From the Sublime (De Beers) to the Ridiculous (Lil Uzi Vert)February 04, 21
Two diamond stories that appeared in the mainstream media stood out for me this week. One was a very respectable tale from the finance pages about De Beers announcing its biggest sight revenue for three years. The other was just about the weirdest diamond story you're likely to read, about a rap singer having a $24m pink diamond implanted in his forehead. From the sublime to the ridiculous. Let's talk about De Beers first. After all, there can barely be a week when the world's biggest diamond supplier (by value) doesn't appear in the diamond media. It's less than a year since they recorded a big fat zero for sight 3. But After a robust recovery they sold $650m (provisional figure) of rough last month in spite of - or possibly even because of - the ongoing pandemic.
CEO Bruce Cleaver cited the Chinese New Year and Valentine's Day as significant seasonal demand drivers but that may not tell the whole story. Last Year the corresponding sight brought in significantly less - $551m - and 2019 netted $500m. The figure for 2018 was $672m and in 2017 it was $729m. January can be buoyed by landmarks in the calendar, but not always, and the fact that Chinese New Year in 2021 will be a couple of weeks later than it was in 2020 may make a small difference. De Beers are said to be encouraged but not massively surprised by the results of last month's sight. To put things into perspective, there was a widespread reduction of inventory in 2019 and last year was largely a no-show for the industry in general because of coronavirus. Surat, the main manufacturing hub, suffered repeated lockdowns, and even when it did open up factories could only work at half-strength. But there was plenty of pent-up demand, not least because luxury travel - traditionally the biggest rival to diamond sales - was no longer an option. So the big spenders turned to gems instead.
Pic courtesy Twitter
Which neatly brings me to Lil Uzi Vert. He's not so well-known in the diamond media, but he's something of a hero - and an extremely well-paid one - in the world of rap music. The 26-year-old performer has already decorated his face with multiple tattoos and piercings, and he has now had a pink diamond, reckoned to be just under 11 carats, embedded in his forehead. The story first surfaced on rap-related websites, but in recent days it's been picked up by mainstream media globally. Early reports said he was about to have the stone implanted, later ones appear to confirm he's actually gone ahead and done it. I was in two minds about posting the story. Does it belong on an industry website, or is too outlandish, too extreme, too showbiz, too trivial? I decided it did belong. The purchase of a $24m pink diamond would be of interest under any circumstances. People like Vert - real name Symere Bysil Woods - support the industry with big purchases, however unusual their end use. Having a one-off gem permanently attached to your body is, admittedly, less common than having it mounted in a precious metal. But people have their iPhones encrusted with diamonds, have their Covid facemask made of diamonds or have their Rolls-Royce finished with crushed-diamond paint. The only difference here is that it's disturbingly intimate and - with apologies to Mr Woods - a very weird thing to do. "If I lose the ring yeah U will make fun of me more than putting it in my forehead ha ha," he joked to his millions of followers on Twitter. But it runs much deeper than that. He's telling the world he's made it, and nobody can look him in the face without knowing it.
Have a fabulous weekend!