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Diamond Buyers Club

The opaque diamond trade may be ripe for disruption.

Lucara Diamond, which recently found the second-largest diamond in history in Botswana, is taking on industry giants such as De Beers and Alrosa PJSC with an online platform to replace the current physical auctions.

The service allows Lucara to match buyers’ requirements, not only saving jewelers the trouble of traveling to Botswana but also ending the practice of buying stones by the bucket. They typically can only use some, and then have to sell the rest on the secondary market.

“For the first time ever, manufacturers buy only what they want, they don’t have to carry all this extra inventory,” Eira Thomas, Lucara’s chief executive officer, said in an interview in Stockholm. “The large integrated jewelry companies don’t want to be in the business of secondary trading. They’re just trying to source diamonds for their own products.”

The service allows Lucara to match buyers’ requirements.

In a series of trials, Vancouver, Canada-based Lucara claims that prices were 8 percent over Lucara’s traditional market price. It’s now trying to bring other independent producers on board, with the aim of moving at least a portion of the $18 billion annual diamond trade onto its site called Clara.

Whether Lucara will be able to attract major producers to use its system remains to be seen. De Beers, the world’s biggest diamond producer, is famous for its tight control over the diamond market and has relied on its own system of selling gems for decades.

“If we can get to $1.5 billion transacted through the platform, the cash flow we generate from Clara will be as important as the cash flow we generate from the mine," Thomas said. “We’re taking baby steps right...

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