The Las Vegas trade shows – JCK, Couture, Luxury, and AGTA – were active and positive this year, a clear departure from past annual June trade shows held in Las Vegas. The annual pilgrimage to the city was engulfed with a positive expectation by diamond traders, American retailers, and jewelry wholesalers. While not an exaggerated optimism, or ungrounded feeling that everything is going to be all right, it was an understanding that demand is there, prices are right, and people want as well as need to do business.
Prices of most round-shaped polished diamonds increased in May, according to the Mercury Diamond Global Tracker™ (MDGT™). The few exceptions were the larger goods, 5-carats and above, and the thirds (0.30-0.39 carats). The rising prices continue the trend of firming up of the polished market. With the exception of a small decline in March, polished diamond prices have improved almost across the board in every month in the past six months. This is clearly a trend.
Last Tuesday, De Beers announced that it will be launching a new brand of fashion jewelry containing laboratory-grown diamonds (LGD). The initiative, called Lightbox Jewelry, had an immediate ripple effect, reverberating throughout the diamond pipeline, from miners to retailers. The magnitude of the announcement cannot be overstated. It is an earthquake.
A sharp drop in demand was reported in May, as the diamond market slowed down due to increasing supply, and buyers waiting to see the outcome of the Las Vegas trade shows next week.
It is an unusual diamond market these days. Polished diamond exports from India were down about 1.5% in April compared to March, but up 14% year-over-year. The rise was not a result of improving prices, as the average value of goods declined 2.4%. The reason for the rise in exports was the high volume of shipments out of the leading manufacturing center, increasing 17% to 2.77 million carats. At the same time, rough trade through India declined by all measures – imports and exports, value and volume. Even by average value per carat.
Polished diamond prices increased across the board in April, indicating that the polished market is strengthening. The rise follows weak prices in March and marks a return to the trend of rising polished diamond prices that started in December 2017. The Mercury Diamond Global Tracker™ (MDGT™) averaged 114.94 in April, up 0.2% over March. Year-over-year, polished diamond prices are still low, down 1.9% compared to April 2017. The Mercury Index rose 0.28% in January and 0.08% in February, but declined 0.2% in March. Prior to that, the Mercury Index mainly declined for several years. Polished diamond prices peaked in April 2014, when the index reached 142.3. Since July 2014, the index has exhibited a steady decline with a few notable respites in the 44-month period.
When thinking of diamond prices, the diamond industry clearly hopes that prices appreciate. Rising diamond prices can potentially fuel diamond industry activity, provided that they result in greater profitability. A few weeks ago, we looked at the changing prices of third carats. This week we are looking at what one would expect to be a well-performing diamond size, two-carat rounds.
Trading levels in the global diamond market in April were decent, with rising demand for smaller goods, particularly 0.30-0.39 carat rounds, and ongoing shortages in many categories. The mood of most was optimistic, because of the good trading environment in the main consumer markets, although a good number of traders are finding it difficult to adjust to the changes in trading conditions.
If you look closely at the following graph, you may get the impression that the two best-performing size ranges over nearly a decade are thirds (0.30-0.39 carats) and three quarters (0.70-0.89 carats). Lately, the price of round diamonds in these two size ranges have appreciated, telling us a story about the industry.
The polished diamond price increases that characterized the start of the year have largely ended. With few exceptions, prices of diamonds in all categories headed down in March, ending the positive run that began with the consumer rush in the US in late December. It continued throughout January and February, and ended on the back of the gem trade show in Hong Kong that fell below expectations.