By Michelle Graff
Manufacturers and dealers are banking on a strong Christmas season, as global demand for diamonds remains sluggish. Rapaport saw diamond prices slip for the fourth straight month while De Beers saw rough diamond sales decline for the third sales cycle in a row.
New York--The RapNet Diamond Index (RAPI) fell for diamonds of all sizes in the month of July.

The Rapaport Group said Tuesday that the RAPI fell about 2 percent for 0.30-carat, 1-carat and 3-carat diamonds and slipped 0.5 percent for half-carat stones.

Year-to-date (Jan. 1 to Aug. 1) prices have fallen 1 percent for 1-carat diamonds and 10 percent for 3-carat stones, but are up 4 percent for 0.50-carat diamonds and have remained flat for 0.30-carat stones.

“Cautious” is the word that can be applied across all markets--polished, rough and retail--as diamond demand remains stable in the United States but subdued in other parts of the world, forcing manufacturers and suppliers to be prudent in their purchasing and mining companies to cut back on production.

In its monthly report, Rapaport noted that diamond trading typically does slow down in the summer months, but that this summer is quieter than normal.

The U.S. remains the world’s strongest market, with demand steady for diamonds that are 1 to 2 carats in size, G-H in color and VS-SI in clarity, though the report stated that “jewelers are insisting on memo rather than buying inventory.”

The report also stated that the finest-cut diamonds are in high demand, with premiums increasing for diamonds with excellent cut, polish and symmetry, also known as triple EX goods.

The industry’s manufacturers and diamond dealers are hoping business picks up for the September Hong Kong show and are placing added importance on the holiday season this year, as the industry is expected to ramp up marketing for diamond jewelry.

Rough Sales Still Sliding
Also on Tuesday, De Beers released its results for the sixth sales cycle of 2016, which includes sales of rough diamonds made both to sightholders and via its online auction platform.

As of Aug. 1, De Beers had sold an estimated $520 million in rough diamonds, down from the final figure of $564 million for the fifth sales cycle of the year.

This is the third sales cycle in a row in which De Beers has witnessed rough diamond sales slump.

Here’s a chart showing how rough diamond sales have tracked so far this year.
First sales cycle: $545 million
Second: $617 million
Third: $666 million
Fourth: $636 million
Fifth: $564 million
Sixth: $520 million (provisional)

Year-over-year comparisons are not yet available, as this is the first year the diamond miner and marketer has reported on rough diamond sales on a cycle-by-cycle basis throughout the year.

Commenting on the results, new De Beers Group CEO Bruce Cleaver said, “This is an encouraging sales performance for this point in the year, supported by positive sentiment from our customers. We maintain a cautious outlook for the remainder of 2016.”

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