Hong Kong Show 2017: Demand Improved, But Still Spotty
October 20, 2017
Demand for loose diamonds was stronger than expected at the September 2017 Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair. Most was centred on very specific sizes and qualities, with the market favouring larger companies that carried a full range of goods. Smaller firms that serve market niches found business very slow if they did not have the goods to match specific requests.
Demand was strongest for larger (3-plus ct) sizes and medium qualities - I to K colours and SI clarities with Excellent cut grades. The Chinese market is starting to revive, but buyers remained price-conscious and avoided the top colours, exhibitors said.
The reason for such selectivity is that stock levels of polished stones remain quite high, so retailers were only buying goods for which they had an immediate need.
“Demand has improved,” said an executive of one major diamond firm. “But it’s still not high enough to deplete current stocks in any meaningful way.”
Stock levels continue to concern banks serving the diamond industry. Three years ago, most of those banks instituted a requirement that a third-party auditing firm must confirm the values of stocks. De Beers and other producers have instituted the same requirement “to ensure their knowledge of diamond stocks is accurate,” said the executive.
Fancy colour diamonds remained a staple of the Hong Kong shows, but still-lofty prices put a damper on buying. Prices for fancy pinks, blues and top yellows have remained stable in the past two years, which has removed the urgency to “buy now or pay more later,” dealers said. In reality, dealers have little room to manoeuvre on prices because competition to buy these stones from producers remains intense, along with the prices.
ARGYLE PINK DIAMONDS
Argyle previewed its 2017 pink diamond collection at the Peninsula Hotel in conjunction with the Hong Kong show. The centrepiece of the collection is a 2.11 ct GIA-graded Fancy red, VS2 diamond Argyle calls the Argyle Everglow, named after a song by the British group Coldplay. The cushion-cut diamond attracted most of the attention at the gathering.
The four other diamonds from the 58-stone collection on display were: the Argyle Isla, a 1.14 ct radiant-cut Fancy red; the Argyle Avaline, a 2.42 ct Fancy purple-pink; the Argyle Kalina, a 1.50 ct. oval Fancy Deep pink; and the Argyle Liberte’, a 0.91 ct. Fancy Deep grey-violet.
Alrosa conducted its annual tender of polished and rough diamonds at the show. The centrepieces of the tender were the five D, VVS1 “Dynasty Collection” diamonds cut from the 179 ct The Romanovs rough diamond found two years ago. The largest stone is a 51.38 ct round brilliant, followed by a 16.67 ct pear shape, a 5.05 ct oval, a 1.73 ct pear and a 1.39 ct oval.
Alrosa’s deputy director of sales, Evgeniy Tsybukov, said the rough was approximately oval shaped but had a feather that would make the polished an SI clarity.
“We studied the diamond for six months, deciding whether or not to try for a 100 carat oval,” he said. “Then we decided to make multiple diamonds from the stone.
The Dynasty collection diamonds will be sold via online tender in October.
Synthetic diamond sellers took several spaces at the show, but prominent signs at the entrances to the diamond hall at the Asia World Expo announced that many of the 1,000 + diamond firms exhibiting had pledged to sell only natural diamonds. Accordingly, the companies selling synthetic diamond were housed across the hall in the coloured stone area.
Demand for coloured stones, pearls and finished jewellery was slow for the second straight year according to exhibitors, as the Chinese market continues to struggle with a reduction in demand for luxury products.
Dealers reported that sales of higher quality, untreated ruby, sapphire and emerald were better than last year, though nowhere near the levels of three years ago. Demand for quality jade also rebounded from last year, despite continually lofty prices.
Requests for treated stones were very slow, they said, and even less so for heavily treated low-priced goods, such as glass-filled ruby and diffusion-treated sapphire.
There was much more Paraíba-type tourmaline offered at this show than previous years, mostly at high prices, except for the obvious greenish material. By contrast, tanzanite, which had been shown in abundance at previous shows, was scarce.
Traffic in the finished jewellery section of the show in the Hong Kong Convention Centre was much stronger than last year, but business was concentrated on the high end of the market. Exhibitors selling more commercial lines said orders tended to be cautious and limited – filling in stocks of popular items.
Russell Shor is senior industry analyst at GIA in Carlsbad.