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De Beers rises small diamonds price amid shortage

De Beers grading facility in Surat, an Indian city that is a major hub of diamond cutting and polishing. (Image courtesy of De Beers Group.)

De Beers, the world’s top diamond producer by value, has once again increased the price of its smaller stones as sanctions on Alrosa (MCX: ALRS), its Russian rival, have worsened a global shortage caused by two years of covid-related shutdowns.

The Anglo American unit had hiked prices by about 8% at its first sale this year, with the sharpest increases of up to 20% affecting small-scale roughs, as demand reached pre-pandemic levels.

Prices for these diamonds, which usually end up clustered around the solitaire stone in a ring, have soared since early April, when Alrosa was targeted by US sanctions related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Diamonds are one of Russia’s top ten non-energy exports by value, with shipments in 2021 totalling over $4.5 billion, and its state-owned diamond producer is responsible for about a third of global supply.

Unlike Alrosa, De Beers doesn’t produce much of diamonds used in lower-end jewellery usually found a chain stores such as Costco or Walmart – which is creating increasing shortages as Alrosa’s ability to supply the market remains uncertain.

People familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that De Beers applied a 5% to 7% price increase this week in Botswana, where the company holds 10 sales each year in events known as sights.

Around 60 handpicked customers — known as sightholders —  are given a black and yellow box each time. These contain plastic bags filled with stones, with the number of boxes and quality of diamonds depending on what the buyer and De Beers had agreed to in an annual allocation.

De Beers rises small diamonds price amid shortage
Prices for small rough diamonds, the type that would end up clustered around the solitaire stone in a ring, are climbing. (Image courtesy of Anglo American | Flickr.)

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 when the industry came to a near halt.

The strategy, which applied to stones bigger than 1 carat, granted De Beers a steady recovery during the year, with prices gaining 23% in just over a year, parent company Anglo American said in a December presentation.

De Beers now only carries working inventory stocks and its mines are running at full tilt. There is little chance of material increases in supply before 2024, when a $2 billion underground expansion of its Venetia mine in South Africa is expected to be completed.

The diamond jewelry industry is going into the year with diamond supply at historically low levels, estimated by Bain & Company at 29 million carats in 2021. “Upstream inventories declined ~40%, driven by high demand and slow production recovery, and are near the minimal technical level,” the report stated.

(With files from Bloomberg)