Under Pressure: Are Diamonds a Good Investment?

Under Pressure: Are Diamonds a Good Investment?

Choosing safe-haven assets often puts investors between a rock and a hard place. Here's what to consider when it comes to diamond investing.

Under Pressure: Are Diamonds a Good Investment?
Guy Ovadia

Published Mar 17, 2022Updated Mar 17, 2022

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Safe-haven assets are becoming more popular as economic uncertainty rises and traditional investments suffer. Some still think the U.S. dollar to be the best way to retain value during a bad market, but even fiat currency must be reconsidered due to record inflation and the dollar slowly losing its reserve currency status. 

Investors don't want to buy diamonds of middling quality, but they also don't want something that's so exclusive that it's too hard to unload.

More investors who're looking for growth assets that go up in value and combat inflation have often turned to things like gold, fine art, and even diamonds. But, out of all these alternative asset classes, is investing in diamonds a good idea? While a shiny rock may be nice as a flashy piece of jewelry, getting into a diamond investment is not so simple, and here's why.

What is a diamond investment?

Firstly, investing in diamonds is more similar to investing in a heterogeneous asset like blue-chip art than it is to investing in a homogenous commodity like gold. One reason is that the diamond market is highly illiquid, especially as they get larger and more expensive. Another reason is that buying the asset at retail usually makes it harder to make a return on investment in the secondary market. Lastly, the main thing that distinguishes diamonds from gold is that diamonds are not fungible, meaning they can't be broken down and sold separately.

A diamond investment is a lot more like an art investment because finding the best diamond to invest in usually requires some level of expertise as well as access to the dealer market. Most of the money in the diamond business is made from wholesale and retail activity, so investors should always seek a trustworthy appraisal from an independent third party in order to maximize value. The difference between being a retail diamond customer and a diamond investor is gaining access to the industry through dealers and experts.

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The four C's

When looking for diamonds to invest in, the main thing to look for is quality. Buying a diamond that is of too low quality may be a bad investment, but buying a large fancy diamond could be harder to make a return due to a lack of market demand. Investors don't want to buy diamonds of middling quality, but they also don't want something that's so exclusive that it's too hard to unload. Investors often refer to the standard measurement of diamond quality known as the four C's: carat, clarity, color, and cut.

Carat 

The first attribute of a diamond is its mass measured in carats (200 mg) or points (2 mg). Generally, bigger diamonds are of a higher value than smaller diamonds, but the value of a diamond doesn't consistently correlate with its carat. For example, the value of a 0.99-carat diamond on the wholesale market is nearly half that of a 1-carat diamond, even if all other attributes are the same. While this means that bigger diamonds tend to go up exponentially in price, this does not necessarily translate to an appreciation that can be turned into profit.

Clarity

The second attribute is the clarity of the diamond, meaning the visual appearance of any inclusions such as blemishes or surface defects. While clarity is an important indicator of a diamond's quality, investors can't tell the clarity of a diamond with their naked eye. Rather, determining the clarity of a diamond requires magnification as well as an expert who knows how to identify features of a diamond that could impact its value on the market.

Color

The third attribute of a diamond is its color, meaning whether it's colorless or has some sort of hue. Colorless diamonds—also referred to as white diamonds—are completely transparent diamonds. Colorless diamonds are the most valuable, but they are also the rarest. The next most valuable diamonds are the fancy colored diamonds, which include natural hues like pink, blue, or yellow.

Naturally colored diamonds are valued differently based on where they fall on the color grading scale. Diamonds can fall anywhere from colorless and near-colorless, to light and, finally, fancy. While most diamonds will fall somewhere on this spectrum, diamonds in certain hues of yellow or brown are deemed less desirable. Overall, colorless or white diamonds are the best to invest in because they are the scarcest and most desirable out of all the diamond colors.

Cut 

The final and most important attribute of a diamond is its cut. Similar to the color grading scale, a diamond cut is also scored on a graded scale that ranges from poor and fair to very good and excellent. While the cut is the most crucial and easy to identify factor of a diamond investment, it is still valuable to get multiple expert opinions on where a particular stone falls on the scale. The cut is the only attribute of a diamond that's based on craftsmanship, so the best way to find an excellently cut diamond is to buy one from a skilled cutter who knows how to produce them.

Are diamonds a good investment?

When considering a diamond to invest in, the best thing to do is to bring it back to the basics. Since diamonds are largely showpieces with no inherent economic value or utility, their value becomes highly speculative and subject to fundamental market forces. One way to invest in diamonds without exposure to diamonds as an asset is by buying stock in diamond companies. But, if you want to be a retail investor in diamonds rather than a retail consumer of diamonds, you must look at the commodity through the lens of supply and demand.

Supply of Diamonds

Looking purely at the supply of diamonds and their availability on the market, we can determine that now is as good of a time as ever to buy a diamond. While there isn't necessarily a surplus of diamonds, the growing synthetic diamond industry threatens to disrupt the industry by saturating the market with artificial stones. The diamond industry is making a comeback as it recovers from reduced production and lower prices during the pandemic, so perhaps this will change in the near future.

Demand for Diamonds

While the supply side is making a diamond investment seem favorable to investors, there is a different story to be told when it comes to demand. While a recent spike in revenue led some industry experts to predict that demand for diamonds will continue to rise, their projection is based solely on the wholesale and retail markets. Because diamond indices don't account for secondary market activity, statistics like these can often mislead investors because they are not indicative of the actual value of a diamond. The diamond industry makes most of its revenue from markups during holidays like Valentine's Day because selling a fantasy about diamonds symbolizing love and matrimony is more profitable than just selling stones.

Why investing in gold is better than diamonds

If we are comparing investing in diamonds vs gold, the latter certainly has several advantages over the former. First of all, gold is more homogenous and has a uniform pricing structure based on just two attributes: mass and purity. In addition to being easier to determine its value, gold is a better investment purely because of liquidity, meaning it's easier to get out of your gold investment and take profits than it is to do with a diamond investment. 

So, what's the best way to invest in gold? While you could always buy gold stocks, another way to get into gold is by signing up for an alternative investment platform like Vaulted. Vaulted is a service that lets investors buy and sell gold that's 100% backed by gold bullions stored at the Royal Canadian Mint. Investors can buy gold and receive a serial number corresponding to their bullion. Vaulted lets investors buy and sell gold for a fee, but can also have the gold delivered to the investor upon request.

vaulted
Vaulted

Gold

If you like the idea of investing in gold and holding the asset long-term, then OneGold is the alternative investment platform for you. OneGold is a precious metal investment platform that lets users buy and sell gold that is insured by OneGold and 100% backed by their vaulting partners. OneGold lets users buy and sell digital assets backed by gold and other precious metals for very low fees. If you're looking at gold as a way to save for retirement, OneGold is perfect because it lets users invest through a self-directed IRA.

onegold
OneGold

Gold

Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without

The diamond industry has always been tied in one way or another to armed conflict. It began in World War II when the U.S. gave the De Beers diamond corporation immunity from the Sherman Antitrust Act in exchange for industrial-grade diamonds for the war effort. While human rights abuses were found in diamond mines throughout Africa, the UN also discovered that the illicit trade of diamonds was used to fund armed conflicts across both Africa and the Middle East well before the 1991 Gulf War. So, now that you're aware of these unethical practices, do you still think diamonds are a good investment?

Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without

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