World Diamond Congress Concludes In Antwerp
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. (Seated, from left) WFDB honorary president Shmuel Schnitzer; Maxim Shkadov; Ernest Blom; WFDB secretary general Rony Unterman; and IDMA secretary general Ronnie VanderLinden.
GJEPC diamond panel committee convenor, Suresh Shah, being congratulated by Ernest Blom on the Council’s associate membership of the WFDB.