The New De Beers Meets an Old Dilemma

Nicky Oppenheimer once admitted that the industry doesn't always need De Beers. "People often say, 'We don't need De Beers,' and it's true, in good times you don't," he told JCK in 1998. "It's in bad times that people recognize the benefit of the CSO." Today the CSO (Central Selling Organisation) is just a memory, but for an industry that again faces rocky economic terrain, it's a vivid memory. Weak Christmas 2000 sales caused the pipeline to bulge with low-end "American goods." (Other items, like better-quality, better-made goods of 2 cts. and above, remain hard to find.) Industry people again feel they need a De Beers, but no one's sure which De Beers they will see. Will it be the new De Beers, the one that no longer considers itself the industry "guardian," the one that's tired of underwriting not only industry advertising but also a billion-dollar stockpile? Or will it be the old

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