Citing demand ahead of the Chinese New Year, which begins February 12, and Valentine’s Day two days later, DeBeers’ reported high sales for the first cycle of 2021.
Total sales recorded were $650 million. This is a notable increase from the $551 million sold in the same cycle last year (which was pre-COVID) and represents a 44% increase over the final cycle of 2020. DeBeers typically runs 10 such cycles per year.
According to DeBeers CEO Bruce Cleaver:
With the midstream starting the year with low levels of rough and polished inventories, and following strong sales of diamond jewelry over the key holiday season in the US, we saw good demand for rough diamonds at the first cycle of the year as midstream customers sought to restock and to fill orders from retail businesses… While risks to recovery as a result of ongoing restrictions on the movement of both people and goods persist, we have been encouraged by demand conditions.
DeBeers noted that this first event of 2021 was extended beyond the traditional duration, to permit more flexibility given continuing worldwide restrictions. This means the figure reported for Cycle 1 represents the expected sales value through 02 February and remains subject to adjustment, based on final completed sales.
Barclays analysts observed that the figure is 10% above the 20-year average for first sights, and is the highest value single sight since January 2018. With that said, DeBeers sales for 2020 amounted to only $2.8 billion, attributable to canceled sights, mine slowdowns/closures and difficulty connecting clients and rough diamonds for sale during the pandemic.
According to Barclays:
We believe the miners have to negotiate a delicate balancing act between supply and demand with the market remaining vulnerable to oversupply from major producers which, despite significant destocking in Q4, are still holding material rough inventory.
DeBeers is not the only miner reporting a positive start to 2021. Lucapa reported 4,676 carats of rough diamonds sold into Antwerp from their Mothae kimberlite mine in Lesotho. Commanding a record price of $1,198 per carat, the parcel contained a number of larger pieces, including the 101 carat D colored crystal unearthed at the end of 2020.
The “hits” keep coming for Lucara, as well. The miner kicked off 2021 with the recovery of a 341 carat high quality white gem diamond at the Karowe mine which continues a series of ongoing historic recoveries. That 341 carat diamond represents the 54th diamond greater than 200 carats to be recovered by that operation since 2015.
On the retail front, Signet’s stock climbed more than 6% after reporting its same store sales during the holiday season were up 5.6% compared to 2019. Most notably, the jeweler’s e-commerce sales rose nearly 61% year over year.
Like DeBeers, the positive results reported by Signet are likely attributable to flexibility and consideration for clients, given current world conditions. Whereas the miners have staged traveling and online tenders, along with extended timelines, the retailer launched new, pandemic-centric capabilities such as product shipping, “BOPIS” (Buy Online Pickup In-Store), more effective customer care assistance and improved online experience.