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World Diamond Congress Accords Highest Priority to Promoting Consumer Confidence
The 32nd World Diamond Congress at Tel Aviv, Israel was a solemn conclave which amply reflected the global diamond sector’s determination and united strength to meet the emerging challenges and solve problems. During the four days of a packed program conforming to a well-concerted agenda, top men of destiny of the world of diamonds took decisions of far reaching consequence which will guide the sector henceforth over the various speed-breakers.
By: Alok Kala
Jul 5 2006 12:00AM
Reference: 487  

WFDB Mark Logo Launched for Ensuring Fairest Trade Parctices : Penal Provision for Violators of Ethical Code-- Alok Kala

The 32nd World Diamond Congress at Tel Aviv, Israel was a solemn conclave which amply reflected the global diamond sector’s determination and united strength to meet the emerging challenges and solve problems. During the four days of a packed program conforming to a well-concerted agenda, top men of destiny of the world of diamonds took decisions of far reaching consequence which will guide the sector henceforth over the various speed-breakers.

While the Congress tackled a wide range of subjects, it focused particularly on the issue of consumer confidence and of corporate and personal responsibility in the diamond business.
The World Federation of Diamond Bourses held the biennial meeting of its General Assembly at the 32nd World Diamond Congress, which took place at Tel Aviv, Israel from June 26 to 29, 2006.
Delegates and representations from all the 26 Diamond Bourses around the world affiliated to the WFDB attendees the World Congress. India’s Bharat Diamond Bourse was represented by a delegation comprising Anoop Mehta (leader) and Mehul Shah as well as Harshit Kothari (members). In the jointly held Congress of the IDMA, India was represented by Vasant Mehta and Nirmal Kumar Barmecha. Myself (Alok Kala) and colleague Gunjan Jain represented Indian trade press.

Busy Schedule :
The conference centre of the beachfront Tel Aviv Hilton Hotel was the venue for the biennial meeting. Participants were offered a full program of events, including a tour of the Israel Diamond Exchange complex, a gala dinner with Israeli President Moshe Katsav, and an auction of exquisite diamonds, colored gemstones and jewellery.

The organizing committee of the Congress did a splendid job by making excellent arrangements for the large number of guests. It was expertly assisted by the Israeli Diamond Institute. The dinner hosted by the Institute was made all the more enjoyable by the spell-binding musical accompaniment provided by Israeli artists.

WFDB Mark Launched :
The eagerly anticipated WFDB Mark as a boost to consumer confidence was launched. The trademarked logo confirms that the bearer abides by the WFDB Code of Principles, a code of ethical business practices required of diamond exchange members that is based on resolutions passed earlier.
to facilitate the introduction of the WFDB Mark program, the World Federation amended its inner rules so that bourse members can be expelled or suspended if they are found guilty of noncompliance with the WFDB ethical code.
There was a major report to the Congress by the World Diamond Council, including an update on the Kimberley Process. The Congress then bebated anti-money laundering policies and procedures. There was also an update on the implementation of the USA PATRIOT Act.

Important Matters Debated :
The Congress debated the important matters of HPHT treated diamonds and GIA certificates, etc.

Various Reports :
Financial Report by Dieter Hahn, Treasurer – General was presented to the World Congress.
Other Committee Reports included :
a) Promotion Committee, Ernie Blom, Chairman.
b) Judicial Committee, Meir Wertheim, Chairman.
c) Trade Development Committee, Freddy Hager, Chairman.
Intensive preparations for the Congress were co-ordinated by an all-industry organizing committee headed by Yair Sahar, who currently serves as treasurer of both the Israel Diamond Exchange (IDE) and the Israel Diamond Manufacturers Association (IsDMA), which hosted the event, in co-operation with the Israel Diamond Institute. The Organizing Committee also launched the Congress official website, at www.32-diamondcongress.org.

Elections :
Ernest Blom, Chairman of the Diamond Dealers Club of South- Africa, was unanimously elected WFDB President, succeeding Shmuel Schnitzer, who completed two successive two-year terms as President. Blom, previously served as WFDB Vice-President. The General Assembly honored Schnitzer by bestowing upon him the title of Honorary Life-President of the WFDB.
Israel Diamond Exchange President Avi Paz was unanimously elected as WFDB Vice-President. Michael Vaughan, secretary-general, and Dieter Hahn, treasurer-general, were re-elected. Following a vote, three additional members of the executive board were elected: David Marcus of the Diamond Club West Coast; Freddy Hager, President of the London Diamond Bourse & Club, and Sergei Oulin, Chairman, Diamond Chamber of Russia. They join Anoop Mehta, President of the Bharat Diamond Bourse of Mumbai, Jacob Banda, President of the Diamond Dealers Club of New York, and Julien Drijbooms, President of the Vrije Diamanthandel in Antwerp.

Realize Collective Strength : Blom
In his acceptance speech, Blom urged the WFDB membership to realize its collective strength as an influence in the market. “There is a Northern Sotho belief that a river runs deep because of its source. Likewise, I believe in the WFDB as an entity. Wisdom teaches us that careful planning results in a rich and prosperous business. By harnessing this wisdom, we can create solutions that deliver exceptional returns. It is my belief that these solutions will be a resource that is beyond expectations.”

Maintaining Faith :
The project to which Blom specifically referred is the WFDB Mark. Earlier, the General Assembly was provided with a detailed report, which described the preparatory work that has been done on the project, and noted that the necessary components are in place and the WFDB Mark is ready to go. “The quality mark will be Schnitzer in his address to the Congress.
During a discussion on how the industry should deal with the entry of synthetic gem-quality diamonds in the marketplace, members of the WFDB learned from Ralph Destino, the Chairman of the GIA, that the American lab is launching grading reports for synthetic diamonds. Destino handed out sample certificates which showed that the reports for synthetic diamonds would be different from those for natural diamonds.

Parallel Acceptance to an integral part of our system for maintaining our customers’ faith in diamonds as a natural, clean and pure product,” said the outgoing WFDB President Shmuel Synthetics :
Agreeing that gem-quality synthetic diamonds were a reality that needs to be taken into consideration, the General Assembly urged that measures be taken to ensure that the synthetic diamond market develop parallel but separate to the market for natural diamonds. The General Assembly accepted the certification of synthetic diamonds under stringent conditions.

Synthetic Grading : During a session on laboratories, the GIA gave the first ever preview of the organization’s grading report for synthetic diamonds, which can be differentiated easily from reports issued for natural diamonds.

Tax Cut Hailed :
The WFDB said it was encouraged by China’s recent decision to reduce Value Added Tax to 4 per cent from 17 per cent on imported diamonds. The tax reduction will give a boost to the global industry in an increasingly important market.

Russian Bourse Welcomed :
The WFDB has expanded its numbers after accepting the Moscow Diamond Bourse as its 26th member. The bourse, which aims to develop the grass-roots diamond business in Russia, received a license from the federal government in mid-2005. Attendees warmly welcomed the new member of the family, agreeing that it would serve to help develop the Russian diamond and jewellery industry.

Tsunami Relief Fund :
Suresh Hathiramani, President of the Diamond Exchange of Singapore and the newly appointed Chairman of the WFDB Promotions Committee, reported on the WFDB Tsunami Relief Fund, which has assisted in rebuilding a village and bringing purified drinking water to affected communities in Indonesia. Noting that the WFDB effort was widely recognized in the region, he noted that, as a result, the Singapore Red Cross Society had agreed to contribute $100,000 to the same projects that the WFDB had started.

Besides, the joint session with the WFDB, the General Assembly of the International Diamond Manufacturers Association (IDMA), which represents 12 diamond manufacturers associations in 11 countries, had its own meetings at the World Diamond Congress in Tel Aviv on June 26 to 29. The gathering focused specifically on issues that influence the position of manufacturers in the diamond business, and more generally on measures necessary to enhance consumer confidence in diamonds. The IDMA General Assembly unanimously re-elected Jeffrey Fischer for a second term as President. Also elected were Vice- Presidents Eduard Denckens, Belgium; Moti Ganz, Israel; Maxim Schkadov, Russia; and Vasant Mehta, India. Stephane Fischler was re-confirmed as IDMA secretary general and treasurer for a fifth term. De Beers : Words of Wisdom De Beers, world’s leading group of diamond companies and its sales arm – the Diamond Trading Company (DTC) fully supported the World Diamond Congress. Gareth Penny, Managing Director of De Beers as well as Varda Shine, Managing Director of DTC attended the World Congress personally and delivered two separate Keynote Addresses with some valuable advice to the diamantaires who gathered at Tel Aviv. What they advocated for a brighter, steadier and self confident future, in a nut shell, is as follows : Gareth Penny : Maintaining the diamond dream is crucial for the future of the diamond industry and fundamental to its growth. The emotional and financial value of diamonds go far beyond their physical properties. We need to celebrate industry success :

  • Diamond sector employs (directly and indirectly) over 10 million people worldwide.
  • Jewellers for Children recently raised US$ 5 million.

  • Success of the Kimberley Process
  • Over 99% of diamonds are conflict free Action – the entire industry must be champions for the good that diamonds do and sell the diamond dream.

“Turning Diamond Dreams into Lasting Realities”, is the purpose of the De Beers family of companies.

Varda Shine :

  • Growth indicates that we can be proud of our industry. Optimism will serve as well in a future full of changes and challenges.
  • We all live in a world of competition and innovation and we all need partners to help us grow and develop our industry.
  • We should adopt three priorities – acting together for facing challenges, being more consumer conscious, being more innovative.
  • Big new ideas create new markets like Vivaha in India, Rayena in Gulf region, You & Me in Taiwan.
  • Innovation breathes new life every where an example the telecom industry, which has achieve a revolution with the mobile phones !

Frank Discussion With DTC :
A frank and informal discussion was conducted with Varda Shine, DTC’s managing director. The IDMA’s leadership suggested that the DTC remind its clients that meeting their financial obligations to the trade is an integral part of best practice principles. It was also decided that IDMA’s secretary general will contact, all other producers to convey the same message.

Minimum Standard for Labs :
Also on the agenda was, establishing a process whereby a minimum standard would be set for diamond grading laboratories to be recognized as such by the trade. A committee was formed under the auspices of the International Diamond Council (IDC), which is charged with initiating a discussion with all the grading labs to define and harmonize such standards. IDMA reminded each lab of their commitment to maintaining consumer confidence.

Consultation Role for CRJP :
During a presentation by Michael Rae, CEO of the Council for Responsible Jewellery Practices (CRJP), IDMA was invited to adopt a consultative role in helping the organization develop their policies and procedures, with a view of eventually joining as a full member. IDMA voted to participate in this capacity.

Other Important Matters :
Industry analyst Chaim Even Zohar led a discussion on anti-money laundering procedures, during which ways to improve the practical implementation of AML practices throughout the industry were reviewed.
The President also stressed IDMA’s commitment to the Kimberley Process and its system of warranties.

The concern caused in advance by the movie ‘The Blood Diamond’ was also echoed by the World Congress. The tragic blood bath of the African Civil War was largely financed by smuggled diamonds. Hollywood producer Warner Brothers has reportedly spent about US$ 100 million for producing this movie and spending another US$ 47 million for its grand promotions. Although the movie recalls the Civil War period around the years 1999-2000, there are apprehensions that many people may get confused and think it to be a current agony. Hence, when the movie is released around the Holiday season, it may have a negative impact on diamond jewellery sales. Diamond organizations and DTC with whom I discussed this matter suggest this remedy for the misconception that jewellery should be ready to explain to the consumers that following the strict implementation of Kimberley Process Certification, there are no Conflict Diamonds in the market now. For this, they should be ready with vital information to convince the consumers that the nightmare is a bitter memory of the past.

IDMA’s Ben Kinzler and Martin Rapaport gave a report on the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI), which aims to improve the lives of artisanal diggers. IDMA reiterated its commitment to the efforts of DDI and pledged its continued support and active participation in this ambitious, essential and humanitarian initiative.
The Canadian Manufacturing Association (CDMA), which had applied to become IDMA’s 13th member organization, participated as an observer pending full membership at the next congress.

Next Appointments :
The World Congress Assembly confirmed Amsterdam as the location of its Presidents Meeting in 2007 and Shanghai as the site of the 33rd World Diamond Congress in 2008.

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