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Diamond polishers look to lockdown lovers to add shine

The pandemic is changing the diamond space.
Image: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

South Africa’s diamond industry, famed for sales the world over and supplying gems for the British crown jewels, is looking closer to home to revive its fortunes following the coronavirus slump.

Even before the new virus triggered the Covid-19 pandemic, diamond prices and demand were weak. Global economic weakness has exaggerated that and Anglo American’s De Beers unit last week reported a plunge in earnings.

Some of the many small players who polish the rough diamonds that De Beers and other miners unearth say they have been pleasantly surprised by the extent of lockdown jewellery-buying as enforced proximity kindled romance and feel-good spending.

South African cutting and polishing firm Nungu Diamonds said its custom-made jewellery sales have grown 60% since South Africa imposed a strict lockdown in March.

Customers used their weeks at home for online consultations and were lining up for their purchases when stores reopened in June, the company’s founder Kealeboga Pule said.

“We remain resilient. We fight on,” Pule said at his shop in a Johannesburg suburb. June was the best month in a year, he said, with sales including engagement and wedding rings.

Bucking the trend of rising unemployment, Nungu has hired an in-house jewellery designer – joining a team of 5 polishers and 9 jewellers.

Nungu says jewellery prices have held steady. Profit margins, however, could improve as lower global demand has depressed the prices of uncut, unpolished rough stones bought from the mines.

Thoko’s Diamonds, another South African company whose business was based on selling rough and polished stones, said it was turning to jewellery.

Zipho Dlamini, co-owner of Thoko’s Diamonds, said in a typical year the family business would supply more than 500 carats.

So far this year, the company had sold less than 20 carats and profits have fallen 65% as the exports that account for more than half of its business dried up.

Thoko’s hopes its new line in earrings will appeal to the local market.

“Because of Covid-19 we have managed to move into the jewellery space,” Dlamini said.

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Dear Women of the world
On women day it is time to fall out of love with diamonds and a way to imply status once and for all.
All you do is foment misery for millions involved in this wicked industry.

couldent agree more : utterley pointless pieces of Stone marketed as status symbols : This is not a view shared by my wife and Daughter !!
A Total con in my opinion. !!!

Well, it is quite a pretty stone and has some other industrial uses due to it’s physical qualities. Your argument can also be valid for all materials used in jewellery design, gold included, but I am afraid as long as our wifes and daughters do not agree with us, we will loose this one hads down. (My wife is a goldsmith and will certainly not agree with you!!)

Botswana economy extensively exposed to diamond market. South African history place more emphasis on gold than diamonds, but DeBeers, Kimberley, the events of the latter years in South Africa of the 19th century and early 20th century significantly influenced by diamonds, De Beers and then the Oppenheimers.

Diamonds used to be special, particularly the larger ones, but the increased efficiency in technology and recovery methods has made diamonds much less rare and even commonplace.

DeBeers has though over more than a century showed a remarkable prowess for marketing and propping up a total market for shiny stones: will they do it again. Me thinks not – 21st century man not much interested in long term, deeply valued silent enjoyment and not much sentimental.

End of comments.

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