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Profile: Ari Epstein

Jul 28, 2013 5:40 AM   By Rapaport News
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RAPAPORT... Antwerp still remains the world’s most important center for the diamond trade. Approximately 80 percent of the total world production of rough diamonds is being traded in Antwerp, as is an estimated 50 percent of all polished diamonds worldwide. The Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) is an industry-established foundation whose mission is to serve and support the diamond business in Belgium.

Name: Ari Epstein
From: Antwerp, Belgium 
Company and Position: Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) - CEO

1. What prompted you to pursue a career in the diamond and jewelry industry?

Although the Antwerp diamond industry is no bigger than a square mile, you still meet the entire world in it. Seventy-three nationalities work hand in hand every day and the Antwerp diamond trade is the cement between all these cultures and people. My ancestors have always been active in the diamond industry in Antwerp as well. I feel lucky that I work here. There’s no place like it.

2. Do you have a business philosophy that guides you in your work?

I work and live by three rules: wake up early, work hard and always look at the bigger picture.

3. What has been the most notable change in the diamond and jewelry industry over the course of your career?

For me, the most notable change is that the world becomes smaller every day. When you compare today’s trade to the trade 30 years ago, the differences are enormous. Through internet, smart phones, etc., trade becomes more transparent and the access to information and pricing develops accordingly. Today, we even buy certified stones on paper, without seeing the diamond. Technologies of all kind make the world smaller but at the same time less tangible.

4. If you could make any change to the industry, what would it be?

I believe very firmly that greater transparency is the key to the future. I’m proud that the Antwerp diamond industry is not only the biggest diamond industry worldwide but that we are also an ethical leader. I hope that all diamond industries will follow in our footsteps in the future. An equal level playing field, where internal controls are equally implemented and duly controlled, is what our sparkling and everlasting product deserves.

5. What is the toughest professional challenge that you have faced? What do you consider to be your greatest professional accomplishment?

My toughest professional challenge is also my greatest professional accomplishment. A little over two years ago, the Antwerp diamond community, together with political and other stakeholders, gave voice to concerns about the challenges our industry, and moreover Antwerp, are facing. For two years, all stakeholders talked, discussed, evaluated and re-evaluated future solutions and strategies. Finding the balance between vision, strategy and implementation was at times very tough. At the end of the process, everything was successfully translated into a plan that could safeguard and reinforce Antwerp's leading position in the global diamond industry: the Antwerp Diamond Masterplan. Having the privilege to implement this strategy on a day-to-day basis is a daily reward for the efforts we all made.

6. What role does innovation play in ensuring that your company remains relevant?

I strongly believe that innovation is a state of mind. The ever-increasing pace of change in the world is exciting, but it's also a challenge. It means that almost everything that you do now in your business, no matter how brilliant, cutting edge or state of the art, is soon going to be outdated. Constant innovation is key. Since the industry is in constant flux lately, we need to adapt rapidly. 

7. What differentiates your company from others?

To be good is not enough. As a world leader, you have to be excellent, whether it's the organization of our Antwerp Diamond Pavilions for trade shows, events, communication or other support mechanisms for the Antwerp diamond industry. Also, the transparency of the industry and the strength of the Antwerp Diamond Office is something you can’t find anywhere else in the world.

8. What advice would you give to someone starting out in the diamond and jewelry sector?

There is nothing like our industry, so just dive in. Read, study and breathe the industry. That’s the only way to discover it properly. Get out of the stack, and start in the right markets. The industry is opening up more and more; everybody is welcome.

9. How do you envision your business 10 years from now?

In the technological world we live in, 10 years is a very long time. I think it’s hard to predict how the world and the trade will look in a decade, but what we do know is that it will have changed even more. I’m sure that 10 years from now, transparency will play an even bigger role. I know that the strategic plan we launched in 2012 is a good guide for the years to come; however, it is increasingly important to follow the evolutions in our industry closely. I believe that by abiding by our principles of efficiency and transparency, we can safeguard the future.
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