De Beers’ Rough Diamond Sales Dip to Pandemic Lows

SourcingOct 06, 2023

De Beers’ Rough Diamond Sales Dip to Pandemic Lows

The company is pulling back on sales amid oversupply in the midstream and slumping diamond jewelry demand.

Stock image of rough diamonds from De Beers
De Beers Group’s rough diamond sales declined for the fifth straight month in September. Sales to sightholders and auction customers totaled $200 million, its lowest since the middle of 2020 when COVID hampered markets worldwide. (©De Beers Group/Photo credit: Ben Perry @ Armoury Films)
Gaborone, Botswana—De Beers Group’s rough diamond sales dropped significantly in September as the miner pulled back in response to market conditions. 

In a news release published Thursday, the company announced rough diamond sales totaled $200 million in its eighth sales cycle of the year (Sept. 8-Oct. 3).

That is down 61 percent from the same period last year ($508 million) and down 46 percent when compared with the seventh sales cycle in August ($370 million). 

It is De Beers’ lowest rough diamond sales total of 2023 and, the company confirmed, its second lowest since it began reporting sight and auction sales totals in 2016. (The lowest, $116 million, came in the sixth sales cycle of 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.) 

CEO Al Cook said, “De Beers reduced its rough diamond availability and made sales of $200 million as the industry’s midstream rebalances certain areas of stock accumulation.”

The company elaborated on the current situation in an email to National Jeweler, stating that manufacturers bought a lot of rough at the start of 2022 in anticipation of continued demand from consumers. 

But demand was softer than expected due to a combination of the “economic headwinds” that followed the start of the war in Ukraine in February 2022—inflation chief among them—and the sluggish post-pandemic recovery in China.

Retailers started buying less, which created a “bullwhip effect,” wherein a reduction in demand at the retail level is amplified further up the supply chain, as jewelers buy less not only for their immediate needs but also for the future. 

Wholesale prices for polished diamonds are declining, and retailers don’t want to hold any more stock than necessary, De Beers explained. 

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As for how demand for lab-grown diamonds has impacted natural diamonds, the company said, “In terms of lab-grown diamonds sales, these are really a symptom rather than a cause of the current situation. The macroeconomic challenges mean people have lower disposable incomes and lower-priced products have seen higher levels of consideration.

“Demand for natural diamonds is a function of desirability and affordability, and the economic challenges have led to affordability being reduced. However, we know that underlying desirability remains very strong … so once we start to see economic recovery we anticipate a robust recovery in demand, as we have seen historically in the wake of periods of economic challenge.”

In the release, Cook said the company will provide sightholders “full flexibility” in sights 9 and 10, meaning they can buy as much or as little as they want.

In addition, De Beers is canceling its remaining rough diamond auctions this year.

Cook also mentioned the $20 million De Beers is putting behind marketing natural diamonds this holiday season, updating its “Seize the Day” campaign from the ‘90s and utilizing the iconic “A Diamond Is Forever” tagline.  

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