Big Diamonds – Not Just For Royalty Anymore

Dec 24, 2023

Distorted noises!!

In case one has been active lately on the various social platforms such as LinkedIn, X (Twitter), Instagram or other diamond and jewelry specialty platforms, one can’t avoid being flooded by contents bashing and attacking the recent popular and disrupting reality lab grown diamond (LGD’s) are causing every nook and cranny of our jewelry world.

That is a lot of noise!! And unfortunately its volume keeps accenting…

 

Industry Leadership Reflecting Signs of Panic

Every couple of days, we get slammed by plentiful posts and short articles all sounding pretty much the same, louding the crashing prices of lab grown diamonds. And the methodica is always about comparing values with natural diamonds which I must admit confuses me as I can’t seem to realize a connection between the two. Actually never could!

A few years ago the clamor was minus 70%, then it deteriorated to minus 80%, then to minus 90% and recently it seems to have reached minus 99%. – one might ask, minus from what, where?? Well, silly, minus from the world famous “RAPAPORT DIAMOND REPORT – Approximate High Cash Asking Price Indications”. (see fig 1)

Figure 1 – Rapaport Diamond Report Sample

The Rapaport “list” has generally been considered by consensus “the bible” of natural colorless diamond prices for decades (erroneously, in my opinion). There is not one respected diamantaire across the globe that is not a member or somehow connected to the Rapaport Group of entities in one way or another. If it’s the news offerings or any other multiple offered services such as auctions, sales platforms and the list goes on and on!

In fact (quite a surreal fact) I doubt we would be able to locate a diamantaire with independent abilities to value their own polished diamond inventory absent the Rapaport sheet by their side!! Absurd? It surely is!!! But I must admit I tip my hat to Martin Rapaport for bringing an entire industry to their knees absent his services…, simply genius!!! Sad reality but genial!!

Ignorance is Habitual

An entire global diamond industry keeps chanting the same tunes repeatedly when it is completely recognized that new technologies improve while their market value diminishes over time as mass production and marketing evolves.

A fun anecdote: I remember well when my late father purchased the first telephone answering machine in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s, it cost $600. That’s about $5,000 in today’s value! Today if you can find one it’s a couple tenths of dollars, maybe.

What really boggles my mind is how almost our entire global industry leadership is spending so much time, energy and budgeted-funds criticizing LGD value’s while expected to demonstrate higher understanding of the current realities and halt sweeping a whole industry down this unproductive and failing road!

After all, the years are passing and the industry’s continuous hostile opposition don’t seem to have stopped LGD’s continued exponential growth! The irony of the matter, to me at least, it seems as if our leadership are pushing their erred agenda more forcefully as time goes on, a surprising blindness or is ignorance really habitual?

I wrote many times, diamonds have a long allured history to offer, centuries of storied mysteries spanning across every global humanity offering its exclusive culture and arts, so much interesting and exciting content to be offered. And what do our industry leaders choose as battle weapons? Negative empty words that have no future vision nor context!!

Perhaps it’s time to hit the history books again??

Facing Reality!!

We as an industry won’t be able to move forward without facing facts laid in front of us which demonstrate a reality we keep choosing to look the other way!! Can we really afford this?
Does it really matter what is causing colorless (and to some extent colored) diamonds to continuously lose value in what is starting to appear as non cyclical fashion?

A recent IDEX Diamond Index chart which I am sharing (see fig 2) reflects this, at least from two years back polished diamonds have shown on average a constant downward trend. Although it is showing some leveling off and perhaps some slight uptrend, we won’t know if it’s a change of direction or a natural effect just before the all important holiday season. The verdict is definitely still out!

Figure 2 – IDEX Diamond Index – 12.2021 to 12.2023 (2 years)

If we have anything to learn from history on this subject, there is basically one major event that took place with similar signs to our current predicament. The natural pearl scenario, where Mikimoto cultured pearls (see fig 3) won over consumers in the early part of the last century and took many, many decades to regain natural pearls crowning importance which until then, lost most of their allure and basically remained almost completely valueless!

The question remains.., can we afford to ignore such a scenario from repeating itself with natural diamonds (colorless for now)?? I suppose we should all agree on the answer to this vital question.

Figure 3 – An antique 1906 Mikimoto advertisement

Recent Examples & Actualities

Since a lot of the bashers’ (unfortunately I don’t find them criticizers) case-noise is around how rare natural diamonds are, notably high quality colorless diamonds (I wrote a few words on this subject a short while ago), I decided to dig a bit into the numbers and facts of the rarest of the rare in the colorless diamond segment.

I specifically searched and located what are considered the purest colorless which earn the D color grade supplemented by the iconic “Type IIa” designations (which are diamonds almost completely absent of nitrogen) and the clearest clarities earning the top flawless and/or Internally flawless grade. What is considered the ‘crème de la crème’ by wide consensus.

There are a few facts that we can’t avoid altogether, and as someone who has been pulsing the high end diamond market for decades, I can definitely verify some occurrences taking place in that ultra rare segment mentioned above and their monetary values spreading across the last few decades.

Let me start with the two most recent significant diamonds sold at first tier auction houses just last month. Let start with the most recent example which was sold on December 5th. 2023 by Sotheby’s New York (see fig 4)

A recent example by Sotheby’s New York

A necklace “of negligée design, featuring a pair of pear-shaped diamonds weighing 28.45 and 28.21 carats, suspended from two rows of similarly cut diamonds weighing a total of 120.20 carats.”

Both the pear shaped diamonds are D – Internally Flawless (Type IIa), and if we disregard the additional 93 top quality diamonds, 120.20 carat total that make up the necklace in its entirety, and divide the total sale price of *USD 4,416,000 by the total carat of solely the pair (e.g. 56.61 carat) we still get to an average of USD 77,938.- per carat sold.

Based on my personal professional experience, if we look a few years back…, not many, perhaps five years, we would have no way to purchase one such 28 carat diamond for USD 4,400,000 total let alone such a pair. Well maybe just one!! But the message is stark and clear!

Figure 4 – A Magnificent Diamond Necklace – by Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels

A recent example by Christie’s Hong Kong

The next example I would like to share was sold a week or so before the former at the Christie’s Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels sale which took place on November 27 and was detailed as:
“an exceptional unmounted Round brilliant-cut diamond of 38.88 carats”, as with the former, this diamond is also a D color, Flawless clarity, excellent cut, polish and symmetry, Type IIa. (see fig 5)

This diamond was sold for *USD 3,900,000 total which translates to a per carat price of USD 100,308.- Again, based on my personal professional experience, just a few years ago, not 38 carat but ten carat + such diamonds would have easily fetched USD 200,000± per carat on the open market (not retail!!) Naturally a 38 carat should have fetched much more.

Both examples, which are just two out of plenty more such examples, are direct manifestations to the current calamity in value of the super sized, top quality colorless diamonds, or what industry professionals push as super rare natural diamonds.

I truly believe what we are witnessing in the last few years is definitely alarming and should be further studied and investigated to try and understand the root of the problem and its risks going forward.

Figure 5 – An Exceptional Unmounted Diamond – Christie’s Magnificent Jewels

The Hundred Carat Club Comparisons – Last Decade

Now, let’s move up a notch in our rarity spectrum. I went digging a bit deeper, with emphasis on locating and comparing value similarities on top quality colorless diamonds weighing one hundred carat (100 carat). And my findings which I am about to share are just mind boggling…

We must take notice, these three upcoming comparison examples I am about to share are all sales figures by two of the most recognized auction houses conducted just in the last decade (2013 – 2023). Each one of these diamonds is a comparable candidate, certainly the small variations between each don’t justify their extreme differences in any event!

A time span of a decade, when most any and every material or subject on the face of this earth inflated in their values significantly, the rarest of the rare colorless diamonds, and to some extent colored diamonds decreased in value significantly.

Time to check our modus operandi, you think?

The Hundred Carat Pear Shape Diamonds

In the year 2013, Christie’s conducted its Magnificent Jewels sale and offered a 101.73 carat, D color (Type IIa), Flawless clarity. The diamond was subsequently sold for approx. *USD 27,000,000 total (translated from Swiss Francs) or USD 265,000 per carat. It was later renamed by its new owner “The Winston Legacy” and proclaimed as “the most perfect diamond”.

Nine years later in 2022, Sotheby’s offered the “Juno Diamond”, a 101.41 carat, D color (Type IIa), Internally Flawless clarity. And sold it for *USD 12,963,500 total or USD 127,832 per carat.

Figure 6 – Comparing two 100 carat Pear Shaped Diamonds, 2013 – 2022

The Hundred Carat Emerald Cut Diamonds

In the year 2015, Sotheby’s conducted its Magnificent Jewels sale and offered a 100.20 carat diamond accompanied by a GIA monograph stating the diamond is D color (Type IIa), Internally Flawless clarity. This diamond sold for *USD 22,100,000 total or USD 220,558 per carat.

Six years later in 2021, a similar diamond called “The Spectacle”, a 100.94 carat, D color (Type IIa), Internally Flawless clarity, probably from Russian miner Alrosa sold for *USD 13,500,000 total or USD 133,742 per carat.

Figure 7 – Two 100 carat Emerald Cut Diamond comparisons, 2015 – 2021

The Hundred Carat Oval Cut Diamonds

Then in 2013, came up for sale at Sotheby’s a 118.28 carat which I believe still holds the world record for being the largest most expensive colorless oval shaped diamond to ever be auctioned. As with the previous examples, this diamond was also a D color (Type IIa), Flawless clarity and fetched an astronomical sum of *USD 30,559,000 total or USD 258,361 per carat.

Seven years later in 2020, with the hopes of replicating the incredible results of the former, Sotheby’s offered a very similar diamond weighing 102.39 carat which was also graded by GIA as a D color (Type IIa), Flawless clarity but to the surprise of many, this diamond was only able to fetch *USD 15,564,000 total or USD 152,000 per carat.

I bet what a surprise that was!

Figure 8 – Two 100 carat Oval Shaped Diamond comparisons, 2013 – 2020

*Total sale prices include a Buyer’s Premium ranging 15-26%

__________________

So let’s take a look at the facts laid in front of us, we can well notice ‘crème de la crème’ colorless diamonds appeared to be peaking in value around the beginning of the second decade into the new millennium.

By the end of that decade and moving into the third decade of the millennium, we clearly notice an austere downward trend in top quality natural colorless diamond values! And for those who know me, I consider myself a very simple but realistic guy, and since we all are familiar with Google, I went searching for a potentially simple answer.

I clocked-in ‘lab grown diamonds vs natural diamonds’ in the “Google Trends” worldwide search, and requested data ranging from 1.1.2013 to 15.12.2023, the relative period reflecting the above diamond sale examples.

And the chart (see figure 9) that came up is quite uncluttered and definitely presents data which I genuinely believe we as an industry can’t ignore anymore (period). It might not be absolute but definitely needs to flash red lights as bright as possible.

Figure 9 – Google Trends chart reflecting trends, LGD vs ND, 2013-2023

Natural colorless diamonds are definitely losing steam and popularity, not necessarily with diamond jewelry consumers but much more gravely.., by the global industry professionals themselves!!! And this might just be irreparable.

Digging Deeper pre 2000 – Historic Examples

Let’s look through a bit wider historic scope. I have some old records on sales of 100 carat colorless diamonds from pre year 2000, the early 1990’s. This data.., although quite limited in examples cant stop us from looking at the sad, sad reality colorless diamond values exhibit over a significant period of over thirty years!

Yes, those rarest of the rare as many keep on chanting.

Three examples were sold by Sotheby’s Geneva

The ‘Star of the Season’, a 101.10 carat, D color, Internally Flawless pear shaped diamond, sold in May, 1995 for USD 16,600,000 total or USD 164,000 per carat.

The ‘Mouawad Splendour’, a 101.84 carat, D color, Internally Flawless modified (11 sided girdle) pear shaped diamond, sold in November, 1990 for USD 12,700,000 total or USD 125,000 per carat.

The ‘Star of Happiness’, a 100.36 carat, D color, Internally Flawless rectangular shaped diamond, sold in November, 1993 for USD 11,800,000 total or USD 117,000 per carat.

How can we digest this information in more simple terms than.., presently (2023), comparable & incredible diamonds fetch far, far less value than thirty years ago. Cant get more simple than that!

Some wider perspectives

To widen the perspective a bit, contrary to today’s paradox, when a ten carat, a one hundred carat or anywhere in between D color, Flawless diamond might easily fetch a similar per carat price or value (there are plenty examples demonstrating this fact).

During the 1990’s the difference between the weight brackets were more distinct as the few following examples sold by Christie’s demonstrate:

In 1997, a 30.21 carat D color, Internally Flawless square cut diamond sold for USD 63,803 per carat.

In 1998, a 11.14 carat D color, Internally Flawless rectangular cut diamond sold for USD 48,560 per carat.

In 1999, a 20.26 carat D color, Flawless oval shaped diamond sold for USD 64,700 per carat.

In 1999, a 10.29 carat D color, Internally Flawless oval shaped diamond sold for USD 47,000 per carat.

In 1999, a 12.63 carat D color, Flawless circular cut diamond sold for USD 57,500 per carat.

In 1999, a 25.86 carat D color, Internally Flawless pear shaped diamond sold for USD 50,270 per carat.

Obviously there might be some variations present between the sampled diamonds but the disparity in value’s between them and the hundred carat examples sold in the relevant periods (e.g. 1990’s) are pretty factual!

Conclusion

I planned on concluding this article my way but going over some news articles on Sunday the weekend before Christmas, I ran into this very interesting article by “The Sunday Times”, it offered two interesting points which I chose to share as my conclusion.

The first is a factual reality quote:

“Traditional diamond producers face a new existential threat from the lab-grown variety, which have grown from just 0.3 per cent of the market in 2015 to 18.4 per cent now. [Dec 2023]”

And the second is a timely tale which also concludes the Sunday Times article, and a tale we as an industry must take into serious account moving forward!!

A lovebird writes

After four years together, my wonderful partner Katherine and I have finally decided to tie the knot. So it was that we found ourselves sitting in a Mayfair jeweller, picking out an engagement ring.

We sipped glasses of complimentary champagne while the sales assistant gently guided us through increasingly expensive gems. And although this was supposedly the same jeweller who made the late Queen’s engagement ring, a growing sense of unease gradually came over us. Were we really going to spend nearly half my annual salary on one piece of jewellery? Hmm.

A week later, we tried another jeweller, this time in Soho. But when Katherine asked the dreaded question, “Have you got anything bigger?”, I felt none of the panic I had experienced in Mayfair. That’s because we were in an “ethical” jewellery shop, where all the diamonds in front of us were grown in a laboratory. Even the jumbo stones were falling within our price range.

Unlike the hushed, wood-panelled atmosphere in the previous place, this shop felt modern and fun as Taylor Swift played through the speakers and a twentysomething saleswoman spread out gems in varying cuts and sizes on a tray in front of us.

In the beginning, Katherine was reluctant to “go synthetic”. She didn’t feel it was the “real deal”. But we discussed the financial, ethical and practical advantages and were reassured by our online research, which said synthetic diamonds are virtually identical to their natural counterparts. The ones she tried on were just as sparkly as the rocks we saw in Mayfair, and the lower price meant we didn’t have to compromise on size or design.

Although there is certainly something special about owning a diamond formed over billions of years, it felt good knowing a ring that will hopefully be worn for ever won’t have any of the bloodshed or environmental impact associated with mined diamonds. Even vintage rings can’t get away from that.

We came away empty-handed that day, deciding instead to save up a bit longer for a house deposit. But when the time comes for us to tie the knot, with less weight on our conscience and my bank account, lab-grown seems a no-brainer.

I will conclude with my wishing all my readers and followers Happy Holidays and mostly a healthy and brighter 2024.

About Yoram Finkelstein

About Yoram Finkelstein

Mr. Finkelstein a proud second generation Diamond cutter. In 2010 He founded GemConcepts Ltd. which specializes in designing and cutting unique Diamonds using a new approach, a new philosophy. GemConcepts design Diamonds that mix the “old world” approach with the newest cutting-edge technologies.

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