What is the fastest growing segment of the diamond industry? By price, by demand, by supply, from mine to finger, and just about every point in between? Take a rough guess. Unusual, organic, and inherently one-of-a-kind, rough diamonds and flat diamond slices are one of the most important new trends in diamond jewelry today. And demand for these diamonds is starting to change the diamond market.
In India, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and Russia, miners now sift through tailings for diamonds to be sold at retail in rough diamond jewelry. Sorting houses are isolating flat stones, die stones, attractive boart, carbonadoes, rogue shapes without cleavage planes or with major flaws or cracks, as well as heavily included crystals, cubes, macles and ballases (spherical cubes), that for half a century were crushed for industrial uses.
And cutters in New York, Ramat Gan, Antwerp, and Mumbai have perfected new lasering techniques to isolate marketable rough stones from formerly unusable chunks and to slice low-millimeter thicknesses of rectangular rough, particularly the hyper-elongated flat known as a “point,” into multi-carat diamond sheets. Dealers, who gave these stones away a decade ago at a buck or two per carat, now get $200 or $500 per carat, and even four figures for bigger flats, matched pairs, or more perfectly shaped crystals or saturated fancy colors.
Dealers like Prashant Goenka of Vinod Kotahwala, Inc., a New York fancy specialist, are opening polished accounts with sizeable rough inventories. Particularly the off-whites and grays “that people most associate with rough diamond,” says Goenka, but also “attractive yellows, browns, grays, even oranges,” and larger flats. “I think that last one is all about value. A 2 carat flat diamond reads like a 5 carater.”
Designers looking for inspiration, eco-friendly aspirations, or simply to create value amid historically high diamond and metals prices, are the most important customers for these diamonds. But there is none of the bottleneck that can occur in a supply chain when a single, competitive segment becomes the link in the chain.
Jewelry pieces set with rough diamonds, still a small part of the market, are selling through at breakneck pace. The New York-based high-end rough jewelry specialist, Diamond in the Rough, which opened doors such as Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, has closed the books to new accounts for 2008, unable to keep up with production demands.
Retailers, from the craftsman boutiques to almost all the major Fifth Avenue doors, have bought into the look, bolstered by coverage in The Wall Street Journal, “The Today Show,” and magazines like Harpers Bazaar. Not to mention the countless celebrity clients who wear rough and red carpets teeming with multi-carat rough pieces. Los Angeles designer Neil Lane, who’s dressed a pantheon of Oscar and Grammy winners in rough diamond jewelry, and also partnered with De Beers Jewelers on several rough jewelry lines, says “the look is just beginning to catch on, with no sign at all of it being a fad.”