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Asia Pacific World

Hundreds Released From Diamond Princess Cruise Ship in Japan


Shortly before 11 a.m., they began making their way off the ship through an improvised tunnel shrouded in blue tarp, through an array of orange pylons and out into a parking lot under a clear sky.

  • Updated Feb. 10, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is possibly transmitted through the air. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • How worried should I be?
      While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have praised China’s aggressive response to the virus by closing transportation, schools and markets. This week, a team of experts from the W.H.O. arrived in Beijing to offer assistance.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who recently traveled to China and several airlines have canceled flights.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

Taxis may have been in short supply, but the news media was not.

One of the earliest to disembark, a woman wearing a conical rice hat and a heavy-duty face mask with a strap hanging loose, was mobbed by journalists as she walked out of a guarded gate, pulling a red suitcase. She eventually wandered off on foot.

One passenger, Masako Ishida, 61, remained on board on Wednesday as she waited to receive her test results, and said she was frustrated by the suggestion that anyone who tested negative should have to remain in quarantine any longer.

“I heard that some people think us passengers should be put another two weeks in quarantine,” she said. “We were quarantined, and if we test negative, we will be given a certification that proves we’re negative. We’re one of the safest people right now.”

Another passenger seemed less certain.

“I’m a bit concerned if I’m OK to get off the ship, but it was getting very difficult physically, a 77-year-old man who got off with his wife told the Kyodo News agency. “For now, we just want to celebrate.”

Dr. Iwata, the infectious disease expert, sounded far more concerned.

He said he had visited the ship on Tuesday with the goal of advising public health officials on how to prevent the further spread of infection. He expressed astonishment at what he had seen, and took to YouTube to share his findings.

Health ministry officials, crew members and psychiatrists mingled and ate together, Dr. Iwata said, with some in full protective gear and others not — a violation of ordinary procedures.



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Apps Gadgets Games Hackers Technology

Nuclear waste recycled into diamond batteries with ‘near-infinite power’



Scientists are attempting to transform nuclear waste into batteries that can last for thousands of years.

Next-generation diamond batteries that use energy from radioactive materials have already been developed and tested by researchers at the University of Bristol, who now hope to recycle waste from decommissioned nuclear power plants around the UK.

Work began earlier this month to remove radioactive waste products from the Berkeley Power Station in Gloucestershire, which was decommissioned in 1989 but has only just become safe.


Carbon-14 isotopes extracted from graphite blocks produced by the plant are infused with wafer-thin diamonds to create the batteries, which researchers say are capable of providing power on a “near-infinite basis”.

Potential applications range from powering hearing aids and pacemakers, to extending the range of spacecraft to distances much further than are currently possible. 

The diamond batteries are already being tested in extreme environments where it is difficult to replace conventional power sources, including in sensors as the top of volcanos.

“Eventually, a highly powerful version of a diamond battery could power a mobile phone,” James Barker, from the University of Bristol’s Faculty of Engineering, told The Independent

“Primarily though, they are best for devices requiring long lifetime, low power and where it is difficult to replace energy sources.”

The diamond batteries are encased in a non-radioactive diamond layer, which absorbs any radiation given off by the C14 source and makes them safe to use in medical and consumer devices.

Berkeley nuclear power station in Gloucestershire, pictured in 1981, was decommissioned in 1989 (Wikimedia Commons)

There is close to 100,000 tonnes of nuclear waste in the form of graphite blocks in the UK alone, with most plants due to be decommissioned by 2030. The scientists hope to have a pilot factory producing the batteries within five years at the Berkeley site.

“The ultimate aim is to have a factory based at one of the former power stations in the South West that takes Carbon-14 isotopes directly from the graphite blocks for use in diamond batteries. This would significantly reduce the radioactivity of the remaining material, making it easier and safer to manage,” said Professor Tom Scott, director of the South West Nuclear Hub.

“With the majority of the UK’s nuclear power plants set to go offline in the next 10-15 years this presents a huge opportunity to recycle a large amount of material to generate power for so many great uses.”



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Africa World

The Second Biggest Diamond In History Has a New Owner


The largest rough diamond discovered since 1905, the 1,758-carat Sewelo, was revealed with great fanfare last April, named in July and then largely disappeared from view. Now it has resurfaced with a new owner — and it’s not a name you might expect.

It is not, for example, Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, on the hunt for a trophy asset. It is not a royal family, searching for a centerpiece for a new tiara. It is not the De Beers Group, arguably the creator of the diamond market and owner of the Millennium Star diamond, which, uncut, was a 770-carat stone.

It is not even the diamond specialist Graff, the owner of the Graff Lesedi La Rona, a 302.37-carat diamond that is the world’s largest emerald-cut sparkler.

It is Louis Vuitton. The luxury brand better known for its logo-bedecked handbags than its mega-gems, which has been present on Place Vendôme, the heart of the high jewelry market, for less than a decade.

And it is the latest sign, following the $16.2 billion purchase of Tiffany by the French behemoth LVMH (the parent company of Louis Vuitton) in November, that LVMH is out not just to compete, but to utterly dominate the high jewelry market. Taken together, the double punch of purchasing (brand and stone) in less than two months is the luxury equivalent of shock and awe.

“There are less than 10 people in the world who would know what to do with a stone like that or how to cut it and be able to put the money on the table to buy it,” said Marcel Pruwer, the former president of the Antwerp Diamond Exchange and the managing director of the International Economic Strategy advisory firm. “To buy and then sell what could be a $50 million stone, you need the technical qualifications, as well as the power to write the check and take the risk.”

Michael Burke, the chief executive of Louis Vuitton, declined to say how much the company had spent on the stone, though he acknowledged it was in the “millions” and that “some of my competitors, I believe, will be surprised” that Vuitton was the purchaser.

“Nobody expects us to put such an emphasis on high jewelry,” Mr. Burke said. “I think it will spice things up a bit. Wake up the industry.”

According to Jeffrey Post, the curator in charge of gems and minerals at the Smithsonian Institution, “if you buy a diamond like that, it gives you immediate credibility.” It is also, especially in the case of the Sewelo, more risky than you may imagine.

Discovered in April 2019 at the Karowe mine in Botswana (owned by Lucara Diamond Corp, a Canadian miner), the baseball-size Sewelo is the second largest rough diamond ever mined.

The largest was 3,106.75 Cullinan diamond, which was discovered in South Africa in 1905 and eventually yielded two enormous high-quality stones — one of 530.4 carats and one 317.4, both now part of the British crown jewels, as well as many smaller stones.

The Sewelo is also the largest rough diamond ever found in Botswana (a country that has become the poster child for responsible mining) and the third very large diamond discovered in Karowe.

The mine also produced the 813-carat Constellation, uncovered in 2015 and sold for $63 million to Nemesis International in Dubai, a diamond trading company (in partnership with the Swiss jeweler de Grisogono) and the Lesedi La Rona, discovered in 2016 and sold to Graff for $53 million.

When Lucara held a competition to name the Sewelo, 22,000 Botswana citizens submitted entries. “Sewelo” means “rare find” in Setswana.

Unlike both the Constellation and the Lesedi, however, it is covered in carbon (at the moment it looks like a big lump of coal), which makes exactly what kind of diamond material is inside a “mystery,” according to Ulrika D’Haenens-Johansson, a senior research scientist at the Gemological Institute of America.

It also makes “the risk that much greater,” Mr. Pruwer said. When the stone was unearthed, there was a fair amount of speculation that it may be worth significantly less than its not-quite-as-giant siblings.

The profitability of any large stone depends on its yield: how many gem-quality carats can be gotten out of it once cut to maximize the price, which is in turn a function of the impurities in the stone — though, as Ms. D’Haenens-Johansson points out, even the impurities have value in a stone this size. They can reveal when the diamond was created and at what depth in the earth.

The mine, which has examined the diamond through a tiny “window” in the dark covering and scanned it with lasers, describes the stone as “near gem quality,” with “domains of high-quality white gem.” There are thousands of gradations of diamonds, ranging from D-flawless (the most rare) to industrial stones used in cutting and manufacturing.

“Is it D or D-flawless, and how big is the flawless part? I don’t know,” Mr. Burke said, acknowledging that the purchase “took a little bit of guts and trust in our expertise.” (To be fair, LVMH can afford it; its revenues in 2018 were 46.8 billion euros, or $52 billion.)

Still, Mr. Post said, “You don’t buy a stone like that unless you have some plan for what you are going to do with it and some belief that there is enough clear material that you can cut it and make a profit.”

Mr. Burke said when he showed the stone to Bernard Arnault, the majority owner and chief executive of LVMH, and “he had it in his hand, he smiled.” A smile from Mr. Arnault, a famously taciturn executive, is the equivalent of a scream of triumph from another chief executive.

After all, along with the potential profits, LVMH also bought the less quantifiable, but nevertheless palpable, bragging rights to the diamond in an industry where mythology and romance are part of the price.

Mr. Burke said that when his team suggested that Vuitton consider buying the Sewelo, his initial reaction was: “What took you so long?”

“It’s a big, unusual stone, which makes it right up our alley,” he said. It is also the first time Vuitton has bought a rough stone without having presold it to a client. (According to Mr. Pruwer, most branded fine jewelers buy stones that are already cut and polished.)

“We are experimenting with a different way of bringing a stone to market,” said Mr. Burke, who said Vuitton would not cut the stone until it had a buyer, and that the company did not plan to hang on to the stone as a showpiece, the way Tiffany has kept its 128.54-carat namesake stone.

Vuitton’s partners in Antwerp are building a scanner able to see through the stone’s coating, though with the imaging already in place, including a CT scan, they have estimated it may yield a 904-carat cushion-cut diamond, an 891-carat Oval or several stones of between 100 and 300 carats.

As for the fact that the acquisition happened around the same time as the Tiffany acquisition, Mr. Burke said it was a coincidence. Yet he acknowledged, with some understatement, that LVMH “typically likes to become leaders in whatever field we go into.”

And if the Sewelo doesn’t prove to be quite as lucrative as LVMH is betting? “I’ll go jump in a river,” Mr. Burke said.



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Sport

Dina Asher-Smith endorses Christian Taylor’s new athletes union after Diamond League event cull



Dina Asher-Smith has endorsed Christian Taylor’s new athletes’ union in the wake of the decision to cull four events form the Diamond League.

The American triple jumper founded The Athletics Association – a group tasked with ensuring athletes have a greater say in the sport – after the 200m, 3000m steeplechase, discus and triple jump were cut from some Diamond League events in 2020.

Asher-Smith, who won two silvers and a gold medal in the sprint events at the recent World Athletics Championships in Doha, tweeted her support for the new union.

“You know you always have my support!! Asher-Smith wrote. “Let’s do this.”

While the 200m and 3000m steeplechase will still feature in ten out of the fifteen meets on the Diamond League circuit, none of the four events will feature in the Diamond League final.

Only two meets will include the two field events that have been cut.

“Our objective is to create a faster-paced, more exciting global league that will be the showcase for our sport. A league that broadcasters want to show and fans want to watch,” IAAF president and Diamond League chairman Sebastian Coe said of the decision.

“However, we understand the disappointment of those athletes in the disciplines not part of the 2020 Diamond League season.”

Taylor is the three-time reigning triple jump world champion, and has taken the gold medal at the last two Olympic Games, too.

He has been outspoken in criticising the decision to cut his event.

Taylor feels that the existing athletes’ bodies are too tied to the IAAF, and that they do not have enough of a voice.


“It’s time for real change. I refuse to sit back any longer. For some time now I have been in discussion with other elite track and field athletes and we have been talking about how we can have a greater say in the future of our sport,” Taylor said in launching The Athletics Association.

“We will fight for athletes’ rights and ultimately demand a seat at the table and a say in how our sport is run and how the sport can grow and evolve without ripping out its very core.

“At the moment we, the athletes, have no power. Yes there is an Athletes’ Commission but we need something independent of the IAAF/World Athletics.”



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Sport

Athletics news: Diamond League cuts 200m from 2020 season in TV revamp



The Diamond League has cut the 200m sprint from its 2020 season as part of a major revamp to the competition to fit a new 90-minute broadcast window. 

The discuss throw, triple jump and 3000m steeplechase were also trimmed from the schedule to leave 12 events for both men and women. 

While the 200m was chosen due to congestion with the 100m during an Olympic year, the other three events were selected after extensive surveys revealed they were the least popular among athletics fans.

The 100m sprint, long jump and high jump came out as the most popular events. 

“Following a detailed review of the schedule for the 90-minute broadcast window of the Diamond League, both the 200m and the 3000m steeplechase will be included in 10 meetings (5 male and 5 female) in the 2020 Diamond League season,” the IAAF said in a statement.

“Two meetings will also feature discus and triple jump (1 female and 1 male). However, none of the four disciplines will feature in the Diamond League final in 2020.”

The 2020 calendar will feature 14 meets before the final in Zurich. 



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Asia Pacific World

Christie’s Auctioned a $40 Million Diamond. Was It Stolen?


This is the story of one of those diamonds so exquisite it was given a cute little name: the Princie.

Yet despite its diminutive moniker, the Princie is a big stone — 34.65 carats — that sparkles in the cheerful color of a flamingo and is valued at $40 million. It was last known to be packed away in a storage facility in Switzerland, where it was sent by a member of the Qatari royal family after he bought it.

But is that where it should be?

That question is the subject of a trial about to begin this week in New York Supreme Court where an Italian family has accused Christie’s, the auction house, of selling the diamond despite accusations that it had been stolen.

The descendants of a once powerful Italian senator say the diamond is rightfully theirs, and that their stepbrother absconded with it after his mother died. But the stepbrother has insisted the diamond was his to sell. Christie’s says the family members have no proof the diamond belongs to them and that, regardless, its client, who bought it from the stepbrother, had every right to sell the stone.

It is a case sprinkled with royalty and rich people, the nuances of Italian law and with questions about the responsibilities of auction houses when there is a dispute about who owns a sale item.

The diamond, cut from the Golconda mines in India, made its first recorded appearance in the 1700s as part of the collection of the Nizam of Hyderabad, an Indian monarch. The plaintiffs say the diamond, about the size of a Cerignola olive, was bought by Senator Renato Angiolillo at Van Cleef & Arpels in 1960, the same year he married his second wife, Maria Girani Angiolillo. It had been named “Princie” in honor of the 14-year-old Prince of Baroda, a former state of India, who came to a party that year at the Van Cleef & Arpels store in Paris, along with his mother.

Mr. Angiolillo was a man who liked — and could afford — nice things. He owned fabulous real estate, one of Italy’s largest newspapers, Il Tempo, and a stable of thoroughbred horses. A family member said he used to carry small diamonds around in his pocket so he could fiddle with them throughout the day.

Mr. Angiolillo died in 1973, and here, things get complicated. Under Italian law at the time, as court documents explain, all of his possessions should have gone to his children, not his spouse, unless they were explicitly left to her. His will said his wife should keep their home near the Spanish Steps in Rome and its lavish furnishings. But nothing else was mentioned. So the lawsuit argues that the rest of the estate, including the diamond, belongs to his descendants — Mr. Angiolillo’s surviving son and four grandchildren are the plaintiffs in this case.

But the auction house and its co-defendants said that the diamond, set in a ring, was a gift to Ms. Angiolillo, and so was owned by her, not her husband, when he died. And even if the transfer of ownership between them was not official, the defendants argue, the way she kept control of the ring in the decades that followed his death made it legally hers.

No one disputes that Ms. Angiolillo held on to the diamond for more than 35 years after she became his widow, but Mr. Angiolillo’s descendants say it should have been turned over to them after she died as part of their inheritance.

Instead the whereabouts of the diamond became something of a mystery. Amedeo Angiolillo — the senator’s remaining son — tried to contact his stepbrother, Marco Milella, to ask for the diamond back. He had no luck. Eventually, Mr. Milella responded through a lawyer who said, in essence: Diamond? What diamond?

“My client has informed me that he is unaware of the existence of the assets of the type that you have indicated,” the lawyer said.

The Italian authorities opened a criminal investigation into the missing diamond and some other expensive jewelry. In 2013, they raided the home of Mr. Milella and that of his girlfriend, and found some of it: a necklace and earrings from Van Cleef & Arpels. They didn’t find the diamond.

Mr. Milella told the authorities that he had legally inherited the jewelry, including the diamond, from his mother, according to court records, and — in a bit of a departure from the defendants’ argument — that she had inherited it from her husband.

But by that point, the diamond was long gone. He had sold it years earlier for nearly $20 million to a prominent gems dealer in Switzerland named David Gol.

The Italian courts dismissed the claims against Mr. Milella on statute of limitations grounds. (He is a not defendant in the current lawsuit, but Mr. Gol is, along with several others involved in the transactions.)

Mr. Gol, who has said he believes Mr. Milella had clear title to the diamond, then worked with Christie’s to sell it as part of a jewelry auction in 2013.

Emily Reisbaum, a lawyer who is defending the gems dealer, said that the Angiolillos have no evidence that Mr. Angiolillo owned the diamond “when he died, that they inherited it, or that they owned it at any time thereafter.”

The buyer, who paid $39.3 million, was Sheikh Jassim Bin Abdulaziz Al-Thani of Qatar. His wife, Sheikha al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the chairwoman of the Qatar Museums, is one of the most influential people in the art world, in part because she has spent a fortune on building a top-flight collection for the country, basically from scratch.

The plaintiffs have argued that Christie’s should not have gone forward with the sale because the auction house understood that there had been an Italian investigation into the accusation that the diamond had been stolen. In an email cited in the court records, a Christie’s official says that she told representative of the sheikh — Guy Bennett, an art adviser — about the ownership dispute. In court papers, Mr. Bennett said Christie’s told him there was a legal issue with the diamond, but said before the sale that it had been resolved.

The plaintiffs say they did not know where the diamond was until shortly before the Christie’s auction and that they approached Christie’s then, saying the diamond was likely theirs. But Christie’s threatened to file suit if the sale was blocked and the plaintiffs did not try to stop the auction.

According to court documents, the auction house spent at least $120,000 to investigate the provenance of the diamond and they say they found no evidence Mr. Angiolillo’s children had inherited it. Indeed, the defendants have argued in court that his descendants did not declare that they had inherited the diamond on their taxes (though a judge pointed out that no evidence has been presented to show that Ms. Angiolillo or Mr. Milella paid taxes on it either). The auction house has further argued that its client purchased the gem in Switzerland, where property can be acquired legally if a good faith purchaser is not aware of any accusations of theft.

But a New York judge ruled that Christie’s could not claim the benefit of Swiss law, saying that the sale being challenged had been administered in New York by a New York auction house and that the Princie Diamond had had “de minimis” contacts with Switzerland.

Scott Balber, a lawyer who is representing the Angiolillos, said Christie’s was more concerned with using Swiss law to argue that its client could safely sell the diamond rather than to establish who really owned it.

He said he believes that Christie’s “objective was not to find out the truth as to who owned the diamond, but to create a basis to argue that it could take advantage of a legal defense under Swiss law.”

Christie’s described the matter as an “inheritance dispute among family members.”

“Prior to the 2013 auction of the diamond,” the auction house said in a statement, “the two main representatives of the family expressly withdrew any objection to the sale, then two years after the successful sale they sued to claim inheritance rights to the proceeds without providing any significant new information to support a title claim.”

The plaintiffs say that Christie’s earned a commission of more than $3.8 million on the 2013 sale. The auction house said it took in less than $1 million.



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Fashion & Style

Rihanna wears black and white couture Givenchy gown for 5th annual Diamond Ball



On Thursday night, Rihanna was joined by a host of A-list stars at her 5th annual Diamond Ball.

The event, which took place at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City on Thursday evening, is held in honour of the Clara Lionel Foundation, a non-profit organisation which Rihanna founded in 2012 to help communities living in poverty across the world.

Rihanna was the undisputed star of the show as she posed for photographers at the event, wearing a black velvet, polo-neck Givenchy Haute Couture gown designed with white, tulle detailing on the mermaid skirt.


The Anti singer completed her look with a pair of white strappy Fenty heels, wearing her hair in a loose updo and opting for an autumnal shade of lipstick.

Comedian and talk show host Seth Meyers hosted the Diamond Ball, which featured live performances from Rihanna, DJ Khaled and Pharrell Williams.

(Getty Images)

Rihanna and Pharrell took to the stage together to perform “Lemon”, a song from the latter’s 2017 N.E.R.D. album No One Ever Really Dies.

Rihanna performs at Diamond Ball (Getty Images)

Other celebrities in attendance at the Diamond Ball included rapper Cardi B, singer Normani and model Karli Kloss.

Cardi B selected a princess-esque look for the event, wearing a rose-pink Georges Hobeika gown for the occasion.

The Hustlers star’s dress came from the fashion designer’s autumn 2019 Haute Couture collection.

(Getty Images for Diamond Ball)

Meanwhile, Normani wore a futuristic, silver, asymmetric dress by J’Aton Couture.

In August, the singer released the music video for her latest track “Motivation”, in which she pays tribute to several throwback pop culture fashion moments and other artists including Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez.

(AFP/Getty Images)

Kloss sparkled at the Diamond Ball in a Dior Haute Couture dress from the French fashion house’s autumn/winter 2019 collection.

Earlier this year, the model spoke out about why she decided to stop modelling for Victoria’s Secret.

The 27-year-old explained that she didn’t feel the brand portrayed an “image that was truly reflective” of who she is “and the kind of message” she wants to send to “young women around the world about what it means to be beautiful”.

Karlie Kloss (EPA)

Earlier this week, Rihanna presented her highly-anticipated second annual Savage X Fenty lingerie show at New York Fashion Week.

The entire show is due to stream exclusively on Amazon Prime Video across 200 countries and territories on Friday 20 September.

The show opened with Rihanna walking down the runway in a black lace body, and featured musical performances from artists including Halsey and DJ Khaled.


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Business

The World Has a Diamond Glut. Why Is That a Problem?


LONDON — Is it ever possible to have too many diamonds? For many in the business of producing and trading these gems in recent years, the answer is yes.

The top diamond miners in the world, including the two largest, Alrosa and De Beers, have an inventory problem. So do many of the cutters and polishers who buy the rough stones and sell them to retailers. At every stage of the supply chain there are too many of these precious gemstones, whose marketing has long depended on their rarity.

A glut in many other industries would ordinarily lead to deep price cuts. But consumers are buying stones that have passed through many layers of middlemen: traders, polishers and cutters, who have absorbed much of the raw stones’ price volatility, as well as brands and jewelry houses that create rings, bracelets and necklaces. This has kept retail prices relatively constant, fueled by robust demand from shoppers all over the world.

Still, challenges are mounting for the $17 billion diamond mining industry. The oversupply of rough stones and the increasingly strained finances of middlemen have hit miners’ balance sheets in recent months as they try to manage the surplus and increase the value of existing stones.

The Argyle mine, in a remote region of Western Australia, was responsible last year for 10 million to 15 million carats of the entire global diamond output (140 million to 145 million carats). Argyle is also the source of some of the rarest, most expensive gems in the world: pink, purple and red diamonds.

Last month, at a showcase of 64 of the most valuable gems recently extracted from the mine, its owner, Rio Tinto, said Argyle would close in 2020, after years of speculation.

In mid-July, De Beers said it would scale back production, after sales of rough diamonds fell 53 percent from a year earlier. And a few days later, Petra Diamonds, a mining group listed on the London stock exchange, reported full-year revenue below analysts’ estimates, adding that it expected next year’s production to be even lower.

According to Paul Zimnisky, an independent diamond industry analyst and consultant, the market is being squeezed from all sides. At one end, as a result of geopolitical tensions, global spending on luxury jewelry has become more volatile.

More significant, a growing glut of rough diamonds, coupled with foreign exchange volatility, trade wars and rocky stock markets, has upended the industry. Prices for rough diamonds have declined about 6 percent this year, while polished stones are about 1 percent lower, according to data from Polishedprices.com.

Mine exploration boomed after the 2008 financial crisis, partly in anticipation of demand from China. “Rough diamond prices hit an all-time high in 2011,” Mr. Zimnisky said, “but have basically been on a slide since then.”

Because it takes four to eight years to develop most mining operations, and sometimes longer, stones from newer explorations didn’t hit the market until late 2017 and early 2018, after trading conditions had drastically shifted.

In addition, financing problems have affected the miners’ core customer base: the traders, cutters and polishers of rough stones, whose hubs are predominantly in India and Belgium. Banks have moved away from this complex and secretive industry, made up of tens of thousands of small and medium-size businesses, after being stung by frauds and bad loans. In February 2018, news broke of one of India’s biggest frauds, allegedly perpetrated by a celebrated trader and jeweler, Nirav Modi.

Last month, the Dutch bank ABN Amro was the latest to announce that it would scale back its financing of rough-diamond purchases, citing a lack of profitability.

“There is significant indigestion in the midstream of the market, thanks to both a nasty cocktail of recent geopolitics and now this credit squeeze on polishers and traders,” said Bruce Cleaver, the chief executive of De Beers. “The impact is being felt across the entire market.”

With the profit margins of its clients — traders, cutters and polishers — rapidly slipping away, De Beers said it had reduced rough diamond production by 11 percent for the first half of 2019. It also cut prices and offered options like deferring purchases. A weaker rupee has also made gems more expensive for Indian manufacturers, which cut or polish about 90 percent of the world’s stones in the city of Surat.

“We need to help customers ride out this storm,” Mr. Cleaver said. “That said, we’ve seen trading downturns like this before. There is still plenty of demand for diamonds from consumers, and I feel confident this will pass.”

Rio Tinto said the main reason for shutting down Argyle was not that there was a lack of demand, but that the mine’s remaining stones were not valuable enough to extract, which involves sifting through 100 tons of a rock called kimberlite to collect a single carat.

But the shutdown could ultimately help the industry.

The Argyle mine has produced about 865 million carats of rough diamonds since 1983, Mr. Zimnisky said. Just over one million, or 0.13 percent, have been classified as pink, a rarity that tends to fetch several million dollars per carat, but the majority have been lower-quality browns and whites. Losing those browns and whites will knock 10 percent out of the annual world diamond output and may rebalance supply and demand. The shutdown could also lift the prices of pink diamonds already in the hands of investors.

The closing of a mine like Argyle and an incremental decrease in diamond output could also help shift some pressure away from small and medium-size traders and polishing businesses to larger, better-financed companies that can weather the volatility caused by excess inventory.

Miners have also significantly reduced investment in exploration over the past decade. Bain & Company estimates that exploration spending as a percentage of revenue has fallen to 2 percent from about 8 percent in 2007-08.

“Given where prices are now, there is a risk that some of the mines that have commenced production in recent years won’t survive the current environment and be put on care and maintenance,” Mr. Zimnisky said.

The blossoming popularity of lab-grown diamonds — and production in China and India — is another potential headwind for miners of natural gems. While lab-grown stones make up only about 2 percent of the diamond jewelry market, production is growing by 15 to 20 percent a year, according to Bain. Synthetic diamonds can cost 30 to 75 percent less than natural stones.

Still, consumer appetite for natural diamonds is strong.

According to a Bain Global Diamond Industry report last year, diamond jewelry sales increased 2 percent in 2017, led by demand in the United States, which accounts for more than half the polished natural diamond market, and China, which makes up 15 percent.

For Mr. Zimnisky, the steady consumer demand is reassuring, though he remains cautious.

“A diamond may be forever,” he said. “But its allure comes and goes.”



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GTA 5 Online Diamond Casino opening: Missions, Twitch Prime benefits and everything else you need to know about huge update



A major new casino and resort is opening in the heart of downtown Los Santos in one of the most hotly-anticipated updates to Grand Theft Auto Online in years.

The Diamond Casino & Resort opens its doors on 23 July, inviting players to test their luck at the virtual poker tables and roulette wheels in the hope of winning big and “living the life of opulence” in GTA 5.

A website dedicated to the fictional resort teases players with what to expect, urging players to abandon their preconceptions when visiting Los Santos’ latest landmark.


“You’ve heard the rumours. You want to believe them, and there’s only one way to find out,” the page states. “Let go of your inhibitions, your doubts, your sense of proportion, your credit rating. The rumours didn’t begin to do it justice.”

So what can players expect to find within the casino, resort and rooftop penthouses? The Independent has a complete guide of everything you need to know.

How do you get in to The Diamond Casino & Resort?

Anyone hoping to get inside the new Los Santos resort will first need a membership, which comes in two tiers.

The first is the GTA Online Casino Standard Membership – the cheaper of the two options. It comes with a parking garage, valet parking, champagne service, aircraft concierge, and a limousine service.

The second, more expensive, membership option is the GTA Online Casino VIP Membership, which comes with all the same benefits as the standard membership, plus access to a VIP lounge, high limit tables and a penthouse.

VIP membership at The Diamond comes with an aircraft concierge service (Rockstar Games)

“At The Diamond, there are members, and there are members,” Rockstar explains. “If you want to be the latter, youre only a penthouse key away from enjoying the kind of status that only systemic elitism can provide.”

Rockstar Games is yet to release details about the price of each membership – or how players will actually pay for it – but will be available as soon as the update is rolled out.

What are the best ways to win money?

Players can navigate the casino floor between games of poker, blackjack and roulette, as well as slot machines and virtual horse racing.

GTA Online has even included its very own version of Wheel of Fortune within The Diamond Casino & Resort.

A new high-end vehicle will be offered as a prize on the Spin the Lucky Wheel game in GTA Online each week (Rockstar Games)

The Spin the Lucky Wheel in the casino lobby gives players the chance to win chips, cash, clothing, and even the new Truffade Thrax supercar.

This car will only be available in the opening week, however a new high-end vehicle will be offered as a prize on the spinning wheel each week.

Spinning the wheel is free to members, though players can only try their luck once a day.

What benefits are there for Twitch Prime users?

Any GTA Online players who linked their Social Club account with Twitch Prime were able to gain free access to the Master Penthouse in The Diamond Casino & Resort, but there was a catch.

Players had to link their accounts before the 19 July to benefit from the offer. 

The new casino and resort features a rooftop penthouse with stunning views over Los Santos (Rockstar Games)

However, any Twitch Prime users who missed out will still be able to get some exclusive offers, including GTA$1.25 million and 15 per cent in bonus GTA$ on Shark Cash Card purchases.

The GTA$1.25 bonus would otherwise set players back $20 on Steam.

What can you buy with your winnings?

Once players have won big at the poker and roulette tables they can cash in their chips for in-game currency, which can then be used to buy weapons, vehicles and clothing within the game.

But if you’re in the market for an over-priced piece of tat, then The Diamond Casino store has you covered, offering “exclusive fashion” and “unique designer artwork”.

GTA Online players can cash in their chips for ‘tastefully curated items’, like this yellow balloon dog (Rockstar Games)

The artwork includes an injured balloon dog, titled ‘Yellow Dog With Cone’, and a metal cat called the ‘Silver Watcher’.

“There are some things in life that money can’t buy. But don’t fret,” the store’s website states. “Our in-house store offers a rotating selection of tastefully curated items that can be purchased with Chips.”

What missions and other mini games are there to complete?

One of the perks of being a VIP member is that within the penthouse they have access to two “classic arcade games”: Invade and Persuade II and Street Crime: Gang Wars Edition.

The Diamond Casino & Resort in Los Santos will finally open on 23 July, 2019 (Rockstar Games)

Within the penthouse’s media room players will also find a cinema-sized screen showing an exclusive film called Don’t Cross the Line.



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