Antwerp traded a total of €33 billion in cut and uncut diamonds in 2019, 20% less than in 2018, and a figure reminiscent of the levels last seen in the financial crisis years of 2009-2010. The AWDC says it foresees no improvement this year, but recovery should be expected in 2021. Antwerp is not alone. The entire sector, from producers to cutters to traders and all the way out to retain jewellers, have experienced a difficult year. “Geopolitical instability gives rise to economic unrest, which depresses consumer confidence,” summed up Ari Epstein, CEO of the AWDC.
The sector is also sitting on an over-supply compared to demand. The ongoing trade conflict between the United States and China is one cause; political unrest in Hong Kong, the world’s most important market for cut diamonds, is another.
Trading in uncut diamonds is also hampered by the fact that canny traders prefer to offload their stocks in times of low demand, selling rather than buying. And here Antwerp suffered most. The city is the world centre for the trade in uncut stones, but 2019 saw sales of 184 million carats of stones, for a value of €15.4 billion – no less than 26% down on the 2018 figure.
The trade in cut diamonds, on the other hand, dropped by 13% to a total of 9.2 million carats for a value of €18 billion.