South Africa. The De Beers monopoly of 102 years has come to a close with the company’s privatization. The new consortium held by the Oppenheimer family, Anglo America, plc (mining conglomerate) and Debswana (De Beers/Botswana joint-venture) will now compete in an ever-changing marketplace. First up is a plan to select those sightholders who can better market De Beers diamonds as a consumer brand, changing the traditional distribution channels.
The prospect of deals with producers (like Russia) and maintenance of stable rough pricing will be challenges facing the new company as well as their control of two-thirds of the world’s diamond production.
China. With the new Chinese dominance of the cultured pearl market, the pricing of pearls has become trickier. Since the loss of native Japanese farm production, the Chinese have not only picked up the slack, but are producing huge quantities that now rival the original Japanese Akoya product. In fact, it is the same oyster being used in Chinese waters under the direction of Japanese experts. The pearls are grown at considerably less cost, then shipped to Japan for final processing where it becomes arguable who is the producing country.
So now, China is producing not only an assortment of freshwater pearls – from baroque to round, but saltwater pearls of all qualities, driving prices down as large quantities flood the market.