By Michelle Graff
London--Global demand for diamonds will increase slightly in 2014, fueled by a desire for polished diamonds in the United States and China, De Beers said when releasing it annual results Friday.

In 2013, De Beers’ sales increased 5 percent to $6.4 billion, compared with $6.1 billion in 2012. Operating profit rose 112 percent to $1.00 billion due to improved prices, largely owing to the product mix, and a weaker South African rand.

Diamond jewelry sales were up in all major markets in 2013, except India. The U.S. market, specifically, posted positive growth and the holiday season was “generally strong,” the company said.

De Beers said its diamond brand, Forevermark, is now carried by 1,200 stores in 12 countries, a 39 percent increase in doors as compared with 2012. The growth of the brand is driven primarily by the United States along with Japan, China and India.

Meanwhile, De Beers Diamond Jewellers, the chain of retail stores De Beers operates in a joint venture with LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, opened directly operated stores in Shanghai, China and Hong Kong’s Times Square as well as stores in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Baku, Azerbaijan; Vancouver, British Columbia; and Kiev, Ukraine that are franchise partnerships.

Although rough diamond prices increased slightly in the first half of the year, De Beers said weaker polished prices, high levels of stock in the cutting centers and tightening liquidity pulled it down in the back half of the year. The rough market, however, did stabilize toward the end of 2013.

On the production side, De Beers mined 12 percent more rough diamonds in 2013, 31.2 million carats compared with 27.9 million carats in 2012. The increase was due to the full restoration of operations at Jwaneng in the third quarter following the slope failure incident in June 2012 and greater volume and higher grades coming out of the Snap Lake mine in Canada.

In September, the first blast took place on the construction of an underground mine beneath the open-pit Venetia mine in South Africa. Going underground at Venetia will cost the company $2 billion, De Beers’ largest investment ever in South Africa. Production on the underground portion of Venetia is expected to begin in 2021 and extend the life of the mine beyond 2040. It is estimated it will produce 94 million carats of diamonds.

In addition, infrastructure construction at the Jwaneng Cut-8 project in Botswana was finished. The extension will provide access to an estimated 96 million tons of ore that contains about 113 carats of mainly high-quality diamonds, extending the life of the mine to at least 2028. 

De Beers noted that there were no fatal accidents at its mines in 2013.

The year was a big one for De Beers. The diamond miner and marketer finished moving its sales operations from London to Gaborone, Botswana and, in July, opened the Element Six Global Innovation Centre in the United Kingdom. It is billed as the world’s largest and most sophisticated synthetic diamond research and development facility, though the company has said the center’s focus is industrial diamonds, not gem-quality stones.

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De Beers, which is wholly owned by London-based mining company Anglo American PLC, expects global demand for diamond jewelry to grow slightly in 2014, fueled by growing demand for polished diamonds in the United States and China particularly.

“De Beers had a good year and was able to increase output against a background of rising demand,” Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani said. “The world economy should also strengthen in 2014 and 2015 as we continue to emerge from the challenges of the global financial crisis. China should continue to grow by around 7 percent and the diminishing effects of fiscal tightening should support a firmer recovery in the U.S. and beyond.”

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