De Beers and the Global Diamond Industry
David W. Conklin, Danielle Cadieux
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South Africa, Large
Value Chain; Globalization; International Business; Business Policy, General Management/Strategy, International, Mining
De Beers Consolidated Mines has successfully managed the global diamond industry for many decades, propping up prices at all stages of the value chain, reducing price volatility and increasing consumer demand. By the end of the 20th century, however, a series of forces threatened De Beer's role and profitability. New diamond mining firms were selling their production on the open market rather than through De Beers' Central Selling Organization. The new competitors were attempting to grade, polish and cut diamonds outside of the De Beers value chain. Some retailers were purchasing shares in new mines in order to create their own value chain. New technology offered the possibility of creating synthetic diamonds that would be indistinguishable from diamonds created by natural forces. Governments were threatening antitrust actions. Meanwhile, an illicit trade in conflict diamonds was supporting revolutionary groups and disrupting the market. De Beers now had to decide whether to maintain its traditional functions or to embark on a new strategy. In particular, De Beers contemplated a shift into the retail jewelry business in a joint venture with France's Moet Hennessy-Louis Vuitton luxury goods corporation that would sell De Beers-branded diamond jewelry.