Diamond giant De Beers’ share of the rough diamond market has fallen substantially from its peak of over 80 percent in the 1980s, but the company still has a bit of a shady reputation.
Indeed, as industry expert Paul Zimnisky said earlier this year, many outside the diamond space believe De Beers’ monopoly remains in place, viewing the company as the disingenuous entity described in Edward Jay Epstein’s famous 1982 Atlantic article.
However, in reality those days are long past. At the moment De Beers holds about a 36-percent share of the rough diamond market, as per Zimnisky, and though that number should rise to 40 percent when Gahcho Kue opens, it’s clear De Beers is not the all-encompassing entity it once was.
It’s also become much less secretive, a fact that became clear last week during a presentation put on by Anglo American (LSE:AAL), De Beers’ majority shareholder. It saw the company outline key diamond market trends moving forward, with highlights including:
- Supply: Globally, about 146 million carats (valued at $18 billion) were mined in 2013. However, production is set to drop after 2020.
- Demand: “Unlike demand for precious metals the only driver of value for diamonds is end-consumer demand for jewellery,” states the report. As a result, diamond demand is “strongly correlated with growth in economic activity.” The US is seen remaining the top market for polished diamonds, but with the Chinese middle class growing, that country is also set to become a key diamond consumer — specifically, demand should hit $31 billion in 2018.
- Consumer needs: The “[s]hifting needs” of new consumers are expected to make branding and ethical sourcing more important.
- Value chain: Governments of countries that produce diamonds “will seek increased value chain participation.” Meanwhile, all aspects of the value chain will be impacted by technology.
- Online channels: Online channels will become more important in diamond trading.