Chinese women drive diamond sales to record high

De Beers: Diamond market still sparkling in China

Chinese women, particularly married ones, helped drive global diamond jewelry sales up 3 percent to a record high of $79 billion in 2013, according to De Beers.

Demand from China grew 14 percent on year in 2013, the fastest rate globally, according to De Beers' Diamond Insight Report. The bulk of demand came from married women, who accounted for two thirds of purchases and sales value.

Engaged women accounted for around 20 percent of purchases and contributed to just under a quarter of sales value in China, while single women accounted for 14 percent of purchases and made up 11 percent of sales value.

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Philippe Mellier, CEO of De Beers Group, told CNBC Asia's "Squawk Box" that self-purchases are a key trend in China.

"It's bridal self-purchases for many women in China [that is driving demand]… Many single women are buying diamonds for themselves in China [too]," he added.

The report said the 'spoiling route' in China – buying or receiving a diamond outside of a specific occasion – is thriving. In 2013, 18 percent of diamond purchases were made for no particular occasion, while 24 percent were self-purchases rather than gifts.

A customer browses jewelry inside a Lukfook Jewellery store, operated by Luk Fook Holdings International Ltd., in Macau, China, on Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014.
Bloomberg | Getty Images

Furthermore, bridal acquisition rates in the world's number two economy remain well below the peaks seen in U.S. and Japan, the report found, suggesting there is still considerable upside for the market as average household wealth continues to grow.

Mellier acknowledged that although China remains the largest contributor to demand in the global diamond jewelry market, its exponential rate started to slow.

"China is the biggest engine growth for the diamonds business and has been for the past five to 10 years. The rate is slowing down but it's still a big increase. I think this year China demand will be just under 10 percent," he added.

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Meanwhile, sales in India and Japan declined 10 percent and 6 percent, respectively, in U.S. dollar terms in 2013.

Less bling for your buck

Mellier pointed out that consumers are set for higher prices in the coming years as demand thrives but production tightens.

"[Production] has dropped and is not recovering. We believe that in 2020 production will start to come down, and we all know that demand is going to go up… [so] we are going to open a squeeze between supplier and buyer," said Mellier.

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"It is pretty sure that in the near term and the foreseeable future prices of diamonds will keep appreciating," he added.

A dearth of new diamond finds in recent years has hurt production rates, while existing mines in Botswana, South Africa and Namibia are becoming depleted and the need to dig deeper has made operations less profitable.

China's demand for polished diamonds has exploded over the past decade rising from 3 percent of global demand in 2003 to 13 percent in 2013.