From Ethiopia, Emeralds

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By Victoria Gomelsky

 

In 1990, while Vladyslav Y. Yavorskyy was a geology student at the University of Odessa, he visited his first emerald mine, the Malysheva deposit in Russia’s Ural Mountains.

“I got there and began to dig with a hammer,” he recalled. “You spend one week on a mine, you get a half pocket of emeralds. I never managed to get anything clean, to selling standard. But the color was fantastic.”

Today, the Bangkok-based gem dealer and author of “Gemstones: Terra Connoisseur is infatuated with emeralds from another, very different, locality: a two-year-old mine in southern Ethiopia, near the trading town of Shakiso.

He said the color of the bright green gems from East Africa rivals that of stones from Colombia, the traditional source of top-quality emeralds.

He is not alone in his assessment.

There has been a lot of excitement among international gem dealers about the discovery, particularly because many of the Ethiopian stones do not require oil, a traditional form of clarity enhancement.

Mr. Yavorskyy said, “The best Ethiopian stone I have is a 10-carater, and it’s like the best Malysheva emerald — so beautiful.” And, he added, “You look at the crystal and you see big money inside.”

The interview was edited and condensed.

When did you first hear about the Ethiopian emerald discovery?

In 2016, the first material came out at the Tucson gem shows. There were bigger crystals but not clean, not good for faceting. One year later, we started to get a lot of stuff in Bangkok, the most open market on the planet.

What’s your impression of the gemstones?

The first stone I got over 10 carats was a spinach color, really pure green. There are a lot of lighter ones — most of the production is lighter, like any other mine — and mostly below 5 carats, but the quality of the material is exceptional. Plus, it’s natural. And you don’t pay millions. If you’re talking a 10-carat super Colombian, it’s a million-dollar stone and never available. And here, you open your palm and you put this stone in your palm, you enjoy it, and you don’t spend as much as your house cost to buy it.

 

Read full article HERE.

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Tanzanite, 50 Years Later

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Tanzanite brooch, Tiffany & Co. (Photo: Tanzanite Foundation)

From: The New York Times

By Melanie Abrams

May 10, 2018

When Tiffany & Company introduced tanzanite in 1968, the company was sure the semiprecious stone would be successful. (“Tanzanite is the first transparent deep blue gemstone to be discovered in more than 2,000 years,” a Tiffany vice president told a Times reporter the next year.)

But no one anticipated the creativity that it would still be inspiring.

Named for Tanzania, where the only mine still operates, tanzanite’s allure lies in its colors, including green, red, purple and blue, “depending on which angle you look at it,” said Melvyn Kirtley, Tiffany’s chief gemologist and vice president for global category management including high jewelry.

The new gemstone had an enormous effect on the house’s design style in the ’60s, Mr. Kirtley said, turning it from simple gold jewelry to colorful designs with large stones. Cases in point: Donald Claflin’s ornate 1968 diamond floral brooch with an 84-carat tanzanite and, in 1969, Jean Schlumberger’s fantastical winged-bird pin with diamonds, sapphires, rubies, a cabochon emerald and a large tanzanite as its stomach.

For the stone’s 50th anniversary with Tiffany, Reed Krakoff, the house’s chief artistic officer, has showcased it in two new Paper Flower collections introduced in the United States this month and at Harrods in London on June 21, then across Britain in July. The high jewelry earrings echo the colors of an iris with tanzanites ranging from soft blue to violet and blue sapphires; in fine jewelry, tanzanites accentuate abstract blossom designs.

Debuting at the Cannes Film Festival this week, Chopard’s latest Red Carpet collection includes a multistone choker with six tiers of tanzanite beads and a blue titanium-edged pink ceramic disc with a 12.4-carat pear-shaped aquamarine that “give a modern twist,” Caroline Scheufele, Chopard’s artistic director and co-president, said in an email.

[…]

The color also is an important element for Alice Cicolini, a jeweler based in London, who said she played “with the idea of tanzanite as a color pop.” She placed tanzanite beads on either side of the orange lacquered sphere in her multistone Candy Kimono Nibble necklace “to bring attention to the center of the necklace.”

She also added a tanzanite briolette to her blue topaz, sapphire and lapis lazuli chandelier earrings. “It adds movement between the flowers,” Ms. Cicolini said, “and that extra layer of articulation, and because the thing that is articulating has such a vibrant color, hopefully it catches the eye more.”

Annoushka Ducas, creative director of her namesake brand, has included tanzanite and diamond earrings and rings in her new Imperial collection, inspired by the Russian kokoshnik headdress. “I use it quite a lot with brown diamonds as I like the not-so-bling look and the softness of the brown and the blue working together,” she said. “If you set tanzanite with brilliant white diamonds, it has a colder more ostentatious effect, whereas with brown it’s more low-key and everyday.”

The Brazilian designer Yael Sonia captured a tanzanite gem in the black rhodium-plated openwork cage of her Perpetual Motion series. “The black rhodium cube makes the tanzanite edgy, and the tanzanite softens the black rhodium,” she said.

More literal uses of the stone’s blue tones have been made by the Canadian jeweler Holly Dyment, who created the iris in her evil eye ringswith tanzanite. And Wendy Yue, a Hong Kong designer, adorned a snake’s head with a triangular tanzanite for her new necklace, which has a matching ring.

Although tanzanites can be worn in everyday jewelry, they are not as hard as diamonds or rubies, so designers use various methods to protect the stones. After Mimi So, a New York jewelry designer, had 120 tanzanite beads threaded individually to create the tassel for a necklace, she strategically placed 18-karat gold flowers accented with diamonds or emeralds at the top of the grouping, helping them to move freely. The Taiwanese designer Anna Hu set a 102.15-carat tanzanite on her multistone pendant brooch with invisible bezel prongs — a secure yet delicate way to set the stone — so “all you can see are the vibrant colors,” she said.

Wallace Chan, a Hong Kong jeweler known for his innovation, creates extra-soft tools for his work with tanzanite. They include a polishing wheel made with leather from a sheep’s belly for the 15.90-carat tanzanite adorning his multistone Bridging Dreams ring, “to buff out the micro scratches on the gemstone to perfect its finish,” he said in an email.

Experts disagree on how soon the world’s supply of tanzanite will be exhausted, with some saying it is almost mined out. But some designers are still discovering the gemstone — “to keep a step ahead,” said Ana Khouri, a New York-based designer who was adding tanzanites to her ear pieces, including a new white-gold-and-diamond ear crawler with pink, green and blue tanzanites.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page S4 in The International New York Times.
The Peace Diamond

The Peace Diamond

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The Peace Diamond is a 709 carat rough diamond discovered by a team of five artisanal diggers near the village of Koryardu in Sierra Leone on March 13, 2017. It is the world’s 14th largest diamond.

Pastor Emanuel Momoh, the manager and financial supporter of the digger team is the legal owner of the diamond and a leader in the village and community where the diamond was found. In spite of offers to smuggle the diamond, he insisted that the diamond be sold through official government channels so that the financial benefits of this diamond would be properly shared with his village, district and the people of Sierra Leone.

Pastor Momoh immediately took the diamond to Paramount Chief of the Kono District Paul Ngaba Saquee V and together they personally delivered the diamond to the President of Sierra Leone Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma. The president committed to ensuring a transparent and competitive auction process and a local Sierra Leone auction for the diamond was held in May 11, 2017. Unfortunately the highest
bid at the auction in Sierra Leone was only US $7.777 million and the bid was rejected. The government and Pastor Momoh then decided that the diamond should be sold in an international auction that would make the diamond available to more buyers and ensure a fair market value price for the people of Sierra Leone.

The government of Sierra Leone appointed the Rapaport Group as the marketing and sales agent for the Peace diamond on October 2, 2017. Instructions were given that the diamond was to be sold in a transparent and competitive auction process that will ensure fair market value. Due to the significant benefit the Peace Diamond will bring to the people of Sierra Leone and to encourage legitimate artisanal diamond distribution channels, the Rapaport Group has agreed to provide our marketing and auction services for the Peace Diamond free of all charges.

The Peace Diamond represents all that is good in the diamond industry. Over 50% of the sales value of the diamond will directly benefit the people of Sierra Leone. The Peace Diamond will make a huge difference in the lives of the poorest people in world. It will provide villages with clean water, electricity, health care, schools, vital bridges and roads. It will create opportunities for sustainable economic
development and jobs. The buyer of the 709 carat rough Peace Diamond will have an opportunity to brand the resultant polished diamonds as Peace Diamonds. These diamonds are the best diamonds because they have helped create a better life for tens of thousands of people.

President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma – “I thank the local chief and his people for not smuggling the diamond out of the country, and the owners should get what is due to them and it should also benefit the country as a whole. The Government remains committed to ensuring a transparent and competitive auction process that will ensure fair market value for Sierra Leone’s diamonds. We call on the worldwide
diamond industry to bid generously for the Peace Diamond as it will bring vital infrastructure and benefit to thousands of Sierra Leone’s artisanal diggers.”

Pastor Momoh: “The Peace Diamond will greatly improve the lives of our people as it will bring clean water, electricity, schools, medical facilities, bridges and roads to our villages and the Kono District. This diamond represents our hope for a better future as the resources of Sierra Leone fund growth, development and jobs”

Martin Rapaport: “I believe in the positive energy of the Peace Diamond and the great good it will do for the people of Sierra Leone. The lucky buyers of the Peace Diamond and the resultant polished Peace Diamonds can take pride in knowing that they have created a better life for tens of thousands of people. This is a diamond that makes the world a better place. This is a diamond with spiritual sparkle.”

Natural Diamond Vs Synthetic Diamond

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by Raul Sapora

From a scientific perspective, a synthetic diamond has the same chemical composition, the same crystal structure, the same optical and physical properties of a natural diamond. As synthetic diamonds are conceptually identical to natural diamonds, they need to be analyzed and spotted by a gemological laboratory. Synthetic diamond screening is nowadays a major concern of the Jewelry Industry.

Unexpectedly, as far as I am concerned, Ada Diamonds[i], a synthetic diamond distributor, after discovering a few natural diamonds mixed in a synthetic diamonds melee lot, has implemented enhanced screening procedures to further inspect all parcels of melee diamonds to ensure that all diamonds sold are in fact synthetic, not mined and therefore not illicit mined diamonds. Despite it is based on the same principle (synthetic vs natural diamond screening), a whole new and extremely dangerous variable has been imported into the Diamond Trade: protecting synthetic from natural. I believe most of you who read this will smile at this – I did too at a first glance – but it is also easy to realize that a new powerful weapon has been forged and consigned to marketing experts, and if the synthetic diamond industry will have consumers perceive that synthetic diamonds are a better alternative, people will buy them.

The situation is becoming more and more complex. Retailers are in a constant state of great distress: they are uncertain whether they should sell synthetic diamonds or not. On the other end, mining companies are addressing the problem with considerable delay and most probably caught inside the conceptual circle of the same marketing campaign which had decreed their triumph in the past. When Martin Rapaport in his world renowned educated reprimand[ii] to Leonardo di Caprio says that ‘false claims and misleading marketing surrounding the sale of synthetics is having an impact’, I am afraid he forgets to say that diamond itself owes its success to the unrivalled advertising slogan created by Mary Frances Gerety for De Beers in 1948 ‘a Diamond is Forever’, and that claim is disingenuous anyway. De Beers was successful in making diamonds appear rarer than they are, by aggressively restricting the supply of diamonds on the market, and moreover nothing is going to be forever, not even diamonds.

I am a gemologist and Responsible Sourcing Auditor, and those who know me quite well are prepared to hear me pronounce the sentence: “The ethical nature of a gemstone has today as much to do with its social context and its environmental provenance as it has with its optical and chemical properties.” In fact, in my opinion, gemology without Responsible Sourcing is merely a scientific understanding of gemstones, and the world needs much more than this. Gemology, as a matter of fact, is evolving through ethics. Therefore, as a gemologist I have to protect truth, even if truth sometimes can be multifaceted.

Diamond Foundry, a Synthetic Diamond producer who raised a capital of over $100 million from 12 billionaires[iii], including Twitter founder Evan Williams and actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio, was launched in late 2015, after two years of research and development.” A diamond is a diamond,” says Martin Roscheisen, Diamond Foundry’s founder. “Scientifically it is a tetrahedral carbon allotrope, and it is the same thing whether mined or man-made.”

“Proud to invest in Diamond Foundry, a Company reducing human & environmental toll by sustainably culturing diamonds,” Leonardo di Caprio tweeted.

Apparently, the arguments embraced by synthetic (or lab grown as they like to say) diamonds manufacturers are mainly ethical: to some consumers they seem to be conflict free and socially responsible. That is because synthetic diamond marketers are touting their product to be “conflict-free”, which misleadingly associates all real diamonds with conflict diamonds.

Accusations of exploitation and inhumane working conditions in mines cast a dark shadow over the diamond industry. Mining is also said to be devastating to the environment, due to the amount of energy it requires, the potential for chemical leaks, and the harmful effects that removing large amounts of earth has on local ecosystems[iv]. Some of those arguments are highly deceptive: the world of diamonds, gemstones and jewellery is changing. The legislative landscape, consumer awareness of the problems in the jewellery supply chain and broader civil society groups demanding transparency and disclosure have impacted dramatically on this scenario: nowadays, thanks to Kimberley Process, Responsible Jewelry Council and other initiatives, just a very small fraction of diamonds production is being used to finance wars. Also, it is extremely important to understand that the diamond industry employs an estimated 10 million people around the world directly and indirectly, and also has become the almost entire economy of some specific, otherwise isolated locations, like Botswana and Northern Canada[v]. Another commonly repeated misconception is that diamond mining harms local ecosystems and wildlife. However, diamond mining is perhaps one of the least environmentally destructive forms of mining there is today. Diamond mining uses very few, if any, chemicals, and diamond mines leave a small footprint on local environments compared to other forms of mineral extraction. Most people are unaware of the role diamonds play in bringing real benefits to people in the countries around the world where diamonds are sourced. Nowhere is this more evident than in Africa.

A few facts:

·        An estimated 5 million people have access to appropriate healthcare globally thanks to revenues from diamonds.

·        Diamond revenues enable every child in Botswana to receive free education up to the age of 13.

·        An estimated 10 million people globally are directly or indirectly supported by the diamond industry.

·        The diamond mining industry generates over 40% of Namibia’s annual export earnings.

·        Approximately one million people are employed by the diamond industry in India.

·        The revenue from diamonds is instrumental in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

·        An estimated 65% of the world’s diamonds come from African countries.

It is quite evident that synthetic diamonds pose a firm and serious threat to this huge network, while so much has been done and is being done to eradicate unethical implications from the complex jewelry world. As I said already, reactions have been slightly late and perhaps, at least in the early stage, not commensurate to the actual danger.

After almost one century and a half after diamond discovery in South Africa – happened in 1867, when fifteen year old Erasmus Stephanus Jacobs found the Eureka diamond on his father’s farm, on the south bank of the Orange River – and after the end of the De Beers monopoly, seven of the world’s leading diamond companies (De Beers, Alrosa, Dominion Diamond Corporation, Petra Diamonds, Gem Diamonds, Lucara Diamond Corporation, Rio Tinto Diamonds), founded in May 2015, the Diamond Producers Association (DPA): its mission is ‘to protect and promote the integrity and reputation of diamonds, thereby ensuring the sustainability of the diamond industry[vi].

DPA launched an advertising campaign called “Real is Rare,” that adopts a new verbiage on diamond marketing, in which the abracadabra claim “A Diamond is Forever” has been replaced by a narrative that is totally different from the past. The Diamond Producers Association (DPA) announced at the JCK, Las Vegas a few days ago that their 2017 marketing budget will total US$ 57 million. DPA’s Chairman Stephen Lussier commented: “The Board’s decision is a major turning point for the Diamond Producers Association and the diamond industry. All Board Members are aligned behind the goals and plans of the DPA, which is now fully equipped to fulfil its mission of communicating to next generation consumers about the timeless beauty and emotional value of diamonds. We look forward to working closely with the diamond and jewellery trade and with other industry organisations to build a stronger future for our sector” [vii].

The words pronounced from Lussier sound so far away from the place and time in which De Beers was the guardian of the trade and could steadily increase the price of diamonds, thus ensuring that diamonds were a good investment over time.

Is such a potentially huge advertising campaign enough to react to synthetic diamonds? In my opinion the necessary game changer in this dangerous situation are ethics and Responsible Sourcing practices. The only way is ethics, quoting Stacey Hailes’s speech at Birmingham a few weeks ago. It is of paramount importance for consumers to consider what the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme for Rough Diamonds, the Responsible Jewelry Council, the Signet Responsible Sourcing Program are among others doing. Although we are all working towards the full enforcement of these practices, they already had a significant impact on illicit trade in rough diamonds.

___________________________________________________________________

[i] As reported in ‘Is This Lab-Grown Diamond Company Trolling the Trade?’ by Rob Bates, on JCKonline (June 1, 2017)

[ii] Rapaport, ‘Synthetic Diamond Scam’ April 2016

[iii] ‘Why Leonardo DiCaprio is backing man-made diamonds’ by Sophie Morlin-Yron, CNN money ( August 30, 2016)

[iv] ‘A Lab-Grown Diamond Is Forever’, by Chavie Lieber (June 14, 2016)

[v] ‘The History of Lab Grown Diamonds: Value Proposition’, by Ehud Arye Laniado (June 14, 2017)

[vi] Diamond Producers Association mission statement (www.diamondproducers.com)

[vii] DPA ups its Marketing Budget for 2017 – Allocates US$ 57 Million for the Purpose, TJM (June 6, 2017)

 

Gemstone trends: cool colours and cuts for 2016

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Author:  Rachael Taylor

Source: The Jewellery Editor

Whether it’s a quirky setting, an unusual cut or a colourful stone, these gemstone trends for 2016 stand out from the crowd.

There is no doubt that, when it comes to jewellery trends, the popularity of coloured gemstones has skyrocketed. No longer are the windows along Bond Street or Place Vendôme achromatic pockets of diamonds, but bouquets of colour, and according to Bonhams, the prices achieved for coloured gemstone jewellery have risen 2,200% in the past 10 years.

“Coloured gemstones continue to appeal immensely to our customers looking to invest in fine jewellery, with pieces featuring coloured diamonds and multi-coloured gemstones constantly growing in popularity,” confirms Helen David, fashion director at luxury London jewellery destination, Harrods.

See more fine jewellery available at Harrods

This year, there has been a very clear trend within coloured gemstones – a desire for blue stones. The shimmering black opals set into the Capri jewels of the Acte V collection by Louis Vuitton; the mesmerising Paraiba tourmaline set into a Chopard ring unveiled at Paris Couture Week; the clusters of turquoise and aquamarine worn around the neck of Cate Blanchett at the Oscars, plucked from the Tiffany Blue Book collection.

Hinatuan ring set with labradorite by Biiju.

But what will next year hold? “I think we’ll continue to see the trend for organic shapes, rough cuts and textures,” offers Joanna Boyen, who runs jewellery brand Biiju, which allows shoppers to customise designs online by selecting composable gemstone elements. “I think it’s going to get very interesting, with more of the unusual stones taking centre stage. It’s an exciting time because consumers are much more aware and more accepting of these stones now, and with bespoke and personalised jewellery being so much in demand, having a statement stone which is different and a talking point is very attractive.”

As well as choosing stones that are lesser known, one of the ways to make a statement with gemstones is to opt for an unusual cut over a classic cut. The shape of the gemstone might look the same at first glance, but peer into the stone and you may be able to see unusual facet work underneath it, such asSheldon Bloomfield’s large aquamarine cocktail ring.

Some new jewellery designs for 2016 even have smaller gemstones hidden beneath the main gem. Suzanne Kalan jewellery, which recently launched at Harrods, includes wonderful pieces that layer transparent stones such as topaz and quartz over clusters of round brilliant or baguette diamonds.

The Caged collection by Melanie Georgacopoulos traps pearls inside golden cages.

Another quirky twist in the realm of jewellery trends is overprotective settings. For these designs, gemstones are wrapped inside extra, often diamond-set, fronds of metal, such as Kiki McDonough’s Luna collection, or trapped inside cages such as the pearls in the Caged range of Melanie Georgacopoulos jewellery. And Brazilian jeweller Moritz Glikoffers an interesting line with diamonds or coloured gemstones trapped inside sapphire glass cases.

For London jeweller Gee Woods, coloured gemstones have become very popular with her clients – particularly yellow hues of sapphires, citrines and diamonds – but she says that demand for unusual stones also applies to diamonds. “Recently I’ve noticed clients seem to be looking for something a bit more exciting than a modern brilliant cut,” she says. “I’m being asked to find old mine-cut diamonds, fancy coloured diamonds and interesting cuts.”

Whether your choice of gemstone jewellery in 2016 will be set with white diamonds or one of nature’s cornucopia of coloured gemstones, just make sure that you opt for something that makes you stand out.

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Diamond Cutters Approaching Era of Disruption

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Source: Rapaport
Author: Ronen Schnidman

RAPAPORT… Diamond manufacturers are entering an era of fierce competition as the looming decline in rough diamond supply is expected to place additional pressure on their already razor-thin profit margins.

“A manufacturer always operates with a benchmark margin, which is the minimum he needs to make a reasonable return on equity,” explains Vishal Doshi, the executive director of the manufacturer Shrenuj & Co. “In spite of all the efficiencies, we have reached the border between the business being either sustainable or unsustainable.”

Some manufacturers are already adapting their business models to cope with this problem, in ways that industry observers believe will alter how the entire diamond pipeline operates in the coming years.

Differentiate or Disappear

However, Dinesh Navadiya, the president of the Surat Diamond Association (SDA), notes that manufacturers have limited options to cut costs and improve margins. While they tend to expand their labor force when rough supplies grow, cutters avoid retrenchments when the profits run dry, he explains.

“Employers never lay off workers,” Navadiya says. “There is a scarcity of artisans in the industry so the question of layoffs does not arise.”

Even during the 2008 financial crisis, factory owners in Surat tried to avoid layoffs, preferring to retain their workers by instituting temporary salary cuts.

Navadiya further dismisses the likelihood that factory owners will increase profits by absorbing smaller or weaker companies to reduce competition. He states that no notable consolidations have occurred in Surat in recent years and that he does not expect significant consolidation to occur in the future.

Consequently, the only way that manufacturers will be able to contend with tightening profit margins is through product differentiation and factory closures, concludes Mike Aggett, the managing director of H. Goldie & Company, a De Beers accredited broker.

Aggett notes that the diamond manufacturing sector is undergoing some consolidation, but this is occurring at a slow pace and largely through companies exiting the industry. He attributes this to the fact that the industry is predominantly made up of family-run businesses that find consolidation more difficult than would purely corporate entities.

“Certainly in India a number of smaller operations have disappeared,” he says. “It will be a slow, ongoing process but the less sustainable businesses will disappear.”

Aggett stresses that manufacturers who wish to remain in the industry will have to focus their efforts on design and branding as a means to improve their profit margins. Consumers are becoming increasingly price conscious, and the only way to make price secondary in their buying decisions is by presenting them with a differentiated product, he explains.

Emanuel Namdar, the general manager of S.N. Asia, a diamond manufacturer, agrees with Aggett and adds that branding is essential because the jewelry marketplace is already crowded and intensely competitive even in emerging markets.

“When you head out to the Far East and pass the jewelry displays on the street, you can see that every consumer interested in buying a diamond ring has hundreds to choose from within a 10-minute walk,” Namdar says. “You must add value through branding. Otherwise, the competition at the consumer level is too fierce.”

Doshi notes that many diamond manufacturers are integrating downstream to achieve that added value and differentiate their product and services.

“The more you can sell diamonds in jewelry, the more your gross margins will go up,” he explained in an interview with Rapaport News earlier this year. “But not everyone can execute it because it’s a different business with a different mindset and a different business model.”

Declining Rough Supply

Most manufacturers who spoke with Rapaport News agreed that manufacturing rough into polished alone is not sufficient to cope with high rough prices and the further forecasted increases.

According to industry consultants at Bain & Company, diamond prices are expected to rise in the long term as supply is forecast to decline from 2018 onward, while demand continues to grow.

De Beers expects that global rough diamond supply will peak at slightly over 160 million carats in 2018 but will plummet to 120 million carats around 2025. This constitutes a 25 percent drop from peak production in less than a decade. De Beers estimates that approximately 146 million carats were recovered in 2013.

De Beers attributes this drop in production to a lack of new mining projects expected to come on stream after 2025 that have potential production volume large enough to impact the overall market. Even if new, large mines are discovered, De Beers noted in its recently published Diamond Insight Report that these would not be developed fast enough to prevent the contraction in supply. The company estimates that the latest generation of large diamond mines have taken on average 22 years to reach production from their initial discovery.

Rough Financing Impacting Pipeline

Bain expects that the demand-supply gap will further squeeze manufacturers’ profit margins at a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain financing for the working capital needed to reap efficiency gains.

Des Kilalea, a diamond mining analyst for RBC Capital Markets, suggests that it is this lack of financing for rough purchases that will be the final nail in the coffin for smaller, family-owned manufacturing operations.

Kilalea cautions that the entire diamond pipeline has entered an unhealthy situation whereby manufacturers are financing the profitability of the miners and retailers with their bank credit. He predicts that the diamond pipeline will address the problem by evolving toward simpler supply lines with fewer, larger players.

“The longer-term issue is that the miners are not really going to be able to dictate any price to the market because the banks aren’t going to continue financing it,” he says. “Manufacturers will [then] become more reticent to pay high rough prices [in cash] and they will stop extending such crazy credit terms to their own buyers. Why should the guy in the middle be the bankers for the guys on the ends?”

Kilalea expects that the larger manufacturers will address the finance issue by increasingly raising funding from the stock and bond markets to finance their working capital.

Moreover, Kilalea forecasts that as banks reduce their credit lines for rough purchases, the mining and retail segments will be forced to ensure that their profits are not affected if manufacturers go bankrupt.

“The big retailers with financial muscle want to secure the rough and ensure that there are no financial interruptions,” Kilalea says. He explains that retailers are worried that their diamond suppliers may go bankrupt and leave them in the lurch without merchandise. Moreover, the retailers have an easier time of financing their working capital, often paying lower interest rates than their own suppliers.

As a result, Kilalea expects that more large-scale retailers will pursue arrangements similar to those of Tiffany & Co. The New York-based retailer has its own polishing division that procures rough through sight contracts with De Beers and ALROSA and also holds off-take agreements with junior miners Kimberley Diamonds and DiamondCorp to fulfill some of its specific rough requirements.

Bain said in its 2013 industry report that the trend of retailers integrating upstream along the diamond value chain is likely to continue, creating additional pressure on manufacturers as retailers compete for rough with their own polished suppliers.

Survival Not Guaranteed

The consulting company therefore expects further consolidation and integration in the middle of the diamond pipeline as manufacturers seek to maximize their profit margins through efficiencies of scale and scope.

Some manufacturers already predict that there will be consolidation in the cutting and polishing industry even if polished prices rise in the coming decade.

Namdar expects that polished prices will rise significantly in the next decade but diamantaires will need to continually find ways to add value along the pipeline in order to survive and benefit from these higher prices.

“There will be an industry and people will work hard because the ones that won’t work hard won’t be around in 10 years’ time,” he says. “I can’t even guarantee that I will be there, but I know that many good companies that are here today have a roadmap to get there.”

Opal’s essence continues to delight

Opal

Source: National Jeweler

Author: Brecken Branstrator

December 19, 2014

New York — With an appearance that long inspired cultures to believe in its supernatural abilities and powers, the opal’s value comes not only from the range of colors it displays but also the increasing rarity of high-quality stones.

Opals are the product of seasonal rains that drench the dry ground in an arid place, such as Australia’s outback. The water soaks in and penetrates deep, carrying silica with it. Then, the water evaporates during a dry spell, leaving silica deposits behind to form opals.

Even though all opals are formed through this same process, the resulting stones are unique.

No two opals look the same, and the play of color for each precious opal is different, giving them wide-ranging appeal. (There are two main types of opal–while common opal has a milky, dull color, precious opal displays the range of color that is so valued.)

“In Lighting Ridge black opal, people tend to like the combination of blues and greens, which have been the most popular with us,” said Niveet Nagpal, designer and president of Omi Privé. “But with true collectors looking for special pieces, if the opal displays more red flashes, these are the most sought after and valuable.”

Opal’s recently returning popularity with consumers also can be attributed to a greater number of designers using the stones in more of their pieces, bringing high-quality opals in front of consumers again and driving demand.

“Opal is re-entering the popular market and, where they were once using a little bit lower-quality (stones) at one point, they have delved into the finer goods over the last few years,” said Matt Hopkins of Hopkins Opal.

The rush slows
Today’s supplies of opal come mostly from Australia, Mexico, and the United States, though Hopkins said that supply is constrained in Australia at the moment as companies realize that there’s more money to be made in mining other natural resources in that country, such as industrial metals.

“There’s been a lack of producing areas for more than a decade,” he said, but noted that the increased demand for opals means that miners likely will return to prospecting for the gem once they realize that there is consistent consumer demand.

Hopkins said he sees a “glimmer of hope” in a few places in Australia. (He declined giving specifics as these locations–provided they start producing–will become a source for his company.) “The one decent supply we’re seeing is boulder opals in medium to high quality, which are still being cut and coming out.”

He adds that the only type of opal that perhaps isn’t seeing a major climb in demand is the commercial opal that is sourced for mass market, lower-end jewelry that has less play of color. “People don’t really have that much interest in that anymore.”

Overall, Hopkins said he sees opal demand outstripping supply in both the U.S. and Asia, noting that there is a renewed interested in colored gems in general as consumers see high-quality large gemstones as investment pieces.

This makes sourcing high-quality opals difficult. Many dealers that Hopkins knows still are working off old stock, though replenishing that at the same price they did even a few years ago is much harder.

Jonathan Farnsworth of Parlé Designs reiterated what Hopkins is seeing in the market, noting that the hardest to source currently are high-quality black and crystal opals, as well as opal doublets, which Farnsworth attributed to labor costs that had gotten too high to validate production.

He said there is plenty of Ethiopian opal in the market, which is helping to create demand for opals as a whole as more consumers are seeing them. He also said that he feels that production will begin picking up as trends drive demand.

“It’s a little cyclical, because as demand increases, more production should increase as well, especially as oil prices drop and it becomes easier for miners to mine. Then the supply will be there to further feed and grow demand,” he said.

A price hike
Like many of the rarest gems, the price of the highest quality opals have been rising slightly over the past few years, though Hopkins notes that fine black opal always has been, and continues to be, fairly expensive.

Intense red-orange fire opal from Mexico also is extremely rare and highly valued, with its strong play of color, with price and supply following the similar patterns as the other types of high quality stones.

Though the best fire opal generally sells for less than high-quality precious opal, fire opal pieces with exceptional color will go for more than specimens of precious opal with a less-than-stellar play of color.

Even though prices are climbing steadily at the high end, it’s the mid-range-quality opals–falling between $150 and $700 per carat at wholesale–where the upswing is the greatest, Hopkins said, a trend that he expects to continue for the next couple of years.

Hopkins said that he is seeing opal prices increase along all points in the supply chain, including “field prices,” which refers to the price of the opal when sold from the miners directly to the field buyers, which have gone up some 20 percent over the last year.

Designer’s delight
Much of opal’s value, and its appeal, is the stone’s ability to show so many different colors from every angle as it diffracts light. That’s why opals normally are cut into cabochons rather than being faceted; it enhances the color play.

From a design perspective, the gem’s color show gives jewelry-makers the ability to pair opals with a variety of other gemstones, bringing out different colors depending on the gem with which the opal is set.

“Pairing opals with multiple colored gemstones and even different metals can contrast with or emphasize specific colors found within the opal,” Nagpal said.

This is also one of the reasons that designer Penny Preville told National Jeweler that she loves to work with opals.

Not only do the stones come in her favorite color, blue, but the different speckles of color that come out means that it works well with many other stones that she may want to use, as well as any metal.

She said she has noticed that her customers currently want the dark blue opals the most.

“I see opals as becoming more of a staple and, in a way, becoming their own category of sorts. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes because there’s so much more that designers can do with it. I definitely think that opal has a long life ahead of it,” Preville said.