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Johan Erikson: The industry needs to spend more on advertising and marketing

08 june 2020

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Image credit: narciso1 (Pixabay)


johan_erikson_xx.pngFirst Element is a fully independent Diamond Services Company registered in Belgium, Botswana, South Africa and Dubai.

First Element is committed to providing a world class diamond service aimed at adding value to the entire supply chain, from the daily recoveries of diamonds at mines to putting them up for sale at tenders, thus optimizing the value of stones sold.

In this interview with Rough & Polished First Element’s Managing Director Johan Erikson talks about the pandemic impact on diamond trade and the tenders his company managed to hold and intends to continue, as well as about future polished prices and diamond marketing.

Did the COVID-19 pandemic affect First Element’s tenders?

It most definitely had an effect on our tenders and across the entire industry. Thankfully, we managed to conclude all of our tenders at the beginning of the outbreak and the income received helped the producers tremendously in these times.

Many tenders from other producers in the market had to be cancelled or showed a large percentage of withdrawals, with some of them not being able to complete tenders that had already been running.

However, since the lockdowns around the world were put in place and subsequent travel bans were enforced it has made the logistical planning of the tenders very difficult.

What measures have you taken to maintain your tenders in these uncertain times?

It was imperative for First Element to allow all their buyers from around the world the opportunity to bid and participate in their upcoming tenders. This can now be done from their own offices due to the upgrades made to the First Element online infrastructure and secure online bidding platform. The buyers will be able to view and bid on the diamonds with confidence using the information provided to them which in turn will keep them competitive in our future tenders.

The clients will have access to high resolution professional-grade pictures of diamond parcels as well as in-depth information on the breakdown of the composition of each parcel. This will be consistent with our regular assortment which is very well known and relied upon by our existing clients.

Additionally, for select premium stones, we will provide advice on the color, clarity and specific features of the stone. We will also make a downloadable file available to allow the buyers to work on the stone.

But most importantly First Element will make a three-person expert panel available to clients to discuss and advise on these select stones. This panel has over 100 years combined experienced in diamond polishing, diamond marketing, diamond planning and diamond valuation. By appointment First Element will host a Zoom meeting and provide opinions and advice on the stone and answer any questions the potential buyer may have.

Are you sure about the buyers’ interest towards tenders today?

Tenders are still by far the best method to sell for the producers as it allows for strong competition due to the high attendances. This lets the producers know that they are getting the best possible price in the current market conditions.

Similarly, for the clients, it allows the following advantages: they can bid on the precise parcels and diamonds that they need; they bid on goods that they understand and that they are comfortable in manufacturing; they can bid a price they feel comfortable with.

What are the next scheduled First Element’s tenders?

We have a tender scheduled in our offices in Johannesburg, South Africa from the 18th to the 23rd of June 2020 and then in the Antwerp Tender Facility from the 6th to the 10th of July 2020.

How do you feel about lab-grown diamonds?

Investors and customers that understand the true value of a natural diamond will rather buy a diamond that will protect their investment. At this point, lab-grown diamonds have yet to prove that.

In your opinion, which strategy of the two is most in demand today - reducing sales by diamond companies and maintaining prices for diamonds, or maintaining sales volumes and reducing prices?

None of the above. In order for our industry to survive, the mines have to survive. Many of the mines will not be able to continue operating with lower prices. It is therefore up to us as an industry to protect the mines and make sure that manufacturers and diamond cutting firms make a sustainable profit and also ensure that clients get value for their investments.

How do you think the prices for polished diamonds will change in the near future?

Polished prices should gradually increase as will everything else in life. This in turn will let buyers see diamonds as an investment again.

When can we expect a recovery in demand for rough diamonds?

This is a very difficult question. We will have to see the industry return to normality again.

In the current situation, do you think it is necessary to spend more or less money on marketing diamond products?

I feel that the industry needs to spend more on advertising and marketing to ensure the demand for diamonds and sustained increase in prices. This will protect mines, dealers, manufacturers and also retailers.

Alex Shishlo, Editor of the Rough&Polished European Bureau