The only factor that De Beers could use to control the market was ownership of the source of diamonds. If mines were found 20 years earlier, then De Beers would have lost control back then. Also, The Soviet Union was also keeping the De Beers monopoly alive. The political situation was the only reason De Beers could survive other mines opening, which was a very unstable foundation.
Yes, it is my belief that the diamond market could have been transformed into an oligopoly or a free market a lot earlier than it did. This is because if people were not so threatened by the powerhouse that is De Beers, they would have been able to make a big dent in the diamond market. However, De Beers is so big, that it is so difficult to get into the market, that most people do not even try.
That is a risk; but there are opportunities for De Beers too. As it has lost market share, the old goliath has become nimbler. No longer focusing exclusively on defending a cartel, De Beers is freer to make decisions according to commercial interest. For instance, it now buys fewer stones at uneconomic prices; profits matter more than market share. A trimmer De Beers, with a pared down list of clients, might even be able to make bigger profits than the old giant. Last year it produced healthy profits of $676m on sales of $5.5 billion.But its decision to settle American antitrust charges laid against it in 1994 points to how much it is feeling the pressure. De Beers executives should now be free to travel to America to conduct business without fear of arrest. That should make it easier to promote De Beers LV, a hitherto disappointing partnership with the luxury-goods firm LVMH to market De Beers-branded diamonds.
De Beers might have lost their monopoly over the diamond market at the time of the blood diamond scandal. However, they took the initiative and led the development of procedures that ensured that all of their diamonds were sourced ethically and inevitably forced the rest of the market to change their behaviour too. This meant it was much more difficult for any smaller start-ups using unethical (and cheaper) methods of diamond production to infringe on their market.