Rapaport Magazine


By Marc Goldstein
The Human Element

With the launch of the first Antwerp Diamond Manufacturers & Traders Fair, the Antwerp bourses, once viewed as staid, slow-moving and reactive institutions, are once again the locomotive of a new initiative aimed at reinforcing the networks, links and opportunities among Antwerp-based companies. This time it was the Beurs voor Diamanthandel, one of the bourses of Antwerp, in cooperation with other diamond bourses in the city and the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), that welcomed Antwerp traders on October 15 to an exhibition of goods manufactured and sold by local firms.
   During the popular, crowded one-day event held on the bourse trading floor, Marcel Pruwer, bourse president, explained that “The primary purpose of this event was to have Antwerp diamond merchants meet up with each other. The fact is that with the evolution of technology, we’re getting used to working from offices, and we have forgotten the human element. As everyone saw during the fair, the bourse was as crowded and there was as much activity as in the 1960s and ’70s.”

Demand for More Fairs
   Pruwer said attendees at this first fair have requested that the bourse host similar trading events on a monthly basis and the bourse is considering that request. The fair, said Pruwer, “constitutes a basic platform that we will adapt for different niche markets. We have rarely seen such an array of goods. With approximately 75 companies participating and due to the fact that we had to turn down people because of insufficient space on our trading floor, we must consider expanding with the cooperation of our fellow bourses.”
   Commenting on the fair, Koen Smets of Smets Diamonds said, “Sometimes we know people from their faces, but we don’t know exactly what they do. The people at the fair were quite enthusiastic. The hall was packed. I know there have been sales already, although this was not the primary goal, which is to build up long-term business relationships within Antwerp.”
   Audrey Tugendhaft of Forever Diamonds added that “I think it was very positive. On top of creating activity during a weaker business climate, the fair showed what everybody is doing. It created links and I think this approach is very promising. It’s like reviving business within the bourses. With this kind of event, there is a real chance that transactions will take place on a larger scale between people who might not have worked together before.”
   “This particular fair,” concluded Pruwer, “was designed to leverage a multibillion-dollar polished business in this market in different, innovative ways. This is the first step of a rolling strategy designed to help the global diamond business grow, and secure Antwerp’s position in this global business also.”

Zimbabwe Diamonds Approved
   Finally, the Antwerp Diamond Mile will be able to trade diamonds originating from Zimbabwe. The AWDC has officially released a statement confirming that the European Commission (EC) implemented an amendment to a regulation of the European Union (EU) that prohibited trade in Zimbabwean diamonds.
   As of September 25, imports of rough diamonds into the EU from the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation will be allowed. The amendment also provides that imports from other companies linked to this corporation will be allowed, including Marange Resources, Canadile, Mbada, Kimberworth Investments and the Diamond Mining Corporation (DMC).”
   Although the issue of trading Zimbabwean diamonds is still politically very sensitive, due to continuing allegations of civil rights violations in that country, the lifting of the export ban for EU countries is considered a major step toward leveling the playing field. While the ban was in place, any buyers desiring Zimbabwean-origin diamonds were forced to go to competing diamond centers to place their orders. “Now, Antwerp can again claim to be the World Diamond Center because you can really find goods from all producing countries here,” commented a diamond manufacturer who preferred to speak anonymously, so sensitive is the issue.
   Immediately following the EU announcement, the AWDC began organizing a networking journey to Harare, on October 25, in order to help Antwerp-based companies reacquaint themselves with the country’s diamond industry leaders and renew business relationships.

Zimbabwe’s Reserves
   Now that normal trade relationships have resumed, one of the major questions raised by Belgian diamond manufacturers was whether there is still a future for diamond extraction in Zimbabwe. One major Antwerp trader, speaking anonymously and confidentially, said “My feeling is that we’re coming after the wedding. The bulk of the Zimbabwean production has already been mined and all that’s left is going to get depleted in a couple of years.” But another sightholder insisted, “I’m convinced we haven’t seen yet all the potential of this country.” It is hoped that the traders who do make the trip to Zimbabwe with the AWDC will return with some answers to that question. 

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - November 2013. To subscribe click here.

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