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polishedprices relaunch

Much water has flowed under the bridge since the launch of PolishedPrices in 2002, so we thought that it was not a bad idea to freshen up the website and the time has come to expose it to the world….and hope it works without too many gremlins.

Even I have to admit that the previous website looked fairly antique, but being English, I have a fondness for the old and an innate conservatism tends to delay the inevitable.

Reading that the reason for the unusual shape of a particular high rise building in the City of London, which has become known as the ‘Cheese Grater’ was primarily due to the insistence that the view of St Paul’s Cathedral from a particular pub in the city was not impeded, restored my confidence in my fellow mankind for the old.

A confidence which was somewhat diminished when I caught a headline in the news which read ‘Pilot’s artificial arm became detached when landing plane.’

The good news is that the plane landed without mishap apart from the pilot being separated from his arm when landing in windy conditions, but he, the pilot appeared pretty unconcerned when interviewed afterwards.

Confidence is such a key ingredient to success.

In our industry there are so many conflicting forces at play that sentiment can be easily swayed back and fro between confidence and anxiety and at the moment it is anxiety, which seems to be holding sway.

It has to be said that following my visit to Antwerp this past week, the mood was pretty dire, as polished slides and rough suffers a sharp correction.

The fact that those banks that have traditionally been the key lenders to the industry are either pulling out or diminishing their exposure cannot be a good sign.

It could be argued that the fact that other banks seem anxious to get involved mitigates this negative trend.

My own view is that many who have jumped into the fray are doing so more in search of the attractive profitability associated with lending to the industry, because of its inherent opaqueness, than looking at the risks of this opaqueness and without asking if the industry is so profitable to lend to, why are the traditional lenders pulling out?

The fact is that the liquidity crunch is really beginning to make itself felt and is the key underlying factor to falling rough and polished prices.

The news that De Beers, or should I say Anglo, are putting both the Voorspoed and Snap Lake mines up for sale, could be viewed as a diminished confidence in the industry.

My view is different.

At last a more hard nosed approach to their assets will make De Beers a more efficient supplier to the market.

It is no secret that the Snap Lake purchase under the aegis of Nicky Oppenheimer / Gary Ralfe was a complete catastrophe.

It is also no secret that the homework done before opening up the Voorspoed mine in South Africa was woefully lacking.

To get rid of a couple of dogs of projects, if they can find anyone to take it off their hands, at the expense of volume seems a much more mature attitude, if not the best news for sightholders as around half a billion dollars of availability for sale is lost.

Even the more difficult hurdle to jump for De Beers of the marketing and the continuation, though in a diluted form, of the Sightholder system is being tinkered with.

De Beers and banks are insisting on much greater and ‘realistic’, for want of a better word, disclosure.

It is no secret that there are several different groups who are trying to launch financial products based on diamonds.

PolishedPrices itself is working with SDiX to create an electronic diamond exchange in Singapore and also with a major European financial institution to create a diamond financial product.

It is equally no secret that others are also trying to launch products and it is rumoured that some might launch their products very soon indeed.

Assuming that these products are genuine, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, and as far removed as possible from the doomed ‘Diamond Circle’ debacle, this can only be good news to the industry but not necessarily everyone to the same extent within the industry.

Should any product prove successful, there will inevitably be a dramatic increase in transparency and the current business model clung to doggedly by the industry will have to and will change.

For the industry as a whole the impact promises to be spectacular and even on a more banal note, will at least introduce some much needed liquidity; but, it will certainly signal the end of the old club syndrome.

I would liken it to Big Bang in the City of London in 1987 where de regulation, ending the closed shop arrested the City' sinking stupor, and changed it to become one of, if not, the leading financial centre in the world.

Whether it keeps that status or not, it is easy to forget what such a dramatic turn around breaking up the old club system did, and just how quickly it took effect.

Much of the essence of ‘de regulations’ is in fact, in this context, I would suggest introducing transparency.

Whatever moments of passing gloom I may suffer from looking at how change is so vehemently resisted by some, I retain an overwhelming confidence in our product and belief that once the shackles are cast off that the industry will grow into a much bigger, interesting and simply exciting new enterprise, without I hope losing some of its more amusing peccadillos and idiosyncrasies.

With the relaunch of PolishedPrices we hope to continue to make our small contribution to this change.

We are not the pilots so there is no need to check if we are of sound mind or limb, everyone knows the answer to that already.