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“Soaring inflation, reduced disposable income, consumers’ ability to purchase will be the scenario,” warns Antonio Cecere, President, Geneva Diamond Exchange

01 august 2022
antonio_cecere_xxn.pngAntonio Cecere is the Managing Director of Cecere Group which operates in the diamonds and luxury goods sector, and it includes Cecere Monaco, an alternative investment boutique firm specializing in diamonds, Regina Monte Carlo, a fashion jewellery brand, Cecere Laboratories, an FMCG brand specialized in Cosmeceuticals, Helix Pharma, a biopharma producer.

Besides business, Antonio Cecere is involved in many other sectors including being a lecturer and a public speaker and Founder - Vice President of Monaco Diamond Exchange - a non-profit association incorporated in the Principality of Monaco to ensure compliance with the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme; as the President of Geneva Diamond Exchange, a non-profit association incorporated in the Swiss Confederation that ensures compliance with the international trade regulations; and Chairman of Diamonds Standards Organization, a Swiss NGO that protects professionals and reassures customers on the ethical sourcing of polished diamonds.

As a public speaker, Cecere regularly speaks at universities, like the Bicocca University of Milan and economic forums like The Wealth Forums and WealthPro Russia. Cecere served as Professor at the International University of Monaco (INSEEC).

In 2016 Antonio Cecere received the Honorary Diploma from the International Police Association in the Principality of Monaco for his merits in the ethical diamond trade. In the past, Antonio Cecere held senior positions at Swarovski, Montblanc, Burberry, Bally, and Babette Wasserman. Cecere specialized in turnarounds, and is experienced in Diamonds, Luxury Goods, Jewellery and Watches with a proven track record in creating commercial success in international markets including North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, China and Japan.

At Swarovski in 2013, Cecere created the strategy and led the team responsible for the fastest turnaround of an acquired company ever recorded at Swarovski Group since 1895; at Montblanc in 2008 Cecere worked on the repositioning of the brand and was rewarded by Montblanc, the second largest company of the Richemont Group, with the Award for Contribution to the Business. In 2006 Antonio Cecere was awarded in the United Kingdom by Her Royal Highness Princess Royal the UK Export Award after receiving nominations for four consecutive years with the brand Babette Wasserman Jewellery for services rendered to the industry and in particular for the export of jewellery. In 2000 Antonio Cecere worked on the retail image of Bally to reposition the brand in the luxury goods market after the acquisition by Texas Pacific Group…

Here, in an exclusive interview with Rough&Polished, you can read Antonio Cerere's candid comments on the current global diamond industry’s status, spoken without any prejudice.

Some excerpts:

What is the current landscape of the diamond trade?

The diamond sector is experiencing unprecedented scenarios and today a political, economic, social

and technological (PEST) analysis is perhaps the most comprehensive tool to observe all the variables and interpret the stimuli.

World dynamics recently changed. How do you think political events impacted the diamond trade?

From a political perspective, the Russian-Ukrainian crisis invariably affected global economies; the impact on inflation is not restricted to the region as the sanctions intended, but it rapidly extended across markets worldwide.

The inability of banks to transact, and companies to trade are the first steps towards a de-globalization process. From energy to commodities, the cascade effect flows through the supply chains causing a reshaping of entire industries.

The diamond trade suffers from several key component : Russia is a primary diamond producer, therefore the output is invariably reduced; a stronger US dollar negatively affects margins of traders from non-US dollar-based economies, like Europe; the gold price increase raises the cost of jewellery manufacturing and reduces consumers’ affordability; the soaring inflation decreases consumers’ ability to purchase and the lack of liquidity reduce disposable income.

The global diamond industry thrives on the strong jewellery and watches sector’s sell-out performance. Therefore, what is your view on the current state of the economy concerning consumers’ markets?

This year, US consumers’ market, supported by higher lending at low-interest rates, was giving strong signs of growth and this boosted global jewellery sell-out following the two years of the pandemic. Concurrently, the lower output of diamonds during the same period ensured that the diamond prices increased, particularly in the smaller carat sizes.

We now may be entering a different scenario starting with the recent lockdowns in China due to a new wave of a Covid variant which caused the Chinese jewellery market to grow stagnant again. The cost of living is now destined to increase because of the energy and commodity crisis, and interest rates may rise affecting consumers’ liquidity whilst inflation continues to soar. All these stimuli may harm sell-out in the coming months and jewellery consumers’ markets may contract.

From a social-responsibility perspective, what are the biggest challenges the industry faces presently?

In the last two decades, ethical diamonds sourcing has become a prerogative for the socially conscious consumer. Shoppers have grown aware of the meaning of ethical footprint and pretend reassurance at the point-of-sale from retailers when buying jewellery.

However, today we are facing a new dilemma which relates to the sanctions; there is a loophole that refers to diamonds of “Russian Origin” which are sold through China, cut in India and can be legally imported into US in full conformity of sanctions. The rough diamonds mined in Russia are subject to substantial transformation as they are cut and polished abroad and therefore, they are eligible to be traded in full respect of regulations. This brings back to the discussion table the validity of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, its role in regulating the rough diamond trade in Africa, and what defines a conflict-free diamond.

One of the major topics regarding technological advancement in the diamond industry, besides blockchain applications, is lab-grown diamonds. Your thoughts?

India’s mid-to-long-term strategy is to become a major player in this segment just as they became the largest natural mined rough diamond cutters and polishers.

Synthetic lab-grown diamonds are finding their position in the marketplace; the prices are stabilizing rendering this product non-competitive with natural mined diamonds. Bain & Co.'s latest annual report on the diamond sector prices them at 14% compared to natural diamond prices, therefore a further decrease in value compared to 2020 when they priced them at 20%. However, the decrease in value principally affects the lower-grade whilst higher quality manufactured diamonds are keeping more stable. The pandemic might have also affected this process, however, my view remains that these products are non-competitive with natural diamonds because they target consumers that were not existing natural diamonds clients, whether due to affordability or personal preference.

Aruna Gaitonde, Editor in Chief of the Asian Bureau, Rough&Polished