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The combined impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in August and September generated what was arguably the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States. As of mid-October, no final official death toll or cumulative economic damage figure was available, but it seemed clear that these numbers would ultimately run into the thousands and the tens of billions of dollars, respectively.
The diamond jewelry trade was of course no less vulnerable to the effects of this unprecedented disaster than was any other business, and, as the purveyor of a luxury product, arguably more so. The immediate loss of life and extensive property damage from the storm grabbed attention nationally and around the world, and there was no doubt that this was dramatic and substantial. One national jewelry chain that had an outlet in New Orleans's Oakwood Mall told New York Diamonds that the store had survived Hurricane Katrina fine, only to succumb to a fire caused by an electrical malfunction afterward, when the Fire Department, like other emergency service providers, had not yet returned to normal functioning in the devastated and mostly deserted city.
It's important to keep in mind that the area devastated by the two hurricanes extended far beyond the greater New Orleans area and even beyond the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, ultimately affecting the region and the entire nation.
"In an overall sense, our take is that we're going to see a lot of impact, because millions of people have had their lives affected by Katrina and Rita, and their personal priorities have changed," noted Steve …