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De Beers expects any recovery in the beleaguered diamond market to be slow and gradual as the industry continues to suffer from weak economic growth in key markets such as China and the US.

The sector almost came to a complete standstill in the second half of last year as De Beers and Alrosa PJSC — the two biggest miners — all but stopped supplies in a desperate attempt to stem a slump in prices. While those efforts helped the market to pick up a bit, it’s unclear how much appetite trade buyers currently have.

“We see 2024 as a year of recovery,” De Beers CEO Al Cook said a Bloomberg TV interview in Cape Town. “We expect that upturn in diamond demand to be gradual rather than sudden.”

The industry has been whipsawed since the start of the pandemic. It was one of the great winners as stuck-at-home shoppers turned to diamond jewelry and other luxury purchases. But demand quickly faded as economies reopened, leaving many in the trade holding excess stock that they had paid too much for.

The cooldown rapidly escalated as the crucial US market wobbled under rising inflation. In addition, consumer confidence in key growth market China was hurt by a property crisis, while competition from lab-grown diamonds increased.