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Facts and details

  1. 1. HYPERLINK "http://factsanddetails.com/" Facts and Details<br />Top of Form<br />Bottom of Form<br />Global Top > World Topics > 02Diamonds, Gems, Pe<br />DE BEERS, LEV LEVIEV AND THE DIAMOND BUSINESS<br />DE BEERS, LEV LEVIEV AND THE DIAMOND BUSINESS<br />Value and Price of Diamonds<br />Diamond Business<br />Doing Business in the Diamond Business<br />Diamond Producers<br />De Beers<br />De Beers Monopoly<br />De Beers Business<br />Diamond Sales in London<br />De Beers Consumer Marketing<br />Lev Leviev, the Man Who Broke the DeBeer’s Cartel <br />Diamond Cutting and Polishing Business in Belgium<br />Retail Diamond Sales<br />Harry Winston<br />DE BEERS, LEV LEVIEV AND THE DIAMOND BUSINESS<br />Value and Price of Diamonds<br />Diamonds aren’t as rare as many people think. About 35,000 kilograms of them were mined worldwide in 2006. They are deemed valuable because people regard them as valuable and supplies are carefully controlled so the market doesn’t collapse. <br />The price of diamonds peaked in the late 1980s when the price for a D-color, near flawless diamond sold for $5,200 for a half carat, $23,000 for a carat, and $165,000 for three carats. In 2001, the price for the same diamonds were $3,900 for a half carat, $16,500 for a carat, and $122,000 for three carats. <br />High quality gems are still rare and very valuable but small, imperfect diamonds used in consumer jewelry are not as rare as their producers and marketers want you t believe. Their high prices and perception of value is manly the work of De Beers.<br />Some economists insist that the high price of diamonds is entirely artificial. They argue that if the laws of supply and demand were allowed to do their thing that the value of diamonds would be considerably less. The monopoly maintained by De Beers keeps diamond prices high.<br />On the value of diamonds, a New York diamond dealer told National Geographic, "Diamond are not really a commodity like gold or silver. You won’t but a stone from a jeweler and then sell it back to him for the same price but they definitely the easiest way to move value around." He said he knew one man who had to escape from Iran with virtually no warning. he had not time to sell his property or visit the bank but he time t pick up $30 million worth of diamonds and leave."<br />A Mark van Bockstael, a member of the Diamond High Council in Antwerp told National Geographic, "They are a form of currency. They back international loans, pay debts, pay bribes, by arms. In many cased they are better than money." <br />In the United States, the Gemological Institute of America appraised and graded diamonds according to their clarity and color. In 2005 the appraised reported that four of its employees were fired because they appraised gems more than they were valued after the were bribed by a small group of diamond dealers. . <br />Websites and Resources on Gems: All About Gemstones allaboutgemstones.com ; Minerals and Gemstone Kingdom minerals.net ; International Gem Society gemsociety.org ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Gemstones Guide gemstones-guide.com ; Gemological Institute of America gia.edu ; Mineralogy Database webmineral.com ; <br />Websites and Resources Diamonds: Info-Diamond info-diamond.com ; Diamond Facts diamondfacts.org/about/index ; Diamond Mining and Geology khulsey.com/jewelry/kh_jewelry_diamond_mining ; Diamond Mine mining-technology.com/projects/de_beers ; Costellos.com costellos.com.au/diamonds ; DeeBeers debeers.com/page/home/ ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; American Museum of natural History amnh.org/exhibitions/diamonds ; <br />Book: The Heartless Stone: A Journey Through the World of Diamonds, Deceit and Desire by Tom Zoellner.<br />Diamond Business<br />In 2001, the diamond industry produced rough diamonds with a market value of $7.9 billion. This was converted into jewelry worth $54 billion. <br />The diamond trade grew from $20 billion in 1985 to $50 billion in 1998 and now employs around two million people worldwide, many of them involved with industrial diamonds. The gem diamond market is essentially broken into two tiers: one for top-quality large stones two carats or larger; and a second market for smaller stones used into the commercial jewelry business. In general, this business is characterized by large turnovers and thin profits. <br />More than 800 million stones of gem and industrial quality are produced every year. Most are only a fraction of a carat. Natural industrials called port account for 70 percent of all diamonds mined. The top tow consumers of gem-quality diamonds are the United States (48 percent) and Japan (19 percent).<br />In 2001, about 120 million carats of rough diamonds were mined globally. Together they weigh less than 24 tons and would easily fit in the bed of one large dump truck. The cost of mining these diamonds was around $2 billion. They were sold to producers about $7 billion. By the time they reach customers their worth mushroomed to $50 billion, with a lot of people along the way getting a cut or being paid a wage..<br />Doing Business in the Diamond Business<br />The diamond market is very tricky. There are all kinds of different grades and specifications. High-quality stones are defined as those above five carats with few flaws or inclusions (spots caused by graphite). The market is largely controlled by top gem-quality diamond dealers and manufacturers known as diamantaires.<br />Most diamonds fresh from the mine are sold through diamond bourses, or diamond trading clubs. In the early 1980s there were 16 clubs in ten countries with about 1,800 members. Members say that trust is the bedrock of the business and deals involving hundreds of thousands of dollars are often struck with no more collateral than a handshake.<><br />The big money is made with the large carat stones. Much of this business in the United States is controlled by Hasidic Jews. Andrew Cockburn wrote in National Geographic, The diamond businesses "revolves around personal contacts and connections, thrives on rumor and gossip and cherishes secrecy. Multimillion -dollar deals are clinched with a handshakes and the word mazal , Hebrew for "good luck." Van Bockstael told National Geographic, "Nothing is what it seems in the diamond business, and half the time you don't even know if that is true."<br />The diamond business is regarded as a tough nut to crack. A Tel Aviv diamond merchant told the New York Times magazine, “The diamond company is usually a family company. People accumulate wealth slowly, over generations.” Many diamond businesses have tight security. Some have systems in their offices that photograph and fingerprint every person who enters. <br />In late 2008, demand for top-quality diamonds drove up prices of such stones to record highs with a 10-carat, “D” flawless diamond selling for $155,000, up from $110,000 just six months earlier. Prices were pushed up by the rapid growth and increasing number of rich people in China, India, Russia and the Middle East as well as by shortages of supplies of big stones, What was s remarkable about the price rise was that it occurred when sales were declining in the United States, the world’s biggest diamond market. <br />Much of the buying took place among diamantairs—top gem-quality diamond dealers and manufacturers. Diamond analyst and buyer Martin Rapaport told Reuters, “many diamantaires, having lost confidence in the dollar and expecting increasing large diamond prices due to consistent imbalances between supply and demand, now prefer to keep their wealth in diamonds instead of dollars. <br />Diamond Producers<br />The opening of new mines in the Northwest Territories has made Canada the world thirds largest producers of diamonds after Australia and Russia. While South Africa is famous for diamonds, particularly big ones, it produces far less small gem-quality and industrial diamonds than Australia, Russia and Canada. <br />In 1995, the top diamond producing countries produced 85 percent of the world's total. About 60 percent of the world’s rough diamonds come from Africa. <br />Diamond producers (mine production in carats in 1997): 1) Australia (40,200,000); 2) Russia (19,100,000); 3) Botswana (16,000,000); 4) Congo (15,000,000); 5) South Africa (10,170,00); 6) Namibia (1,500,000); 7) Angola (1,234,000); 8) China (1,130,000); 9) Brazil (900,000); 10) Ghana (700,000); 11) Central African Republic (500,000); 12) Zimbabwe (450,000); 13) Guinea (200,000); 14) Sierra Leone (200,000); 15) Liberia (150,000); 16) Venezuela (150,000); 17) Rest of the World (386,000).<br />Major diamond producing countries (supply in millions of carats in 1995): 1) Australia (38.5); 2) Russia (21.9); 3) Zaire (19); 4) Botswana (15.6); 5) South Africa (11); 6) Angola (4.4); 7) Brazil (2.3); 8) Ivory Coast (1.5); 9) Namibia (1.3). [Source: Terraconsult BVBA and Time magazine]<br />Major diamond producing countries (value in millions of dollars in 1995): 1) Botswana and Russia (1,300); 3) South Africa (1,200); 4) Zaire (696); 5) Angola (606); 6) Namibia (375); 7) Australia (346); 8) Brazil (120); 9) Ivory Coast (115). [Source: Terraconsult BVBA and Time magazine]<br />Largest diamond producing countries (2001); 1) Botswana, 2) Namibia, 3) South Africa, 4) Republic of Congo, 5) Sierra Leone, 6) Angola. Australia???, Russia???, Canada. Small qualities come from India, Brazil, Indonesia, Myanmar. <br />Argyle Field in West Australia is the world's richest diamond producing area. In 1983 the field yielded over 6.2 million carats. Few of the diamonds, however, were of gem quality.∑ Zaire is the world's leading producer of industrial diamonds. The U.S. imports the lionshare of its industrial diamonds from Ireland, Zaire, Britain and South Africa.<br />The last big kimberlites to be discovered were found in the Northwest Territories of Canada in the early 1990s. They are now being mined. Some large mines, like those in Argyle, Australia, are reaching the end of their lifespan. Some think that the last of the great diamond sources have been discovered and diamond production may someday die and be replaced by synthetics. <br />De Beers<br />De Beers, the powerful South African diamond enterprise, controls about 40 percent of the gem-quality diamond trade (43 percent from its mines in southern Africa and the rest through contracts to sell diamonds for Russia and Canada). In 2006, it controlled about 40 percent of the world market. It used to control 80 percent of the market. In the 1920s, it controlled 90 percent. In 2000, it controlled about 75 percent of the rough diamond market and posted sales of $5.6 billion. <br />De Beers was founded in 1888 and survived two world wars, the great Depression and the uncertainty of consumer demand. It has assets of $21 billion and controls an empire whose reach extended from the great diamond mines of South Africa, Australia, and Siberia and the sorting rooms of London, Antwerp and Tel Aviv. The focus of the distribution side of its business is it 125 major trading partners.<br />De Beers wholly owns all 11 of its diamond mines in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia and control 50 percent of the world's rough stones in value terms. It owns the purchasing rights for mines in Russia and Australia. Major diamond-producing countries with mines not controlled by De Beers include Angola, Zaire, Ivory Coast and Brazil. Most of the their non-South African assets are held by the Swiss company called De Beers Centenary AG. <br />De Beers Monopoly<br />De Beers is arguable the world's most effective, successful and profitable commodity cartel and monopoly in existence today. It controls every phase of the business: mining, distribution and marketing. Fluctuations in supply and demand have traditionally been regulated through a stockpile of unpolished diamonds in the London office vaults. It is the world’s largest stockpile of its kind and has traditionally been valued in the billions of dollars. In the past any group that threatened the monopoly was harshly punished by De Beers who flooded the market from its stockpile <br />De Beers claims that their monopoly is benign and it benefits everyone involved, the same argument made by Bill Gates for Microsoft. In their defense, they have helped keep prices for diamonds high and stable, while prices for things like gold and silver have plummeted, hurting everyone involved in those commodities. Dealers complain, however, that there never seems to be enough diamonds to meet demand and they have to pay the prices dictated by De Beers. <br />In a interview in 1979 Harry Oppenhiemer, Sir Ernest's son, told National Geographic: "People call us a monopoly, but we cannot control production to any extent, nor can we control the market. We do have enough money to stockpile gems and control prices. The price fluctuations accepted as normal with other raw materials would be destructive of public confidence in the case of a pure luxury item such as gem diamonds. If this is a monopoly, it benefits all concerned: producer, dealer cutter, jeweler, and consumer.". <> <br />A glut of new diamond supplies have saturated Western markets and pushed De Beers to the brink of crisis and threatened the De Beers Monopoly and caused diamond prices to fall. Threats have come from Russia and Angola, which have "leaked" million of diamonds on to the world market ( See Russia and Angola) and Northwest Territories, where rich deposits of gem-quality diamonds have recently been discovered. <br />De Beers Business<br />De Beer's has cornered the diamond market by setting diamond prices and controlling the main marketing channel for the world diamond supply through a select group of 125 buyers known as "sightholders" in London. Lucern and Johannesburg. The Central Selling Organization (CSO), the De Beers marketing network, handles most of diamonds from mines it doesn't own by controlling their production through purchasing rights agreements. <br />De Beers stock increased in value between 1984 and 1994 by 465 percent. In the late 1990s the stock didn't perform so well. In 1999 and 2000 De Beers sold half of its $5 billion stockpile. <br />In July 2000, De Beers announced that it would retreat from its 70 year practice of "supply management"—better known as "monopoly pricing" in which it controlled prices by stockpiling diamonds. The company said it would no longer stockpile diamonds to create false scarcity. Its aid it would reduce its $3.9 billion stockpile of uncut diamonds to $2.5 billion by the end of 2001.<br />In 2001, the Oppenheimers turned De Beers into a private company through a leveraged buy out organized by the Oppenheimer family and the Anglo American mining giant, both of which hold 45 percent of the new De Beers Investment. <br />DeBeers flooded the market with an estimated $5 billion worth of rough diamonds when it was privatized in 2001. The move led to a suppression of diamond selling that lasted several years. <br />DeBeers remains powerful despite being squeezed my competitors in Canada, Russia and Australia. De Beers' main rival is Rio Tinto. In November 2000, De Beers lost out to Rio Tinto in its bid to buy 40 percent of Argyle, the world's largest mine, in the Kimberly region of western Australia.<br />In 1945, the United States began antitrust proceedings against De Beers. The company left and to this day has no business interests in the United States. In 1994, De Beer was indicted from price fixing. Its executives never set foot in the United States for fear of being subpoenaed. European regulators have opened an antitrust case against De Beers and plan to rearrange its relationships with its trading partners in the raw-diamond market.<br />DeBeers spends $100 million on exploration each year. It brought four mines news online in 2008. The most promising new kimberlite sources are in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.<br />Diamond Sales in London<br />Most of the world's gem-quality diamonds are sold by De Beer's Central Selling Organization at DeBeers headquarters at 17 Charterhouse Street near Smithfield Market in central London. The fortress-like headquarters is protected by one the world's most sophisticated electronic surveillance system. The buildings are made of thick concrete. Getting in requires negotiating your way through a maze of locked doors and red security zones. <><br />Ten times a year 100 dealers from around the world are invited by De Beers to a second floor room at the London headquarters to buy these diamonds. The dealers, called sightholders, are selected at least partly because they do not complain about quality and they will not sell too many of the diamonds at wholesale prices. After being offered tea or coffee, the sightlholders, nearly all men, are brought lunch-box-size, yellow, plastic briefcases that contain slightly less than half the total carats of gem-quality diamonds released to the world every month. <br />The prices for diamonds over 10.8 carats are set but negotiable. Those for diamonds under 10.8 carats are not negotiable. Three weeks before the “sight” dealers submits lists of request. During the "sight" they are offered an allotment of different size and different quality diamonds in a plastic zip bag inside briefcases. The allotment is either accepted in it entirety at a price set by De Beers or rejected. It is not possible pick and choose. If a dealer selects a package he has one week to pay for it in United States dollars.<> <br />The diamonds come from Zaire, Tanzania, Russia, Sierre Leone, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and several other countries. The cost of each box is $1 million to $30 million. It is implicit that the dealers will make healthy profits as long as they follow the rules.<br />For a long time the number of sight holders was limited to 100. When one of them left they were decertified and a new one was selected. Of the 330 "sightholders," in the 1980s 64 were from the United States, 58 from India, 51 from Israel, and 90 from Belgium.<> <br />Diamond cutters and merchants generally are not able to buy diamonds from sightholders. They have to get the rough diamonds from “secondary dealers.” <br />De Beers Consumer Marketing<br />De Beers is credited with opening up the diamond market to ordinary people. Before it came along aristocrats and monarchs were the only people who could afford diamonds De Beers introduced the "Diamond Is Forever" advertising campaign in 1939 and has used with great effectiveness all over the world since then. <br />De Beers spends $180 million a year on advertising, most on glossy magazines. Their advertisement, known in the advertising trade as "shadows," with an elusive female figure and her lover, is regarded as one of the most successful advertise campaigns in the history of business. The advertisements are geared both for women, who love and wear the diamonds, and men buy them and win or show their love with them. <br />De Beers introduced the idea of diamond engagement rings. Engagement rings were not been part of Japanese courtship ritual until the diamond cartel De Beers created a market for them with television advertising and print ads in women's magazines beginning in the 1960s, presenting them as symbols of Western sexuality and affluence. In the 1966 only 6 percent of Japanese brides received any sort of engagement ring, and those who did usually received a pearl one. Only 1 percent received a diamond ring.<br />By the early 1980s, two thirds of all engaged women received a ring, and three quarters of them got diamond rings. By the early 1990s, 90 percent fo Japanese brides received a diamond ring when they got married. The Japanese retail diamond market was worth $12.6 billion in 1991, and despite the collapse of the bubble economy Japan remains the world’s second biggest market for diamonds. [Source: Washington Post]<br />De Beers established a diamond retailing venture with the luxury goods company of LVMH of France. <br />In 2001, De Beers introduced the of branding its diamonds with a De Beers label and marketing the De Beers brand. They did this partly so that De Beers would no be associated with "conflict diamonds." The De beers diamonds cost about 10 to 15 percent more than comparable diamonds without the De Beers label.<br />Lev Leviev, the Man Who Broke the DeBeer’s Cartel <br />Lev Leviev is the founder and head of company that is the world’s leading diamond cutter and polisher. A Bukharan Jew born in Uzbekistan, he is regarded as the richest man in Israel. His real estate holdings span the globe from the former Soviet Union to Europe to the United States. Among his assets are railways in Russia, 7-11s in Texas, shopping malls in Israel and the former New York Times building in Manhattan, which alone is said to be worth $525 million. Trained as a diamond cutter, he grew up poor, emigrated to Israel as a teenager in 1971 and is so confident of his cutting skills and steady hands that he has performed more than a thousand ritual circumcisions—many on the sons of employees in his various businesses. In 2007 he was ranked by Forbes as the 210th richest man in the world. The magazine estimated his worth to be $4.1 billion. Others say the true figure is close to $8 billion. He is leading benefactor is Jewish causes. [Source: Zev Chafets, New York Times magazine, September 16, 2007]<br />Leviev is credited by some with breaking the back of the DeBeers cartel. Working out of the office of his U.S. diamond company, LLD USA, situated in Manhattan’s diamond district, he was able to achieve what he did by getting his hands on a large share of the world’s uncut diamonds, which traditionally have been at the heart of DeBeer’s ability to maintain its monopoly. A Tel Aviv diamond merchant told the New York Times magazine, “When Leviev started out, all he had was an amazing amount of ambition and the ability to understand the stone, Understanding the stone—that was the key.” Leviev himself said, “I never doubted that I would get rich. I knew from the time I was 6 hat was destined to be a millionaire. I’d go with my father to shops, and while he talking business, my eyes automatically counted the merchandise.” <br />Leviev’s first big break came when he became a DeBeers’s sightholder, a milestone he reached through hard work and harnessing the industriousness of his family. His second big break came when he forged crucial contacts in Russia in 1989 as the Soviet Union was coming apart. To do that he had to give up his sightolding place, a tremendous sacrifice. <br />Leviev came to Moscow on the invitation of the Soviet minister of energy and was able to exploit his connections in the Jewish community to set up diamond-rleated businesses in Russia. “When I got there, Gorbachev was till power, but you could see that things were coming apart,” he told the New York Times magazine. In Russia, Levied established a high-tech cutting and polishing plant and showed the Russians how they could take control of their own diamond industry. In Angola he forged close ties with country’s president , Jose Eduardo Dis santos, who speaks fluent Russian from his days as an engineering students in the Soviet Union. <br />The Tel Avi diamond merchant said, “he was breaking the rules, going after the source. When he succeeded in Russia, and then in Angola, others saw it and were suddenly emboldened. That’s how Leviev cracked the DeBeers cartel. With the instincts a tiger and the balls of a panther.” Leviev now presides over a top to bottom diamond company that embraces mines in Russia, Angola and Namibia, cutting and polishing operations and outlets that sell diamonds wholesale and retail.<br />Diamond Cutting and Polishing Business in Belgium<br />Antwerp is still regarded as world's diamond trading and cutting capital for big stones. One third of De Beers buyers are found here and they reportedly account for 60 percent of all diamond transactions. The diamond trade accounts for $4 billion a year and 6 percent of Belgium's total exports. In the 1990s about 16.8 percent of all polished diamonds imported into the United States came from Belgium by weight of carats and 27.4 percent by value in dollars <br />Antwerp accounts for over 40 percent of the world's diamond cutting and polishing and 60 percent of the trading of large diamonds. Many of the diamonds that originate in southern Africa pass through here on their way from the mines to the jewelry stores; arriving here as raw and uncut stones and leaving as marvelous multi-faceted gems. <br />The first documented diamond deal in Antwerp was recorded in 1447 but the industry didn't take hold into the 19th century when Ashkenazi Jews arrived from Central Europe and built up the city's diamond exchange. The Jewish population of Antwerp dropped from 50,000 to 800 during the Holocaust. The trade for rough and polished stones revived after World War II but the crafts of cutting and polishing moved from Belgium to India, Thailand and Israel. The number of diamond workers declined from 19,000 in 1968 to less than 3,500 today. <br />Most of the world's uncut stones are traded from diamond exchanges in London and Antwerp. Hasidic Jews and dealers from India, South Africa, Zaire and Lebanon walk the streets on Antwerp. The Diamond Exchange in Antwerp has vaulted ceiling windows because before the advent of fluorescent lamps diamantaires only trusted natural light.<br />Antwerp is also known as the center of the diamond black market. Thieves often come here to sell their stones. Buyers purchase them as off the books investments. The appeal of diamonds is that they small, easy to conceal—you can walk around with a million dollars in the your pocket and that much money in diamonds is much easier to hide and more difficult to trace than cash. [Source: Fred Ward, National Geographic, January 1979 [<>]<br />Diamond cutters in Antwerp specialize in cutting stones with odd shapes. Belgian craftsman are known for their unsurpassed skill and the largest diamonds in the world have been cut in Antwerp. Cutters use diamond dust and olive oil on their saws.<><br />P.N. Ferstenberg was honored with the title "Dean of the Diamond Industry" by the Belgian Government, the diamond industry and the diamond workers. As the title clearly indicates he gets on well with most every one. Still he caries a large automatic weapon in his pocket. "With diamonds" he said, "you can not be too careful.* <br />Retail Diamond Sales<br />The United States is the biggest market for diamond jewelry accounting for roughly half of the total market. Each year 1.7 million American men buy diamond rings.<br />Diamond jewelry accounted for half the $59.4 billion in jewelry—which includes watches and costume pieces—sold by retailers in the United States in 2005. <br />Zales is the largest diamond retailer in the U.S. It operates 1,500 stores and an additional 800 kiosks<br />The Internet diamond trade is surprisingly robust. The online sales company Blue Nile is a big success, with little overhead it can sell diamond for 35 percent less than even large chains like Zales. The average diamond it sells is $5,500, compared to an industry average of $2,700. It has been so successful that it has put many jewelers out of business and cut the profit margins of large retailers. <br />Harry Winston<br />Harry Winston is one of the most famous diamond retailers. It was founded by Harry Winston, the son of a New York jeweler, who was born in 1896 and founded his own brand in 1932. The company owes its success to its focus on cutting the largest possible diamonds from rough stones and designing jewelry that looks good on a woman’s skin. In the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe sang, “Talk to me, Harry Winston, Tell Me all about it!” Among the stones that Harry Winston brought into the United States was the Hope Diamond. After Winston’s death in 1978, his stores and company were taken over by a mining company. <br />The Hope Diamond is believed to have been mined in India. It had a reputation of being cursed because it was said that every one who owned it came to a disastrous ending. The demand Harry Winston purchased it in 1949 and traveled with it often, without any misfortunes. He donated it to the Smithsonian in 1958, where it is now rests in the Harry Winston Gallery. <br />Image Sources: 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) 8)<br />Text Sources: Mostly National Geographic articles. Also the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wikipedia, The Independent, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications. <br />Page Top<br />© 2009 Jeffrey Hays <br />Last updated March 2011 <br />Questions or comments, e-mail ajhays98@yahoo.com | About This Project | Support and Donations<br />