Rapaport Magazine

Antwerp Finds A New Identity

The New Antwerp World Diamond Centre

By Marc Goldstein
RAPAPORT... The new Antwerp World Diamond Centre is poised to put its namesake city back on the map.

After more than a year of back-and-forth movements, the intervention of the federal government and the personal involvement of Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, the Antwerp Diamond High Council (HRD) has been divided into two separate organizations. The official announcement was made May 30 in a ceremony held at HRD’s Antwerp premises. Among the attendees were Fientje Moerman, the vice-minister-president of the Flemish government and Flemish minister for Economy, Enterprise, Science, Innovation and Foreign Trade, and Ludo Van Campenhout, Antwerp’s city alderman in charge of the diamond sector.

The two new organizations are:

•Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), a foundation that will be responsible for the advocacy and defense of the Belgian diamond industry and trade in general. The AWDC will represent the collective interests of the Belgian diamond sector with all municipal, provincial, regional, federal and international bodies, and also promote Antwerp as the world’s leading diamond business center.

•HRD Antwerp NV, an independent company that will encompass HRD’s former commercial segments. HRD Antwerp NV began operating May 2, in advance of the official announcement, with five divisions: The Diamond Lab, formerly HRD Certificates; the Precious Stones Lab; Education, formerly the HRD Institute of Gemmology; HRD Research and HRD Equipment, formerly known as Comdiam.

Freddy Hanard, chief executive officer (CEO) of the new AWDC/HRD said, “One cannot overstate how important this restructuring is for the two organizations in the modern diamond business environment, [given that] the challenges facing both are great and varied. It was essential that they be streamlined and empowered to act so that they achieve their goals in the best way possible.”


The new AWDC logo features a representation of the Antwerp city skyline above the caption “Antwerp World Diamond Centre.” AWDC plans to make extensive use of the slogan “Diamonds Love Antwerp” in its upcoming promotional campaigns and also to encourage local diamond companies to incorporate it in their marketing materials. “The association of those three words — Antwerp, Love and Diamonds — expresses the essence of our industry,” commented Hanard. The plan is to build on those three words in various ways to produce a variety of expanded slogans such as “Diamonds Love to be Cut in Antwerp” and “Diamonds Love to be Bought in Antwerp.”
It’s been reported that HRD Antwerp NV will develop its own brand identity and corporate logo. “While HRD Antwerp NV competes in an international environment and must operate according to its rules, the company’s affiliation with the Belgian center is a major asset, because it implies experience, professionalism, impeccable standards and stability. Its identity should reflect all of that,” Hanard said.

Real Change or Not?

If the division of HRD increases the support provided by the Belgian authorities because the industry is more transparent, that would be a significant improvement. The darkest fear is that the process could end up as nothing more than political window dressing.

Arthur Langerman of Langerman Diamonds is not convinced of the reorganization’s effectiveness. “Antwerp is not at its best at the moment,” he said. “With or without the HRD division, it is obvious that interest in Antwerp as a diamond center is fading. There are no more Japanese buyers coming. Now that there are no taxes in India, who needs to go through Antwerp? The same could be said of Dubai or Tel Aviv. One alarming sign is the number of offices for rent or for sale in the Diamond Mile. And then there is the ongoing fear of police raids, which has not yet vanished.”

André Gumuchdjian of the Belgian Association of Traders of Polished (BVGD) is more optimistic. “It’s a very good thing that the old HRD split into two independent bodies. Independence is the key word. From now on, there’s a chance that the interests of Antwerp will be really defended. In fact, there were for decades a series of conflicts of interest. To give only one example, consider the fact that the development of the HRD labs around the globe was prevented by the difficulty of reaching a consensus because not every member of the HRD umbrella organization had the same agenda. But now that the HRD lab is independent, it can preside over its own destiny and act and develop according to its best interests.”

Gumuchdjian concluded: “How independent will both entities be? We must remember that independence is not everything — efficiency and professionalism are also crucial. Only time will tell if the results are beneficial for the market and for Antwerp.”

Whatever the various opinions, the impact of the division is already being felt. The HRD Diamond Lab opened the HRD Lab Link, a pick-up certification service for the Israel diamond sector, on June 1. Dirk Dullaert of HRD Antwerp commented “We have for many years had a significant client base in the Israeli center, with our customers drawn to our certificates because of their very strong reputation in the European and Asian markets and their growing popularity in North America. We felt it was imperative to offer a service-based package that would provide Israel-based clients direct access to our lab in Antwerp with a secure door-to-door delivery and logistics service. A fast turnaround time is a crucial component because too often clients are forced to choose between a leading certificate and an acceptable response rate. We don’t want them to be forced to choose because we feel that they can get both at the same time.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - July 2007. To subscribe click here.

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