This year is likely to be one of gradual recovery for the diamond industry as it emerges from by far it's most prolonged and serious crisis in recent years, saved as a result of enforced preventive measures taken throughout 2015.
While the strength and sustainability of this recovery will naturally be dependant on whether the restoration of a profitable link between rough and polished prices will be credible enough to restore confidence, there is no guarantee that a more equitable alignment of rough to polished will in itself secure future growth in the face of growing downstream marketing threats.
Before 2015 it was convenient and even plausible to assume that growth in India and China could be relied on to drive up global demand, this is clearly now no more than part of the equation
So what do we need to do to both protect and project the privileged position that natural diamonds still occupy in world jewellery?
In recent years there has been far too much focus on "beneficiation" in a uniquely Botswana context. This lack of a wider message about the industry's actual employment and economic profile, gives the synthetic industry more opportunity to pursue marketing based largely on factual misrepresentation. Naturally, this complicates the generic advertising of natural diamonds, an issue which remains high on the industries wish list.
Meanwhile on a high street or a shopping mall near you, Pandora or Swarovski is opening a new store backed up by significant advertising spend across all media. The jewellery chains answer? More of the same standard unimaginative discount-driven product advertising.
So many of the contributors to GEMKonnect have referred to the importance of good design as the vital and often missing link to the consumer. While extrapolations about diamond sales growth based on demographic and economic trends are interesting, it is how we connect to the millennials (of whatever nationality!) that is going to be the key to whether or not the industry can realise its true potential in an ever changing world.
We know that millennials are different, more individualistic, ethically aware, less traditional than previous generations, into authentic and unique experiences and not necessarily in thrall to the big brands. For them, self-expression is all important (and they care little about "keeping up with Joneses or the Kapoors”). We also know that with the Internet and social media, they are spoilt for choice, which can be both confusing as well as empowering. There is nothing to suggest that millennials are in any way less interested in jewellery than previous generations. But then, neither has any prior generation been so into design. Yet, a lot of the jewellery on offer is of little interest or appeal to them and that needs to change.
But there is a problem — when was the last time you saw a television programme about jewellery design or designers? Across the world, the televised reality show is ubiquitous and hugely popular, with compelling competitive formats covering everything from cookery skills, singing and dancing talent, cake baking or even pottery making. Programmes about the art of tattoo are also a TV favourite focussing as they do, on how the skill of the tattoo artists brings to life their customers’ unique designs. Where are similar programmes about a jewellery designer working with a young couple to create their own individual diamond jewellery dream would that not be just as interesting?
Unfortunately the truth is that mainstream television is an overwhelmingly jewellery-design-free zone and what limited news coverage the diamond industry receives, consists of the usual headlines about diamonds either losing or regaining their sparkle or reports on the latest auction sales. What we need is fewer stories about the chimera of the commoditisation of diamonds, but many more about how talented designers across many nationalities and cultures continue to create the jewellery that we both treasure and help us to express our deepest feelings just as much today as throughout history.