a century suggests that markets for natural and lab-grown diamonds can develop in parallel without cannibalizing each other.”

And despite fluctuating prices and sales numbers, midstream players “have stepped up the development of new technologies and pursued operational efficiencies” to attain higher margins and allow them some financial advantage.

The report projected global rough-diamond demand to grow between 1% to 4% average annual rate through 2030, and supply to grow between 0% to 1% per year during that period. There is expectation that the current leading diamond jewelry markets (US, China and India) will remain at the top, and that “US diamond jewelry demand will stabilize in 2017.”

Click here to read the full report.