March 28, 2009

Recession hits gem trade worldwide

U.S. jewelers say a recession-caused slump in the gem trade is being felt worldwide as retailers close and diamond mines order furloughs.

Tiffany saw its fourth-quarter profits drop more than 75 percent while more than a thousand jewelers throughout the United States closed last year, including Christian Bernard Jewelers, a national chain, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

In Botswana, where diamond mining accounts for more than 30 percent of the economy, all four government mines operated with De Beers have been placed on furlough.

That lull has found its way to India, where thousands of drought-ravaged villagers had found work in diamond-polishing factories and now have been let go, the Post reported, noting nearly half of the world's polished diamonds are sold in the United States.

A joint venture between De Beers and Namibia is planning similar mine furloughs though, like the employees in Botswana, the mine workers in Namibia are to receive some compensation during the pause, said De Beers spokesman David Prager.