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Commentary: The Business

With the Magic of Diamonds Diminished, the Trade Is Threatened

What’s causing this slippery slope?

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WE MAY BE witnessing the demise of diamonds.

Diamonds are valuable for several reasons:

  • They are rare. (People will argue this but try paying to get one out of the ground — it’s expensive!)
  • They represent emotional magic.
  • They confer status.

The slippery slope:

Diamond grading came along with GIA leading the charge. People started looking at grades more than magic. Greed had too many merchants selling based on paper and discounting. Salesmanship took a backseat. That eroded the magic. The internet added velocity to the equation.

Many felt they could make money via memo by selling from their kitchens. Minuscule margins but drop-shipping: easy money! They thought that they could take a $5,000 diamond and sell it for $5,200 and they were making $200. They were drastically wrong. That eventually proved out, and all those Internet sellers went under and disappeared. In the meantime, they put a pretty good ding in the diamond business.

Then came the problem that wholesalers, some out of greed, some out of desperation, started selling retail directly to the end consumer. To the dismay of many, De Beers has gone that route.

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Now, many retailers are not stocking diamonds, but only getting them on memo when needed. Everyone is feeling the pinch.

But these are little problems. Now the big problem: Lab-created diamonds have come along and they’re creating a big flap.

Years ago, CZs were seen as a threat. They weren’t. This is different.

For the first time, “real” diamonds are available at very affordable prices and dropping fast. Years ago, they were expensive to produce, so they were no threat to the market. But that has changed. Production costs have dropped enormously, and so finished prices have, too.

Yes, some people are always going to want the “natural” diamond. But part of the reason people buy diamonds is because they can show them off. When people see a big diamond, they know it’s a very valuable purchase. With the advent of true synthetics, value is no longer obvious.

Prices of lab-grown diamonds have been heading for the basement. With uncertainty of origin, natural diamonds have dropped in price, too. Depending on who you talk to, 20% and more.

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The magic of naturals is evaporating. It’s not a temporary blip. I saw this trend beginning over 20 years ago, and it’s going to continue. I hope I’m wrong, but it doesn’t look good.

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Moving Up — Not Out — with Wilkerson

Trish Parks has always wanted to be in the jewelry business and that passion has fueled her success. The original Corinth Jewelers opened in the Mississippi town of the same name in 2007. This year, Parks moved her business from its original strip mall location to a 10,000-square foot standalone store. To make room for fresh, new merchandise, she asked Wilkerson to organize a moving sale. “What I remember most about the sale is the outpouring excitement and appreciation from our customers,” says Parks. Would she recommend Wilkerson to other jewelers? “I would recommend Wilkerson because they came in, did what they were supposed to and made us all comfortable. And we met our goals.”

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