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De Beers makes diamond buyers cough up cash with fresh price rise

The miner increased the price of its rough diamonds throughout much of 2021 as it sought to recover from the first year of the pandemic. (Image courtesy of De Beers Group.)

De Beers has implemented its biggest price increase for diamonds in years as the industry consolidates its recovery from the first pandemic-induced shutdowns.

The Anglo American unit hiked prices by about 8% at its first sale of the year, according to Bloomberg. The sharpest increases of up to 20% were for smaller, cheaper stones.

The changes at the January sight, which runs from Monday to Friday this week, reflected buoyant polished sales during the recent US festive period, as well as a hot rough market.

The company increased the price of its rough diamonds throughout much of 2021 as it sought to recover from the first year of the pandemic when the industry came to a near halt. Most of these hikes, however, were applied to stones bigger than 1 carat.

The strategy granted De Beers a steady recovery during 2021. Its diamond prices rose by 23% in “just over a year,” said Mark Cutifani, CEO of Anglo American in a December presentation.

De Beers sells its gems through 10 sales each year in Botswana’s capital, Gaborone, and the handpicked buyers — known as sightholders — generally have to accept the price and the quantities offered.

Customers are given a black and yellow box containing plastic bags filled with stones, with the number of boxes and quality of diamonds depending on what the buyer and De Beers agreed to in an annual allocation.

Main winners

Diamonds ended up being the big winners from lockdowns around the globe as access to rival luxury offerings was limited. That first showed with stronger-than-expected holiday sales, from Thanksgiving through to Christmas, and has since continued. 

“The rough market is hot. There’s enthusiastic buying across all rough categories,” Anish Aggarwal, a partner at specialist diamond advisory firm Gemdax told Bloomberg in June. “There are supply shortages at the moment. That’s creating a sense of scarcity at every stage of the pipeline.” 

Russia’s Alrosa, the world’s top diamond producer by output, has also increased the price of its diamonds over the last few months, triggering complaints from some industry actors. They claim the price hike has gone too far, especially as polished prices need to climb higher to justify the rates that rough stones are fetching. 

(With files from Bloomberg)