Diamond prices softened in September as suppliers worked to liquidate old stock. Sentiment improved as trading returned to normal at the Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair, with steady demand for goods at lower prices.
The RapNet Diamond Index (RAPI™) for 1-carat diamonds slid 0.7% in September and 2% during the third quarter. The index is down 4.5% since January 1, and has dropped 7.4% in the past 12 months.The Rapaport Monthly Report – October 2017 notes that lower prices have presented buying opportunities for jewelers at a time when they require inventory for the holiday season.
Manufacturers’ profit margins remain squeezed, as Alrosa and De Beers have held rough prices steady while polished demand has been sluggish. Rough prices on the dealer market and at auctions were down in September as trading slowed ahead of the October 19 Diwali festival. Indian suppliers have enough inventory to maintain their operations until Diwali, when factories typically close for two to three weeks.
The rise in inventory levels and the occurrence of Diwali means rough trading is expected to remain quiet through October and November. The number of unique stones listed on RapNet rose 21% in the first nine months of the year to 1.43 million diamonds.
Dealers are now focused on filling US holiday orders. Jewelers require less stock than before as they adjust to a changing retail environment. Still, expectations are rising for the holiday season, as jewelry retail sales in both the US and China are showing signs of improvement. A strong season should translate to stronger diamond demand in the first quarter of 2018, providing much-needed support for polished prices.