By Michelle Graff
michelle.graff@nationaljeweler.com
For those who haven’t seen it, the show involves four performers who participate in various improv games that are then scored by a host, though the points don’t mean anything and there aren’t any real prizes.

While no one except its creators know the exact origin of the show’s name, my guess would be it was called Whose Line Is it Anyway? because improve can get chaotic, leaving performers to look at each other and wonder, whose turn is it to keep this sketch going?

The diamond industry currently finds itself running up against a similar question mark when it comes to pricing. Rough prices are higher than they should be, polished demand is sluggish and many manufacturers in the middle can’t make money.

Michelle-blogWhose fault it this anyway, and who should fix it so the industry can keep going?

Shortly after my piece on the Indian diamond industry ran Tuesday, a colleague forwarded me an excellent guest blog by Sanjay Kothari, the former multi-term chairman of India’s Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC), that was published on a site called GemKonnect. GemKonnect is headed by Vinod Kuriyan, a journalist who has covered the industry for a long time and is extremely knowledgeable.

For those of you who are unaware, Kothari’s post goes a long way toward explaining why the price of rough diamonds has continued to go up even as polished prices have dropped and global demand for diamond jewelry has slowed.

Kothari writes that while many seek to blame the diamond mining companies, much of what ails the industry has to do with the “shortsighted business models” of the diamond cutting and polishing companies.

They, as Kothari writes and others have told me, have been buying overpriced rough and selling it at, in Kothari’s words, “laughably low prices” without caring. They just want to show turnover so they can continue getting credit from the banks, which they then sink into other industries (real estate, the stock market, etc.) that make them money.


So whose fault is that, then?

Like Kothari, I don’t put the lion’s share of the blame on De Beers, or any of the other mining companies for that matter.

What is something, anything, worth, be it a handbag, a car or a diamond? The answer is, whatever people are willing to pay for it.

Diamond cutting and polishing companies are buying rough at these high prices, so De Beers is going to keep on selling it. As one industry observer put it when I was talking to him on Monday about the situation in India specifically, “If they’re willing to pay for it, why blame De Beers?”

De Beers is a business. De Beers is not your friend.

What’s more, De Beers is not the De Beers of years gone by. The Oppenheimer family sold their stake in the diamond mining company in 2012 and De Beers is now one piece of a large public company, Anglo American. Anglo, like every public company on the planet, answers to its shareholders and De Beers is its most profitable subsidiary. Anglo’s going to do what it can to keep it that way.

That being said, I also agree with Kothari that the mining companies aren’t completely blameless in this scenario. They, like the cutters and polishers, are risking the long-term health of the industry for short-term gain.

Kothari offers a very common sense solution to the problem though it involves something that is not, shall we say, one of the diamond industry’s strong suits: working together.

Kothari suggests having all players in the industry pitch in to promote diamonds, thus helping alleviate the drop in demand; having all the mining companies cut back on mine output; and having diamond manufacturers cut back on the amount of rough they buy.

It seems that everyone in this situation shares a bit of the blame, so it’s only right that everyone step up to keep the show going.


Get the Daily News >
National Jeweler

Fine Jewelry Industry News

Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.