Comments  18/09/2013
Free Registration A Gallows Invitation

By Charles Wyndham.

Some kind chap the other day accused me of being on an extended holiday as apparently I have been writing less recently.

Never being one to disagree too strongly, I merely replied that is not exactly how I would put it and secondly if he has so much free time to read my meanderings, who was on the holiday?

Less comment has been coming from me because in general I think that there has been less and less happening in our lilliputian world of diamonds.

Things simply have not changed much, if at all.

Markets are far from good, all are moaning, polished prices grind along in a horizontal fashion, rough is wavering between despair and enforced false jollity in a world of ‘keep the supplier happy’, all exceptionally, or what I find, exceptionally boring, so why write about it?

But all has changed and the clouds have lifted, the drizzle of moans stopped and I have been forced back to the keyboard to share my exuberant joy.

I did not get an invitation first hand, but thank god I did get one second hand, to the  ‘End of the Era Celebration’. As they say it is the thought that counts, and I would not have wanted to have spoiled it by handing in a refusal.

Philippe Mellier and Varda Shine of De Beers are inviting two people per ITO, intention to offer, if ‘fortunate’ enough to have more than one ITO then, of course, they can bring along ‘Moggy’ as well to the Langham Hotel on Sunday 29th September.

This is clearly going to be some shindig, as it is slated to go on from 6 pm in the evening till 11 pm, and of course dress code is ‘Diamond Chic’.

I have no idea what ‘diamond chic’ means, but maybe it is not too late to rush out and get a diamond nose piercing, or for those with the luck to be bringing their moggy along, a diamond encrusted collar might do the trick.

The story for quite sometime, in fact pretty much from day one when Mellier took over from Gareth Penny as MD of De Beers, has been that relations between him and Shine have been less than harmonious, one might go so far as to say slightly frosty.

There has, clearly, been a thaw in the relationship and Mellier is intent upon celebrating by announcing officially the departure of Varda.

Everyone has known for ages that she was on her way out and the official silence has only confirmed the matter.

So how generous of Mellier to invite Varda to her own official execution; but I am at a loss as to why her name had to appear on the invitation.

To a stuffy old Englishman this is almost a joke in bad taste.

You, or rather I, could suggest the same about inviting the sightholders along to such a party.

What are they meant to be celebrating?

The choice of title for the celebrations confirms the demise of the sightholder system as practiced for the last 100 years.

Personally, I think this could be a very good thing, so long as one discretionary, inefficient, debilitating and biased system is not replaced with another.

The blame, as blame it is for some, for this change cannot be laid at Mellier’s door.

The most glaring opportunity for change was when De Beers was taken private in 2001 by Nicky, Oppenheimer in case anyone cannot remember his involvement in the wealth destruction of De Beers.

You could argue that if Nicky had tried to change things given his track record, apart from squeezing an eye watering price from ‘dumbo’ Anglo for his 40% of the company, that it inevitably would have ended up as a major cock up.

The De Beers’ sightholder system, and especially how it has been implemented, has failed our industry, leaving it in the mess that it is today, which has seen diamonds woefully underperform any other luxury product over the past several decades.

The system, however painful at the moment, created untold wealth for many sightholders and allowed De Beers to maintain its monopoly or control at the cost of a shrinking industry and miserable overall profits.

As an aside, I wonder if the producer countries where De Beers operates have also been invited and, if so, what is their take on an ‘end of an era’ and more to the point, what is their definition of a new ‘era’?

All in all I thought that the invitation was about the best bit of gallows humour that I have ever had the pleasure to come across.

It reminds me of the lines from the hymn Rock of Ages:

‘Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling.’

The full lyrics for which can be found on