By Michelle Graff
De Beers Group sold $720 million worth of rough diamonds in the first sales cycle of 2017, a 32 percent year-over-year increase.
Gaborone, Botswana--Rough diamond sales through Jan. 23 were up 32 percent year-over-year, De Beers Group said Tuesday.

In the first sales cycle of 2017, which includes both auction and sightholder sales, the diamond miner and marketer reported provisional sales of $720 million, compared with $545 million in the first sales cycle of 2016.

Commenting on the results, CEO Bruce Cleaver said demand was “good” across the majority of the company’s assortment of diamonds, also noting that the early part of the year is typically when rough demand is strongest. (In 2016, De Beers’ strongest sales cycle was the third; see chart below.)

Also contributing to the increased demand was the longer gap between the final sight of 2016 and the first sight of 2017.

In India, some diamond polishing operations reopened, which helped boost demand for smaller, lower-quality rough diamonds. Still, Cleaver said De Beers maintains a “cautious” outlook on the market, which is still trying to adjust to the government’s demonetization policy.

The policy banned the widely used 500 and 1,000 rupee notes in an effort to combat terrorism and corruption but has hurt India’s smaller and mid-sized diamond cutting companies, many of which deal in cash. Both De Beers and Alrosa noted the negative effects of the policy when reporting their year-end results in December.

In releasing its results for the first sales cycle of the year, De Beers also revised its provisional figure for the final sales cycle of 2016 upward, from $418 million to $422 million.

Here is the final chart of De Beers’ sales for 2016, plus the figure for the first sales cycle of this year.

First sales cycle $545 million $720 million (provisional)
Second $617 million
Third $666 million
Fourth $636 million
Fifth $564 million
Sixth $528 million
Seventh $639 million
Eighth $494 million
Ninth $476 million
Tenth $422 million

De Beers’ strong start to the year follows the December report from Rapaport Group in which diamond dealers expressed optimism for the year ahead following a holiday season that was good for some--but not all--jewelers.

A number of independent retailers told National Jeweler they had their best Christmas in years while Signet Jewelers Ltd. struggled due to declining mall traffic and website troubles, and Tiffany & Co. said it took a hit because of Trump Tower.

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