Diamonds: De Beers Execs Visit U.S., Forevermark’s Grading Machine & More

De Beers Comes to America

In January, three top De Beers execs hailed the end of its 70-year exile from the United States. “De Beers has been banned from doing business in the United States for the last 70 years. Tonight, we are back,” CEO Philippe Mellier told a packed meeting at the Diamond Manufacturers & Importers and Association in New York City, Jan. 8.

“We hope De Beers will grow its presence in the U.S.,” Mellier later told JCK. “We hope to be able to visit our customers in their factories. To have [U.S.] headquarters, we don’t know if that is necessary. But we will be back.”

In the last few years, executives have appeared at U.S. charity events and industry forums, yet this marked the first time they had discussed business publicly. (The change was generally credited to settling the $300 million antitrust lawsuit against De Beers.) Mellier said De Beers was ­changing into a consumer-driven company and the industry also needs to become a ­“normal luxury goods business.”

At the DMIA, Forevermark CEO and De Beers vice president of marketing Stephen Lussier sounded unenthusiastic about reinstating one feature of De Beers’ monopoly days: generic marketing for diamonds. “One has to be careful to never say never,” he said. “At the same time, you have to look forward.”

Asked if he would support an industrywide generic marketing initiative, Lussier said “we are always open to any ideas,” but added that parent company Anglo American had a negative experience with the World Gold Council.

Executive vice president of global sightholder sales Varda Shine said the United States now has a 37 percent share of the diamond market, down from its one-time high of 50 percent. But diamonds “are a great business to be in,” she said, as demand will likely outstrip supply in the years to come.

“The challenge is: How do we make sure consumers stay with us?” she asked.

True Blue

In October, Lucara Diamond Corp. recovered an ultra-rare 9.46 ct. type II blue diamond at its Karowe mine in Botswana. The stone ultimately was sold at a Nov. 26 tender for $4.5 million. That works out to $477,272 per carat. Lucara’s president and CEO William Lamb says the stone will polish out to a fancy blue with VVS1 or better clarity.

Making the Grading ­Machine

Forevermark CEO Stephen Lussier knows the most reliable color grader in the brand’s Antwerp diamond lab: its new diamond grading machine.

The proprietary device now weighs in on the lab’s color grades, and the company is developing an automated clarity grader as well.

Forevermark’s new diamond grading machine is the most reliable grader in its Antwerp diamond lab.

“We don’t use it alone; we do still use humans,” Lussier says. “But one of the things we have learned is that even the best human will only be right eight out of 10 times when color grading. The eyes can’t see things the whole day.”

Lussier says he doesn’t think the machines will replace humans—but that “they do have an amazing ability to photograph at high speeds.”

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