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The main factor that impacts the price increase of colored diamonds is that fewer diamonds are unearthed every year

15 august 2022
miri_chen_xx.pngSeasoned senior hi-tech executive Miri Chen, the CEO of FCRF joined the Fancy Color Research Foundation five years ago.

Before heading the FCRF, Miri served as Head of Business Operations and Chief of Staff at global technology companies. Her close interactions with top authorities in the diamond industry provided her with valuable expertise and made her even more passionate about the field.

Miri now leads the foundation, setting its vision and strategy roadmap, developing its dynamic products and services, and providing its members with innovative solutions that enhance fancy color diamond proficiency.

Miri is no stranger to corporate community involvement and outreach. She has a long record of incorporating social responsibility and volunteering for charities in Israel and around the world.

At the FCRF as well, doing business and doing good go hand in hand. The FCRF’s proud partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation means that for every membership, a significant portion is donated to fulfill the dreams of chronically ill children. As Miri explains, “Our involvement with the Make-A-Wish Foundation represents the core values of the FCRF. Diamonds are precious, but nothing is more valuable than doing something for someone else.”

Here, in an exclusive interview with Rough&Polished, Miri Chen speaks about FCRF, coloured diamonds and its future.

Tell us about FCRF’s progress in the last few years. Besides ensuring transparency, what steps have been taken to retain consumer confidence?

The FCRF is dedicated to supporting all those who work with fancy color diamonds – whether they are retailers, wholesalers, or miners. We give them a platform to inspire clients with the full story of every natural fancy color stone.

Over the past few years, the FCRF has continued to carefully track fluctuations in the market behavior of fancy color diamonds. Dozens of industry leaders around the world provide us with the data that drives our pricing index, rarity tool, and objective valuations.

We’re bringing fancy color into the public consciousness. While trendy investments may come and go, fancy color diamonds are a robust asset class that is stable and wearable. The foundation’s activity and published material reinforces this knowledge.

What’s the current market for coloured diamonds in demand terms compared to colourless diamonds?

Demand for fancy color diamonds is increasing at a slow, healthy pace as more diamond lovers look to explore new territories in this space. The main factor that impacts the price increase is that fewer diamonds are unearthed every year, a trend that opposes demand.

The market for fancy color diamonds has continued to hold stable in recent years as compared with colorless diamonds, which tend to experience more extreme demand cycles.

According to you, which natural fancy coloured diamonds consuming market is most popular?

We’re not always able to pinpoint a specific consuming market because of the frequent travel of many of the world’s high net worth individuals. While the Asian market continues to show consistent interest in fancy color diamonds, the pandemic caused some ebb and flow in that market. And while they are a small group, some celebrities have also taken a noted recent interest in fancy color diamonds.

The US market definitely takes the lead in terms of demand, with Europe coming in second place. Once China gets past the current lockdown, we expect to see large parts of the market gravitate towards this part of the world.

For the reader's benefit, can you touch upon the ‘history’ of coloured diamonds … when and where were they first mined and what colours?

Colored diamonds have been a symbol of great status and royalty in many countries over the years. India, Australia, and South Africa are known sources of fancy color diamonds, with others originating in mines in Indonesia, Venezuela, Brazil, and others. In sixth-century India, different castes were allowed to own and wear specific colors of diamonds.

An example of a famous diamond is “The Hope”, A Fancy Dark-Grayish Blue, famous for its rare color, a sapphire-like dark blue. 18th and 19th century royalty are depicted wearing the Hope Diamond, including Louis XV and Queen Maria Luisa, wife of Charles IV.

A more modern example is The Williamson Diamond, A Fancy Pink, worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her coronation in 1953.

What was the demand pattern for coloured diamonds in the last few decades?

While it can be difficult to identify a demand pattern for a particular color, this year, we may see a significant rise in demand for large yellow fancy color diamonds. Generally speaking, demand for colored diamonds is on a steady rise. They continue to gain exposure and popularity, while their worldwide supply dwindles. The late 2020 closure of the Argyle mine, which supplied the vast majority of the world’s pink diamonds below one carat and mainly pink melee, will no doubt have ripple effects on the industry for many years to come.

Which countries have shown good potential to grow in colour diamond consumption?

Traditionally, demand for colored diamonds has come from Europe, the United States, and the Middle East. Recent decades have shown that Asian consumers are eager for fancy color, and their ability to buy shows no signs of slowing down, with China, Taiwan, and Singapore leading the pack.

How do you rate coloured diamonds as a good investment vehicle? And who are the major investors globally?

Fancy color diamonds are gaining recognition as a worthy investment due to their stability and rarity. Major global investors tend to be high net worth individuals who also invest in alternative asset classes, such as art, vintage watches, cars, and wine. They understand fancy color diamonds’ value and scarcity, and are eager to own one-of-a-kind pieces that allow wealth preservation.

Are coloured diamonds difficult to liquidate due to their high prices? What’s the general opinion of your buyers?

Fancy color diamonds, as a luxury article, are actually relatively easy to liquidate. The challenge lies in finding the right channel to receive the price you were hoping for. Thus, private buyers need to understand their options.

Auction houses are the most accessible platform for pre-owned diamonds. However, one must know that most buyers who come to these auctions are wholesale professionals seeking to buy fancy color at a low price (after paying a 17-25% commission to the auction house), who then re-cut the stone and resell it back to retailers. The auction platform is an excellent place for people who inherit a fancy color diamond and don’t mind receiving a low price for it, or for those in need of quick cash. Incidentally, the high record prices published by auctions are actually much lower than prices made by retailers behind closed doors. Quality gaps between stones that reach the auction and the high quality stones offered by retailers are most often the reason for this discrepancy. Those who wish to learn more about this topic could look into the FCRF Auction Analysis.

Private sellers looking to profit from their fancy color diamonds will first need to wait for the price to increase, the maturity period is usually within 3-7 years, and will then want to consign it directly through reputable jewelers who specialize in high-end jewelry. The benefit of this outlet is direct access to private collectors who can pay a full retail price. The disadvantage is the increased time sellers must wait in order to liquidate their investment.

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