Israel’s Diamond Industry – Setting International Standards of Quality
Take a look at any engaged woman’s hand, in any country in the world, and chances are good that the diamond she is wearing passed through the Israeli Diamond Exchange before making its way onto her finger. Very good, in fact. Israel may be a small country, but when it comes to diamonds, it’s an absolute superpower. The Times of Israel recently covered Israel’s diamond industry:
The Israeli Diamond Exchange, housed in a series of four interconnected buildings just east of Tel Aviv in the bedroom community of Ramat Gan, boasts the largest diamond trading floor in the world, and executives here say that every second diamond of more than half a carat in the world passes through this mini-city before making its way to a precious metal setting and plush-lined box.
The Ramat Gan Diamond Exchange nets an total annual turnover of $28 billion and an annual rough trade of some $8 billion-$10 billion, or about quarter of Israel’s annual industrial export. The number is so staggering that in order to not warp numbers, the Israeli government details it on a separate line when issuing its economic reports.
“What we do here is the upper layer of the diamond business, and we are damn good at it,” says Yaakov Almor, the diamond exchange’s director of public relations. He is herding a gaggle of journalists past the IDE’s security labyrinth, a system that involves fingerprint scans, armed guards and double-locking revolving cage doors. Once we make it onto the trading floor, which is packed with international gem hackers thanks to the semi-annual US and International Diamond Week, it’s clear why security is so tight.
Roberto Coin, the famed Italian jewelry designer, is on hand at this week’s trading festival as the guest of honor, and he agrees that a diamond from Israel comes pre-approved with a stamp of quality.
A diamond from Israel, Coin says, is like a Rolls-Royce among cars. And according to Schmuel Schnitzer, president of the Israel Diamond Exchange, that quality begins with person-to-person relationships. So much of the global diamond industry has been modeled on the trust behind an Israeli handshake and a good word, Schnitzer explains, that in places as far-flung as Dubai and Bombay, the Yiddish phrase “mazal u’bracha” has become a shibboleth meaning “the deal is sealed.”
“We don’t need contracts,” he says. “We have them, but the deal is being finished by shaking hands. People, the friendships, are very important here.”
Schnitzer also is quick to declare that Israel, which was the first nation to adopt the Kimberly Process, an international standard that bans so-called blood diamonds, peddles only cruelty-free stones.
The diamond exchange complex offers a spectacularly surreal portal into a self-contained world of high-shine commerce. The complex’s four high-rise buildings, which sprouted in Ramat Gan in the 1960s long before the city’s other glass and steel towers, are linked by a series of hallways, passageways and strangely-marked elevators. Inside, there are six banks, including the State Bank of India, all catering specifically to the diamond trade. There are synagogues, doctor’s offices, and workout facilities. There are dozens of restaurants and cafes, a customs office, and a fully-functioning post office.
Some 1,400 companies, comprising 20,000 workers, have their headquarters here, all working under the regulation of the Israeli Economy Ministry. Another 35,000 employees help polish, peddle and promote Israeli diamonds around the world.
Moti Besser, a former IDF general who now serves as the center’s director, says that in the 75 years the Israeli Diamond Exchange has been operating, it has succeeded in reaching every corner of the world’s diamond trade.
“Anywhere there is a demand for polished diamonds,” he says, “you can find a representative of the Israeli diamond industry.”
For the full Times of Israel article click here.