De Beers’ monopoly in the diamond industry

by Electra Radioti
De Beers’ monopoly

De Beers is one of the most well-known examples of a monopoly in the diamond industry. Here’s a detailed look at De Beers and its impact as a monopoly:

Overview of De Beers

History and Establishment:

  • Founded in 1888 by Cecil Rhodes in South Africa.
  • Became a dominant force in the diamond industry through strategic acquisitions and control over diamond mines.

Monopoly Control:

  • For much of the 20th century, De Beers controlled 85-90% of the world’s rough diamond supply.
  • Implemented a single channel marketing strategy through its Central Selling Organization (CSO) to maintain price stability and market control.

Strategies Employed by De Beers

  1. Market Manipulation:

    • Controlled supply to maintain high prices.
    • Bought diamonds from other producers to regulate market availability.
  2. Advertising Campaigns:

    • Famous for the "A Diamond is Forever" campaign, which established diamonds as the premier choice for engagement rings.
    • Created a cultural demand for diamonds, linking them to love and commitment.
  3. Cartel Formation:

    • Formed agreements with other diamond-producing countries and companies to regulate production and sales.
    • Ensured that all diamonds passed through De Beers’ hands, allowing them to set prices globally.

Economic Implications

Price Control:

  • De Beers’ monopoly allowed it to set high prices for diamonds, far above the actual production cost.
  • Created artificial scarcity to sustain high prices, leading to significant profit margins.

Market Entry Barriers:

  • High barriers to entry due to De Beers’ control over mines and the diamond distribution network.
  • Legal and strategic obstacles made it difficult for new competitors to enter the market.

Innovation and Production:

  • Limited innovation in the diamond industry due to lack of competitive pressure.
  • Focused more on marketing and maintaining market control than on improving production efficiency.

Regulatory Challenges

Antitrust Laws:

  • Faced numerous antitrust lawsuits, particularly in the United States.
  • In the early 2000s, De Beers agreed to settle a long-standing U.S. antitrust case, paying $10 million in fines and altering some of its business practices.

Market Changes:

  • The rise of alternative diamond producers, such as Russia and Canada, reduced De Beers’ market share.
  • Shifted strategy from monopoly control to more competitive practices, focusing on branding and direct-to-consumer sales.

Modern-Day De Beers

Current Market Position:

  • No longer holds a complete monopoly but remains a major player in the diamond industry.
  • Adapting to market changes and competition, focusing on ethical sourcing and lab-grown diamonds.

Ethical Concerns:

  • Faced criticism for labor practices and environmental impact.
  • Increasing focus on responsible mining and fair trade practices to improve its global image.


De Beers is a classic example of a monopoly that used strategic market control, advertising, and supply regulation to dominate the diamond industry for over a century. While its monopoly has waned due to regulatory actions and market changes, De Beers continues to be a significant player, adapting to the evolving landscape of the diamond market.

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