World Di­a­mond Congress Con­cludes In An­twerp

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The 36th World Di­a­mond Congress that was hosted in An­twerp from June 15-18 wit­nessed a record turnout with over 200 del­e­gates par­tic­i­pat­ing in key dis­cus­sions, set­ting the fu­ture course of the global di­a­mond in­dus­try. The event was pow­ered by the An­twerp World Di­a­mond Cen­tre (AWDC) and or­gan­ised by the World Fed­er­a­tion of Di­a­mond Bourses (WFDB) and the In­ter­na­tional Di­a­mond Man­u­fac­tur­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (IDMA). They were joined by CIBJO, the World Jew­ellery Con­fed­er­a­tion and the World Di­a­mond Coun­cil.

The dis­cus­sions were head­lined by con­cerns about in­dus­try fi­nanc­ing, trans­parency & com­pli­ance is­sues, syn­thetic di­a­monds, lab­o­ra­tory ser­vices, and in­dus­try com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

The Congress of­fi­cially opened with speeches from the lead­er­ship of the in­dus­try, in­clud­ing WFDB pres­i­dent Ernest Blom, IDMA pres­i­dent Maxim Shkadov, and AWDC pres­i­dent Stephane Fis­chler.

Blom said that he was pleased with the strong at­ten­dance of the WFDB af­fil­i­ate bourses and with the topics that were raised and cov­ered. “At the heart of our dis­cus­sions were the sus­tain­abil­ity and rep­u­ta­tion of the di­a­mond in­dus­try and trade at large. The WFDB re­solved to build on its com­mu­ni­ca­tions strat­egy and to ex­pe­dite com­mu­ni­ca­tions on a global level.”

Shkadov said the IDMA mem­bers and the WFDB had held long and in­tense dis­cus­sions on the di­a­mond sup­ply chain. “We talked at length about is­sues such as fi­nanc­ing and the man­u­fac­tur­ers’

re­la­tion­ships with the banks and other fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions ac­tive in the di­a­mond in­dus­try and trade. In ad­di­tion, we ex­pressed our con­cern re­gard­ing the sig­nif­i­cant di­ver­si­ties of lab­o­ra­tory di­a­mond grad­ing stan­dards and their im­pact on con­sumer con­fi­dence in di­a­monds; spoke about the Di­a­mond Devel­op­ment Ini­tia­tive (DDI) and the ne­ces­sity of pro­mot­ing ad­vances in so­cial and eco­nomic con­di­tions through­out the di­a­mond min­ing sec­tor world­wide; and re­viewed the Fi­nan­cial Ac­tion Task Force (FATF) re­port about money laun­der­ing,” Shkadov noted.

Dur­ing the open­ing cer­e­mony, along­side other lo­cal dig­ni­taries, Flem­ish Min­is­ter Pres­i­dent Kris Peeters wel­comed all par­tic­i­pants to the di­a­mond cap­i­tal of the world and in ref­er­ence to the cur­rent ten­sions re­gard­ing Ukraine, re­it­er­ated the Bel­gian and Flem­ish com­mit­ment to safe­guard the An­twerp di­a­mond in­dus­try from the po­ten­tial im­pact of Euro­pean trade sanc­tions on the in­dus­try, “Di­a­monds are our re­gion [Flan­ders] and coun­try’s calling card. They pro­vide work for 35,000 peo­ple in the An­twerp area alone. Sanc­tions would be a catas­tro­phe.”

Over the course of the four-day event, key stake­hold­ers and in­dus­try ex­perts dis­cussed var­i­ous topics, such as the is­sue of undis­closed syn­thet­ics and the need for uni­for­mity in di­a­mond grad­ing lab re­ports and the chal­lenge of main­tain­ing and re­in­forc­ing the in­dus­try’s fi­nanc­ing, by cre­at­ing even more trans­parency and stake­holder aware­ness and con­fi­dence.

Shkadov ex­pressed the man­u­fac­turer’s con­cerns on the in­dus­try’s prof­itabil­ity and the need for an open and con­struc­tive di­a­logue with all the el­e­ments of the value chain. Martin Ra­pa­port of the Ra­pa­port group fo­cused on the es­sen­tials of mar­ket­ing di­a­monds in a world where the com­pe­ti­tion with other lux­ury items is greater than ever.

Syn­thet­ics cou­pled with lab re­ports formed a part of the dis­cus­sions at the Congress. A de­ci­sion was made to speak with one voice and en­sure uni­for­mity in lab re­ports while keep­ing a watch­ful eye on syn­thetic di­a­monds, en­sur­ing that they are dis­closed as syn­thet­ics. The meet­ing made it clear that syn­thet­ics were not seen as an en­emy as they have their own mar­ket niche but that they must be mar­keted with full dis­clo­sure.

Another con­tri­bu­tion that stood out was the speech given by Rory More O’Fer­ral, honorary vice chair­man of the DDI. O’Fer­ral com­mented that while the global di­a­mond in­dus­try should be proud of cre­at­ing the Kim­ber­ley Process (KP), the KP does not deal with is­sues of hu­man rights or so­cial degra­da­tion. He said that it was in the in­dus­try’s in­ter­est, in order to avoid the pos­si­bil­ity of more reg­u­la­tion and con­sumer boy­cotts, to take ac­tion now and con­trib­ute to the DDI’s work, viz im­prov­ing the lives of the es­ti­mated 1.5 mil­lion dig­gers and ar­ti­sanal min­ers work­ing in ab­so­lute poverty in Africa.

Dur­ing the Congress, the Gem & Jew­ellery Ex­port Pro­mo­tion Coun­cil (GJEPC), rep­re­sented by di­a­mond panel com­mit­tee con­venor Suresh Shah, was ad­mit­ted as an as­so­ciate mem­ber. In ad­di­tion, Canada and South Korea were for­mally ap­proved as mem­bers of the WFDB, which now com­prises 30 di­a­mond bourses world­wide. Ac­cord­ing to the WFDB, this forms part of a broader strat­egy im­ple­mented to ex­pand the mem­ber­ship base by get­ting pro­duc­ing coun­tries and min­ing com­pa­nies to ex­pand its mem­ber­ship base.

In a joint state­ment, the WFDB, IDMA and CIBJO an­nounced the for­ma­tion of the so-called ‘Pres­i­dent’s Fo­rum’, which is a joint con­sul­ta­tive com­mit­tee with its mem­bers be­ing the pres­i­dents of each or­gan­i­sa­tion. To­gether, they will dis­cuss and for­mu­late co­or­di­nated strate­gies and poli­cies for the in­dus­try on im­por­tant is­sues of com­mon in­ter­est.

The Congress also stressed that com­mu­ni­ca­tions is the cor­ner­stone of devel­op­ment in the fu­ture. The speed at which the WFDB can com­mu­ni­cate with its full mem­ber­ship and the global sec­tor at large was crit­i­cal. “Telling the Story” is cru­cial to build­ing con­sumer con­fi­dence and topof-mind aware­ness for di­a­mond jew­ellery.

Upon con­clud­ing the 36th Congress, WFDB and IDMA an­nounced the 2015 Pres­i­dents’ Meet­ings will be held in Ra­mat Gan, Is­rael, while the 37th World Di­a­mond Congress will take place in Dubai, United Arab Emi­rates in 2016.

(Stand­ing, from left) WFDB honorary pres­i­dent Eli Izhakoff; AWDC pres­i­dent Stephane Fis­chler; WDC pres­i­dent Edward Ass­cher; WFDB honorary trea­surer Di­eter Hahn; IDMA honorary pres­i­dent Jef­frey Fis­cher; and HRD An­twerp pres­i­dent Julien Dri­j­booms....

GJEPC di­a­mond panel com­mit­tee con­venor, Suresh Shah, be­ing con­grat­u­lated by Ernest Blom on the Coun­cil’s as­so­ciate mem­ber­ship of the WFDB.

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