Dubai Diamond Conference Reflects On Industry’s Future
The Dubai Diamond Exchange (DDE), a Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) platform, organised the third edition of its biennial Dubai Diamond Conference (DDC) under the theme ‘Shaping the future of an interconnected marketplace’ on October 16th and 17th.
The conference dealt with a rich agenda of subjects critical to the future of the diamond business worldwide and opened to its biggest ever audience. The event brought together international leaders of the diamond industry ranging from African ministers to traders, financiers and world-renowned jewellers.
The guest of honour and keynote speaker for the two-day conference was the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, who opened the second day of the conference.
Abdullah Al Saleh, UAE ministry of economy, undersecretary of foreign trade and industry, UAE, and DMCC’s executive chairman, Ahmed Bin Sulayem inaugurated the conference, welcoming top-level speakers and panellists from every sector of the diamond pipeline and from across the world, saying they would provide insights based on long experience about the deep-seated changes affecting the business.
“It is really excellent to see that so many world-class experts have travelled from all over the world to attend the third Dubai Diamond Conference. Dubai believes in the diamond industry’s potential to grow and we are committed to doing everything we can to support the industry,” said Abdullah Al Saleh.
Meanwhile, Bin Sulayem spoke about the critical role the DDC has developed in taking stock of developments in the industry and providing pointers for how it should tackle challenges as it moves forward. “Diamonds have long played an illustrious role in Dubai’s heritage as a gateway for global trade. And, in just 15 short years, Dubai has become the third biggest diamond trading centre in the world. It didn’t happen by accident. It happened because we designed an environment that is safe, business friendly, and that conveniently links producing and consuming markets.”
Speaking of the future, Ahmed Bin Sulayem set the agenda on the importance of connecting with and understanding millennials as recent research found that 37% of millennials claim to distrust big business and brands. “It’s a different world. And it goes beyond just advertising and marketing. What do we as an industry have to change to better appeal to this demographic?”
Among the speakers that addressed the conference were South Africa minister of mineral resources Mosebenzi Joseph Zwane, De Beers Group executive vice-president – global sightholder sales Paul Rowley, Kimberley Process chair Robert Owen-Jones, World Federation of Diamond Bourses president Ernest Blom, and World Diamond Council acting president Stéphane Fischler.
The first day of the conference tackled two major industry issues: ‘Uniting the industry to accelerate initiatives driving the sustainable development agenda forward’, and ‘How diamonds fit in the new era of millennials’.
Blom gave the diamond industry’s perspective on responsible mining, manufacturing and sourcing of goods.
“Sustainability is critical for the protection of our planet, and from a consumer point of view, it has become the ‘new normal’. Consumers – especially the younger generation – are demanding this and we must show that it is a vital part of our agenda.”
A debate on ‘How diamonds fit in the new era of millennials’ included Diamond Producers Association CEO Jean-Marc Lieberherr, Dhamani Jewels CEO and managing director Amit Dhamani, Dimexon International director Rajiv Mehta, and Bulgari managing director – Middle East & Africa Kolia Neveux. They discussed the vital importance of attracting millennials, a sector of the market which in the US alone is estimated to have a spending power of $65 billion.
The second day’s highlights included the display of de Grisogono’s exceptional 163-carat gem, a keynote speech by former UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the opening of the Nemesis International polishing factory, as well as a range of diamond industry debates.
Panel discussions on day two dealt with topics such as: ‘Lab-grown diamonds and their disclosure: Is there a problem’; ‘Bankability, transparency, innovation’; branding; ‘KP Reform: A reality or a never-ending story?’; ‘ The impact of value added tax (VAT) or GST on wholesale diamond trading’; and ‘ Tenders and auctions: Temporary phenomenon or new business model of the future?’
The Nemesis state-of-the-art facility is seen as completing the range of services that Dubai’s diamond trade can offer by providing the highest level of diamond cutting.
The value of diamonds handled through Dubai has grown from $3.5 billion in 2003 to over $26 billion in 2016.
“We now have the complete package, or one-stop shop,” said Bin Sulayem. “Dubai has become a major importer of rough diamonds which can now be cut and polished by master craftsmen. This joins the world-class facilities that the Almas Tower offers, including customs, insurance, banking, a Kimberley Process office, and international tenders of a wide range of rough diamonds.”
Meanwhile, Christie’s displayed the 163.41-carat emerald-cut diamond owned by the Geneva-based luxury jeweller de Grisogono. The auction house said it is the largest D-colour flawless diamond to ever come to auction and will be offered for sale on November 14th as a highlight of Christie’s Magnificent Jewels sale in Geneva.
The diamond, cut from a 404-carat rough discovered in February 2016 in the Lulo mine in Angola, was displayed at the conference as part of a world tour. It is the 27th biggest rough white diamond ever discovered and the largest in Angola, said Fawaz Gruosi, founder of de Grisogono, who purchased the rough diamond.
As part of the panel on ‘Lab-grown diamonds and their disclosure’, GSI co-founder Debbie Azar said, “We use multiple machines for synthetic screening and testing. It is not sufficient to use only one machine. Additionally, it is crucial to have the right processes in place and trained professionals to utilise equipment and remain at the forefront of this everchanging issue.”
After the press conferences, Ashit Mehta, director of Aurostar, spoke about the challenges affecting the midstream of the diamond sector where diamond margins are dropping. Following Mehta, there were speeches from the mining ministers of important African diamond producing states: Walter K. Chidhakwa, minister of mines and mining development, Zimbabwe; Keketso Sello, minister of mining, Lesotho; Leopold Mboli Fatran, minister of mines and geology, Central African Republic; and Dr Obolokile Obakeng, acting permanent secretary, minerals, energy and water resources, Botswana. Chidhakwa spoke about the need for the diamond industry to change and adapt and to increase the benefits received by local communities in diamond mining areas.
Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron began by praising Dubai and its openness, diversity, rule of law, and values which Dubai and the United Kingdom share.
“It is impossible to visit this country without being wowed; it is a towering example, quite literally, if you look outside, of what can be achieved. Lots of people questioned whether all of this investment in the desert would ever work, but your airports are international hubs, your tourist industry is a model for others to follow.
“You’re a business location of huge standing, there are over 1,00,000 of my fellow countrymen living here today, and I know that they don’t just come for the big attractions – the tallest building in the world, the biggest shopping mall in the world, the top seven-star hotel in the world – they come here for the opportunities. They hope that in this global success story, they can write their own success stories.”
DDE chairman Peter Meeus, who is stepping down from his position after 12 years, said the third edition of the Dubai Diamond Conference had once again illustrated its importance and the ability of Dubai to bring together international leaders of the diamond industry.