By Michelle Graff
London--De Beers sales in the first half of the year fell 21 percent as consumer demand for diamonds continues to be sluggish, parent company Anglo American reported Friday.

Total sales in the first six months of the year totaled $3.0 billion, compared with $3.8 billion in the first half of 2014. De Beers’ underlying EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) was down 25 percent. 

The underlying issue for the diamond miner and marketer is weak consumer demand for diamond jewelry worldwide, with the slowdown in demand recorded in the fourth quarter 2014 continuing into the first half of this year. Russian company Alrosa reported the same in when it released its first-half financials earlier this week. 

De Beers noted weaker-than-expected first quarter diamond sales in the United States specifically, which it blamed on the severe weather. The harsh winter also was one of the reasons the National Retail Federation cited in lowering its retail sales growth forecast for 2015.   

Because retailers are selling fewer diamonds, they are purchasing less stock, which means players in the midstream, who also are grappling with liquidity and financing issues, are decreasing their rough purchases from De Beers. 

Rough diamond sales were down 21 percent in the first half of the year to $2.7 billion. Though polished prices are down, De Beers reported that its average realized diamond prices increased 7 percent to $206 per carat, compared to $192 per carat in the first half of 2014. 

As announced previously, first half production at De Beers’ mines fell by 3 percent. The company is decreasing output slightly due to the drop in demand for rough diamonds.

Looking ahead, De Beers said it expects global diamond jewelry demand to be “stable” in 2015. 

Rough diamond demand is expected to remain low for the rest of the year, though exactly how low will depend on how much retailers restock in the second half of the year in preparation for the holiday season.

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