(Bloomberg) — At the latest De Beers diamond auction this week, buyers shopping for the kind of stones used to make an average engagement ring were in for a sticker shock: some prices had ballooned by 10% since the last sale. News of the unusually sharp increases spread swiftly through the community of 80-odd handpicked De Beers customers, according to people familiar with the discussions. But what followed was even more remarkable: within hours, some of those same stones were trading hands at a further 10% markup, as buyers who have access to De Beers flipped them to traders and manufacturers that don’t.
The spiking prices — and buyers’ willingness to pay them — are the latest sign of roaring demand in the secretive rough-diamond trade. Just nine months ago, the industry had been brought to a standstill by the pandemic. Now, the cutters and polishers who form the backbone of the global diamond market are competing fiercely for stones.
There’s several reasons behind the surge: major retailers in the U.S. and China are buying aggressively to keep up with strong sales, while rough diamond supply is tight because De Beers and rival Alrosa PJSC have limited supply to put onto the market. Perhaps most importantly, polished diamond prices — which have long weighed on the industry — are finally rising.
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