Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/613

This page has been validated.

afford some indication of the rapid increase in wealth in recent years among the people of the United States.

We have, therefore, in this experience, the phenomenon of the strangely persistent value of a comparatively useless gem, during a period when the prices of most other commodities were diminishing by leaps and bounds, as well as the extraordinary concurrent absorbent power of the world for a greatly increased product. But the demand for diamonds latterly is thought not to have kept pace with their increasing production; and it is said that the stock of diamonds in the hands of dealers in 1888 was fully twenty-five per cent in excess of their requirements. To meet and neutralize the influence of this condition of affairs, the South African diamond-mining companies have limited production, which for the time has advanced prices. But the tendency obviously is for diamonds to decline in value; and the wonder, indeed, is that this has not happened at an earlier date. "One thing, furthermore, seems certain, and that is, that when the breakdown of speculation and prices does occur, the consequences will be singular and far-reaching. For it is to be remembered that for the most part the use of diamonds is a mere whim of fashion, that may change at any time. There is no way of stimulating the demand for them, except by lowering prices, and, of course, if prices were materially reduced, the wealthy votaries of fashion would inevitably cease to wear diamonds, and would take up some other form of personal adornment."[1] The price experience of diamonds in the near future promises, therefore, to be even more interesting than it has been in the recent past.

In the United States during recent years there has been a remarkable decline in the price of hides and in certain descriptions of leather; "Buenos Ayres" hides having sold in May, 1889, at the lowest figures for thirty years, while the leather trade generally has been depressed and unsatisfactory. The agency occasioning the first result is ascribed to the great increase in the supply of domestic hides consequent upon a notable extension of the American (Western) cattle industry; and, in the case of the second, to an over-production and decline in demand for upper-leather, in consequence of a change in fashion, whereby lighter grades of foot-wear have supplemented the use of "leg-boots."



The improvements in recent years in the production of sugar from the beet, and the artificial encouragement of this industry in the continental states of Europe through the payment of large bounties, have in turn compelled the large producers of cane-sugars in the tropics to entirely abandon their old methods of working,

  1. London "Economist."