July 17, 2012

Gold & Diamonds

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Gold and diamonds greatly annoy me. I was once employed by a large mining company working on projects for a small gold mine and a large diamond mine. It seems to me that both these materials have a market price far beyond their intrinsic value, instead they are supported largely by marketing.

Gold is seen as a store of value because of its history – it is just accepted this is the case. However gold has few industrial uses. A small amount is used for jewellery (surprisingly not that much – a little gold goes a long way). Most is used for speculation for little return. Don’t just take it from me, Warren Buffet has a similar view

Diamonds are a little different – they are used heavily in industry for drills and other tools requiring a very hard surface. Nearly any diamond can do this job, not just the expensive gem quality diamonds. Although the supply of diamonds is huge compared to this use! There are warehouses full of diamonds. The market price is entirely manufactured over the last century and not based on any lack of supply or natural demand. 150 years ago diamonds were not popular gems. It was canny marketing and monopolistic pricing from DeBeers that made them de rigeur for engagement rings and the like. It’s not even a good store of value; it is just status-seeking.

When I worked for a diamond mine they were troubled by the large number of brown diamonds they were producing. These were much harder to sell and not considered good enough for jewellery. So what did they do? They called them “champagne”, “burgundy” or similar names and created a market for them. Now they can sell as gems what was considered waste 30 years ago.

Just say no.


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