As rain fell for about five minutes on the typically sunbaked Las Vegas strip on the opening day of the JCK show, one couldn’t help but sense things might be a bit different this year. Was the unusual weather a sign that diamond dealers were in for similar positive surprises on the trading floor? After all, they had endured difficult market conditions in the past 12 months and could do with a little pick-me-up.
In the end, the show met traders’ low expectations, with the Las Vegas jewelry week doing little to boost sentiment. It reflected robust US jewelry demand but a challenging global diamond-trading environment that has been prevalent for some time. Ultimately, the 2019 Las Vegas experience will be remembered for its relatively cool weather, the hot US political climate and, at best, lukewarm market conditions.
However, amid the cautious trading some important themes emerged that will likely dominate the conversation within the trade in the coming year. Here are five key observations that we took from our time in Vegas this year:
1. There’s no business in show business
There was a clear drop in visitor traffic and exhibitor numbers at JCK this year compared to 2018 — although the change in venue to the Sands Expo and Convention Center made for a difficult comparison.
Overall, attendees were pleased with the new location, noting that the Sands is easier to navigate than the Mandalay Bay venue where the show was held in previous years. That helped lift the mood even as it took a short time to familiarize with the new surroundings.
When it came to trading, the diamond section was quiet, with a noted decline in inter-dealer trading. “The show is about relationships and engagement, not necessarily sales,” stressed Nilesh Chhabria, chief operating officer of Finestar Jewellery & Diamond, a Mumbai-based supplier. “There’s been a drop-in attendance, but the US is still doing good numbers, and there were orders to be made if you have the right goods.”
There was steady demand for 0.60- to 1.99-carat, I to J, VS to SI diamonds that are typical “American” goods. Other categories were relatively weak, following the trend seen in the past year.
Those who prepared for the show and made appointments did reasonably well, added Rahul Jauhari, senior vice president of global sales and marketing at India-based manufacturer Star Rays. “Appointments showed up,” he noted.