Amidst continuing waves of uncertainty, fostered by Covid variants, travel restrictions, climate change and supply shortages one thing that’s certain is the importance of diamonds and jewelry to consumers.
Jewelry sales continue to increase, exceeding pre-pandemic levels in many cases. From department stores to luxury brands, in America and China sellers have reported strong demand and sales in 2021. The demand is reflected upstream, where rough imports and exports through India are nearly double what they were in 2020.
The pandemic interrupted India’s ability to turn rough into polished diamonds. Accustomed to shared equipment, cafeterias and dormitories, the country’s migrant polishing workforce disbanded and returned home. The country has only partially resumed operations, yet the Rapaport Group reports polished diamond exports through July 1, 2021 are nearly that of the country’s total output from 2020. This is happening despite recurring on-again, off-again Covid stoppages.
India’s low output of polished diamonds in 2020 can be correlated with surging natural diamond prices. The RapNet Diamond Index (RAPI) is the world’s largest aggregation of real-time prices for loose diamonds traded B2B around the world. At the end of August, 2021, Rapaport reported that natural diamond prices had increased 26.3%, compared to their pandemic low-point in April, 2020. It’s interesting to note that diamond prices have trended closely with the S&P 500, which tracks the performance of 500 primary companies listed on stock exchanges in the United States.
Ultimately, consumer demand drives price increases and decreases. PriceScope.com tracks retail prices for more than a half-million loose diamonds offered for sale by the world’s most notable online sellers, including Blue Nile, JamesAllen.com and others. Their August Diamond Prices report reflects the dynamics seen in wholesale prices since the April 2020 low point.
According to PriceScope.com:
This August the average price per carat for a round diamond of 1 – 1.4 carat G color VS1 clarity is $8,576 compared to July 2021 which was an average price of $8,350. The average price per carat for round diamonds continues to increase as the diamond industry recovers from the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chain Stores Surge
As the world went into lockdown many industry entities endured a huge drop in value.
This included the world’s largest jeweler Signet, parent of companies like Kay’s and Jared, among others. After temporarily closing 2,800 stores, what Signet did over the course of the pandemic, stretching into 2021, has increased the company’s value 10-fold. Their e-commerce sales rose a staggering 61% in 2020, compared to 2019, primarily due to their new “Path to Brilliance” program offering digital solutions for shoppers. They have not looked back since, with sales exceeding pre-pandemic levels in 2021.
Likewise with Luxury
Buccellati, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels spearheaded a 129% increase in sales for luxury group Richemont over the quarter ending June 30. This triple digit boost occurred in sales across nearly all regions, channels and business areas. The Jewelry Maisons accounted for the lion’s share of growth – or panther’s share, if you will – surging to $1 billion (+143%) for watchmakers and nearly $3 billion (+142%) for jewelry. The fashion and accessories maisons accounted for another $519 million (+124%). Compared to 2019, jewelry sales were up by 43% and the Swiss luxury group were up 22% as a while, with strong performance reported in the Americas, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa.
Upward Global Trend
According to Mastercard U.S. Jewelry sales were up 82.6% in July, compared to July 2020, and 54.2% compared to 2019. And, on the world stage, the steady demand seen in the USA is reflected in the Chinese marketplace. According to Rapaport, Chao Tai Fook is up 70% year on year for the quarter ending June 20, 2021. As China’s share grows it there’s potential for a new situation overseas. Essentially, Indian diamond sellers may be confronted with two heavily competing markets and can start selling to whichever market is willing to pay more.
The takeaway? Around the world, people continue to value the enduring symbolic, aesthetic and emotional value of jewelry. I think that’s a good thing.