Feature

Hong Kong Show 2017: Demand Improved, But Still Spotty

Russell Shor
October 20, 2017
The Argyle Pink Diamonds in a row: oval shaped Fancy Deep pink, cushion cut Fancy purple pink, cushion cut Fancy Red, radiant shaped Fancy red and radiant shaped Fancy Deep gray violet.
The 2.11 ct cushion cut Argyle Everglow Fancy red diamond is the centerpiece of the 2017 Argyle Pink Diamond Tender. The highlights of the collection were displayed at the Hong Kong show. From left: the Argyle Kalina, a 1.50 ct oval shaped Fancy Deep pink; the Argyle Avaline, a 2.42 ct cushion cut Fancy purple pink; the Argyle Everglow; the Argyle Isla, a 1.14 ct radiant shaped Fancy red; and the Argyle Liberte, a .91 ct radiant shaped Fancy Deep gray violet. Photo courtesy of Rio Tinto.

Demand for loose diamonds was stronger than expected at the September 2017 Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair. Most was centered in very specific sizes and qualities, with the market favoring larger companies that carried a full range of goods. Smaller firms that serve market niches found business very slow if they did not have goods to match specific requests.

Demand was strongest for larger (3-plus ct) sizes and medium qualities - I to K colors and SI clarities with Excellent cut grades. The Chinese market is starting to revive, but buyers remained price-conscious and avoided the top colors, exhibitors said.

The reason for such selectivity is that inventory levels of polished stones remain quite high, so retailers were buying only 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 offtake current inventories in any meaningful way.”

Inventories 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 inventories. De Beers and other producers have instituted the same requirement “to ensure their knowledge of diamond stocks is accurate,” said the executive.

Fancy color 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 removes the urgency to “buy now or pay more later,” dealers said. In reality, dealers have little room to maneuver on prices because competition to buy these stones from producers remains intense, along with the prices.

An overview of a crowded hallway at the show.
Attendance was up at both Hong Kong September shows. Demand for loose diamonds was stronger than expected, but buying was cautious for gemstones and finished jewelry. Photo by Russell Shor/GIA

ARGYLE PINK DIAMONDS

Argyle previewed its 2017 pink diamond collection at the Peninsula Hotel in conjunction with the Hong Kong show. The centerpiece 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 gray-violet.

ALROSA DIAMONDS

Alrosa conducted its annual tender of polished and rough diamonds at the show. The centerpieces 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 DIAMONDS

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 colored stone area.

Three nautilus shell-shaped Paraíba-type tourmalines sitting on a piece of velvet fabric.
These carved Paraíba-type tourmalines weigh a total of 58.08 carats and were offered by Kleinman & Co., San Francisco. Photo by Russell Shor/GIA

COLORED GEMS

Demand for colored stones, pearls and finished jewelry 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 at the finished jewelry section of the show in the Hong Kong Convention Centre was much stronger than last year, but business was concentrated on the high end. Exhibitors selling more commercial lines said orders tended to be cautious and limited – filling in inventory of popular items.

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