The Great Diamond Crash

May 14, 2008

If I had to take a guess, I would estimate that there are over one billion carats of diamonds in the hands of consumers. That is over 100 times the annual consumption gobbled up for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and even Super Bowl rings. The diamond markets for consumers exist in two categories; commercial grade (bluff stones) and non-commercial (the good stuff). A good diamond is defined as a “diamond that will hold its value and/or appreciate in value over time.” The current “cut rate” (distribution of commercial to non-commercial diamonds) is 49 to 1. For every good diamond that is sold in the US there are 49 crummy (commercial) ones. The average resale value of a commercial grade diamond is 19.7% of the original dollars paid; the average resale value of a non-commercial grade diamond is 85%– worst case, 60%; best case, 100% or better. Diamonds have never been considered an investment instrument after one billion dollars was lost by consumers buying diamonds as a hedge against inflation in 1980.

But, it appears some lessons aren’t easily learned. For anyone who has been paying attention, you would have noticed that large, investment grade (IF, VVS1, VVS2 & D, E, F) diamonds have been sky rocketing in prices! Currently a 5ct D,IF is selling for over 3/4 of a million dollars. That’s about double what it was just a few years ago. However, we don’t have to look hard to see other commodities mimicking the same exponential, unrealistic growth. Oil, gold, platinum, rice, wheat, etc… everything is up! Way up! The question is this: is this the new reality or have we fallen down the rabbit hole? The prices people are paying for some diamonds is reflecting a market mania. The current diamond climate is creating a craze very similar to the tulip mania in the early 1600s in Amsterdam. Believe it or not, back then, at the height of the mania, a tulip went for $76,000 a bulb! Six weeks after smart money got out, the price had fallen to a dollar!

Within 12 months there are going to be a lot of sad people sitting on a lot of big investment grade diamonds that will be worth a fraction of what they paid. My advice is this: for the next year, stay away from 2ct+ investment grade diamonds unless you are willing to be a statistic in the great diamond crash of 2009. If you are going to buy a 2ct non-commercial rock that isn’t investment grade, you will still have to pay at least 20% more than what its cash liquidity is worth! That said, if the world ever wakes up and realizes that nobody really needs a diamond and everyone goes to the market to sell at the same time, tulips and diamonds will have more in common than being pretty; they’ll both be a cautionary tale.

by Fred Cuellar, author of the best-selling book “How to Buy a Diamond.”
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The founder and president of Diamond Cutters International, Fred Cuellar is one of the top diamond experts in the world, as well as a three-time Guinness Book record holder in jewelry design.
Fred Cuellar
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