Rapaport Magazine

India’s Influence

China August Market Report

By Julius Zheng


Despite the fact that they are competitors, India has played an important role in the development of China’s diamond market and industry. In the past few years, as international sourcing has become more important, many Chinese have gone on buying trips to Mumbai and Surat, or have visited the India International Jewellery Show (IIJS). The more experienced Chinese buyers go to India on a regular basis to source polished diamonds firsthand.

As the frequency of Indian purchases increases, some Chinese buyers work with Indian purchasing agents who have an advantage in communicating with local traders, while other dealers send their own buyers to India to source goods. Polished diamonds, cut by Indian manufacturers, typically in sizes from melees to 1 carat, are sold to Chinese buyers through different channels by Indian, Belgian, Hong Kong and even Israeli diamond traders.

In the past two years, more Indian companies also set up branch companies in Hong Kong, a gateway to Mainland China. From thousands of miles away, Indian companies communicate via telephones, emails, Skype and even QQ, a popular online chat program in China. Currently, a considerable number of the Indian traders in the Shanghai Diamond Exchange (SDE) speak Chinese, some of them fluently. India-based traders have been active in SDE since its very beginning and have the strongest national presence in the exchange of any foreign country.

COOPERATIVE AND COMPETITIVE

Cooperation, friction and competition have accompanied the growth of both China and India. The fact is that the diamond industry in each country would not have reached its current level without the contribution of the other country. The combined population of China and India — approximately one-third of the global population — provides low-cost labor for both countries’ domestic manufacturing operations in a variety of industries, as well as a large and formidable new consumer base for the emerging middle class.



With more than two million people employed in the gem and jewelry industry in India, and 14 out of 15 of the world’s diamonds processed there, India ranks as the largest diamond-polishing country. At the same time, China has grown to be the second-largest diamond-consuming market after the U.S. and the second-largest diamond-polishing country. Despite that number-two position, however, China has far fewer diamond industry employees and far less production volume than India.

As the two neighboring countries develop further, they will be competing for polishing jobs as well as rough diamond supplies. Inevitably, there will be arguments and frictions, but mutual understanding and cooperation will be necessary for the continued growth of both countries’ diamond industries. “China and India — the two Eastern giants — are now a formidable force to reckon with. When the Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) looks toward the future, we expect to see the two giants taking center stage globally in gems and jewelry,” said Rajiv Jain, GJEPC’s chairman.

CAUTIOUS AND CONSERVATIVE

The weather in most parts of China has been very hot, but the wholesale market has been cool in June and July, with very conservative and cautious buying activity. The Hong Kong show in June was “disappointing” for lots of diamond exhibitors, who rarely use such a word. They wondered where the Chinese buyers were at the show. For their part, Chinese buyers said they did visit the show but left early because they were hesitant about buying. Retailers said they only sourced what they absolutely needed and resisted stocking up, even though the asking prices in Hong Kong reportedly were low. The uncertainty of the global economy, the decline in the exporting and manufacturing sector in China and the cooling-down of economic growth domestically, as well as worldwide, have cast a shadow over consumers. “What is happening in the retail market makes me worry and it is difficult to predict the second half of this year,” said a Chinese retailer who preferred to remain anonymous.

NEW COLORED STONE CENTER

A recent phenomenon in China is that more and more jewelers are beginning to deal in colored gemstones, largely in reaction to the competition and price pressures in the diamond sector. Colored gemstones, which have been winning more acceptance in China, offer more diversity and often a much higher profit margin than diamonds. In response, the International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA) has signed a letter of intent with the government of Hunan Province to establish a national manufacturing and training center for colored gemstones and jewelry in Changsha, the capital city of the province. The center plans to promote colored gemstones, jewelry and minerals throughout China.

“This is an extremely significant breakthrough for the ICA and the colored gemstone and jewelry industry,” said Wilson Yuen, ICA president. ICA’s Annual Congress in 2013 will also be held in Hunan Province.

 

The Marketplace

  • Diamond retail sales significantly cooled in July, and wholesale trading slowed, with retailers showing great caution in buying inventory.

  • There is continued demand for round, .30-carat to 1.10-carat, D-H, VS-SI, Gemological Institute of America (GIA)-certified diamonds in triple EX and double EX cut grade, with none to faint fluorescence. But the demand is much more conservative compared to 2011 and many diamond wholesalers said business in recent months has been quite difficult.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - August 2012. To subscribe click here.

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