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GCAL Releases Second Episode in Diamond Profile Podcast Series

Industry leaders discuss the state of the diamond market.

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(PRESS RELEASE) GCAL (Gem Certification & Assurance Lab) has announced the launch of the second in its new Podcast series: Diamond Profile. “As with our first episode, GCAL is continuing to bring to the industry real-time information from respected industry experts,” said founder and company president Don Palmieri. Angelo Palmieri, COO of GCAL, continued: “We set the bar pretty high with our premier broadcast, featuring two top executives from Stuller. So today, with so much going on in our industry, especially the diamond sector, we understood the importance of offering perspective from industry insiders who are truly tuned in to what’s going on around us.” 2020 continues to be one of the most, if not the single most challenging year in all our lifetimes. Everyone is focused on protecting their family, keeping themselves safe, protecting friends and colleagues, and of course, protecting their businesses.

Angelo further explained: “In business, we all have so many critically important questions. We’re searching for insight into the global activities that will continue to impact and shape the everyday decisions we need to make here at home. And we are honored to have Ronnie VanderLinden and Jeffrey Fischer to offer their perspectives. Their insiders’ awareness, based on a great many years of experience as leaders and veterans in our industry, is invaluable.”

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Ronnie VanderLinden is currently president of Diamex, Inc., a diamond manufacturer and wholesaler.  He is president of the DMIA (Diamond Manufacturers & Importers Association), IDMA (Int’l Diamond Manufacturers Assn), and United States Jewelry Council, an umbrella organization of 16 US associations.  Ronnie is former chairman of the Board of the New York Diamond Dealers Club, treasurer of the World Diamond Council, president of the 24 Karat Club; and board member of AGS and JVC.

Jeff Fisher is currently president of Fischer Diamonds, Inc., a family-owned diamond manufacturer and wholesaler.  He has served as a member of the Board of GIA, chairman of the JVC, president and now honorary president of IDMA, president of the DMIA, and is a founder of the World Diamond Council. He also serves on the advisory board of the Diamond Development Initiative, whose mandate is to improve the living conditions of struggling diamond diggers in Africa, and to help create acceptable standards for artisanal diamond mining. He is also a past president of the 24 Karat Club of New York, and currently serves as Chairman of the Board.

In this second episode, Ronnie and Jeff discussed many of the issues that will impact our industry, with a particular focus on the upcoming holiday season. Included were the ongoing supply chain disruptions… viable diamond centers other than India, and the unique challenges each faces… the key diamond mining companies… the critically important issues in the natural vs. lab grown debate… diamond exchanges… price lists… and much more.

Supply Chain Disruption

India is the world’s primary diamond manufacturing country by far, with plus or minus 90% of the world’s production today. And production is being profoundly affected by the pandemic.

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  • “Inventory in the pipeline continues to be whittled down, more closely in line with current demand. But there are spot shortages arising, with more shortages anticipated.”
  • And the good news? “Just this past month, India jumped back into the rough market and bought very heavily –to the tune of about $700 million.”
  • “The good news is the factories are operating again… and the good news is there’s speculation the holiday season may end up stronger than first predicted.”
  • In the category of diamonds vs. other luxury items… “While other luxury products are either flat-lining or in a negative situation, jewelry, and specifically diamonds, are the one luxury item that is seeing growth. And we see this growth continuing.”
  • Advertising support… “NDC is coming out with an ad campaign for the holidays that should help each and every single one of us.”
  • Don’t get boxed in… “Everything doesn’t have to be H/SI1, or G/VS2 or I/SI1. You have a range, and the range is affordable.”
Warning: The Disconnect

There appears to be a disconnect between what suppliers are projecting and what retailers are expecting for the season.

  • “Yes, but small to middle independent retailers have the luxury of playing things closer to the vest. Whereas the large mass retailers need to anticipate their needs many months in advance to have their goods. The majors are going to be confronted with much more of a challenge filling their wish lists.”
  • Bottom line… “4 grainers, carat and below, 3 grainers, 1/3s – it looks as though they will be in short supply, at least for the moment. The holiday season remains to be seen.”
Supply Chain Diversification

Determining the viability of other diamond centers, including Israel, Antwerp, Dubai, New York, China and Hong Kong. Is cutting shifting from India?

  • New York… “There aren’t many factories left in New York.”
  • Israel… “Shut down for the next couple of weeks, but they do have a few factories left.”
  • Dubai… “There might be one or two factories…”
  • Hong Kong… “Because of recent legislation, exports from HK must be labeled as made in China. But HK is a very active trading center, not really a manufacturing center.”
Potential Quality and Size Shift
  • “We’ve seen a quality shift into some of the better markets – VS1s and VS2s.”
  • “SIs remain very hot in the mid range. Very hot.”
  • “I’ve seen that people are willing to make exceptions today. So if something doesn’t fall into their specific range, they will look at other categories.”
  • What’s hot… what’s not – “1 carat stones are extremely hot. But 5 grainers and those sizes that were incredibly hot at one point are a little bit softer.”
  • Consumer perception… “When a well made diamond brings, as consumers would say, that sparkle, whether it’s an SI quality or internally flawless, to the eye, they’re both stunning.”
Price Changes
  • “Prices are stable to going up.” “Items in demand are definitely going up.”
  • “Pre-Covid prices on certain products were very soft because they weren’t moving.”
  • Critical observation: “Items on the periphery or out of favor are not going down. They are holding their own, and this is a very healthy sign.”
Shapes Demanding the Highest Prices
  • “Rounds are still the most popular shape. Ovals are the hottest fancy.”

Natural vs Lab-Grown Diamonds

Is Lab-Grown Being Embraced, or Is the Battle Lingering on?
  • “I see natural and lab grown coexisting in the market in the years ahead.”
  • “Many who said ‘absolutely not’ to lab grown are today enjoying selling them.”
  • “Both segments of the industry seem to have come to their senses.”
  • “When and if the mines are depleted, we will need an alternative.”
Sources of Supply
  • “Large manufacturers today are actually doing both, but have separate companies for lab grown.”
    Companies purely established for government and scientific uses of lab grown are now starting to dabble in the jewelry industry.”
  • Does size or other shifts in one, impact the other?
    “The two communities will coexist, but they are independent.”

New Trading Platforms And Price Lists

The competition has seemingly gained new life over the last 5-6 months, since the well publicized “misstep” of the leading platform.

  • “It was the timing of the price drop that the industry reacted to, not the lowering of prices.”
  • “I think most of us are using more platforms than we were using before.”
  • “Competition is a good thing. It will force everybody to raise their game.”
  • “New price lists are entering the market, some of which are very transparent.”

Looking Forward (With Hope and Optimism)

  • “Barring any unforeseen circumstances, we’re looking forward to a reasonably good holiday season.”
  • “As we have through many, many other crises facing our industry, we’ve come out of it stronger.”
  • “There’s no question we’ll be operating our businesses differently today than we did yesterday, and certainly we’ll be operating differently in the future.”
  • “As long as we work together as an industry, not as individuals, we’ll come out of this pretty strong.”

Future podcasts will continue to feature interviews with leaders of our industry, running the gamut from retail chains and independents to online retailers. From manufacturers and wholesalers to media and marketing executives. For more information about current Ronnie VanderLinden/Jeffrey Fischer podcast, or our lineup of future interviews, contact Steve Feldman at 212-869-8985, ext. 119… [email protected]. You can also contact Steve for more information regarding the GCAL Guaranteed Certificate, or its many other exclusive products and services.

All recording and editing of this podcast have been done by Award-winning recording engineer, and GCAL’s own Derek Box, in GCAL’s lab studio.

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