De Beers has revealed its strongest diamond sales in three years following a Christmas surge in jewellery purchases, with sales 10{409126f2c1f09c9e510a010c163a4bce2c3ccfc4019bdf864d6cb2d5d8752f38} above the group’s 20-year average.

The world’s biggest diamond miner made $650m from its rough stones last month, well above sales of $551m in early 2020, amounting to the highest sales since January 2018.

Sales were propelled thanks to a busy Christmas season for jewellery buying in the US, and the company hopes for a diamond rush over the Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day.

The Covid-19 pandemic had initially led to a collapse in demand for stones as many jewellery makers and stores were obliged to shut down.

Bruce Cleaver, chief executive at De Beers Group, said midstream diamond buyers – who transform the rough stones into polished diamonds – had begun to restock so were prepared to fulfil new orders from retailers.

Although the diamond industry still faced “risks to recovery”, due to Covid-19 rules restricting movement of people and goods, Cleaver said he was encouraged by the increase in demand.

De Beers reportedly called for one of the steepest increases in diamond prices in almost 10 years last month, when it raised the price for stones larger than one carat.

The company does not reveal what it charges buyers, but is understood to have increased the price of its stones by up to 5{409126f2c1f09c9e510a010c163a4bce2c3ccfc4019bdf864d6cb2d5d8752f38} in the January sales round, according to a report by Bloomberg, which cited unnamed sources.

This increase, which is understood to apply to stones bigger than one carat, would be one of the steepest hikes since the early part of the last decade, according to the report.

The stronger sales and higher prices could signal a change in fortune for the business, which has been part of the Anglo American mining conglomerate since 2012.

Sales of De Beers’ diamonds slumped by a third in 2020 to hit their lowest level in almost 10 years as the pandemic took the shine off global demand for diamonds and gems. The company said it had provisionally sold $2.7bn (£1.9bn) of rough diamonds last year, down sharply from sales of more than $4bn in 2019.

There was a glimmer of recovery in its figures for the final diamond sales cycle of last year, when earnings climbed to a provisional figure of $440m in December, up slightly higher than during the same period last year.