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35th World Diamond Congress - From the World of Diamonds
The 35th World Diamond Congress, the joint congress of the International Diamond Manufacturers Association (IDMA) and the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB) held October 14-17 in Mumbai, proved to be an important platform for the world diamond industry and trade as it witnessed big wigs from the field discussing issues listed on top of the industry's agenda.
By: Diamond World News Service
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Jan 1 2013 12:49PM
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Reference: 7511  

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Until the start of this century, World Diamond Congresses mostly served as a platform to discuss issues predominantly of concern to the industry and trade alone. This had changed tremendously in the past decade or so. However, at the 29th WDC in Antwerp, in 2000, the industry was confronted with the issue conflict diamonds, attracting massive attention from the world media. Since then, the diamond trade's world view has significantly changed and it is recognised that any topic for discussion needs to be set off against the global economic and social framework of which our industry is a part.

At the 35th WDC, the Kimberley Process and conflict diamonds continued to occupy a significant part of the meetings. Add to that—the sluggish diamond and jewellery market, the lack of generic promotion for diamonds, synthetic/cultured diamonds, the need for transparency and the Diamond Source Warranty Protocol (DSWP)—and the slate is pretty well covered.

The 35th World Diamond Congress, organised at the Taj Land’s End hotel in Bandra, Mumbai, was a well-attended event. It was held in India for the first time. The event held much importance especially in the view of the turbulent times that the industry is going through (right now in India itself). The inauguration ceremony took place October 14 as chief guest Prithviraj Chavan, Chief Minister of Maharashtra, announced the conference open by lighting the traditional lamp.

Addressing the opening session, outgoing IDMA President Moti Ganz, urged the diamond producers to give manufacturers stronger backing by vouching for rough supplies. “If producer back the manufacturers, it will in turn enable the manufacturers to commit to their clients with consistent and continuous supplies of polished diamonds, thereby pushing the sale, "he noted He also warned that if retail jewellers cannot be guaranteed a continuous and consistent supply of polished diamonds, offered at competitive prices, they might look at alternative gemstones –including synthetic diamonds – that promise better profit margins. “Of course, this is not the ideal situation that we are looking forward to,” he said.

Talking about the reasons that might lead to a surge in synthetic diamonds, Ganz noted that a lack of sustainable supplies of rough may also push diamond cutters toward the production of synthetic diamonds.

Conflict diamonds were one of the most talked about topics at the congress that not only caught attention of the participants but is also of considerable concern to the members of the downstream market and the consumers.

The US Ambassador Gillian Milovanovic, Chair of the Kimberley Process, noted in her address that the KP needs to discuss and eventually adopt a new definition of the term ‘conflict diamond’. “There should be a definition that applies clearly and predictably to every participant, and one that ensures that KP Certification Scheme assurances correspond to the evolving expectations of consumers, " she stated.

Milovanovic then went into greater detail with respect to the process toward a new, updated definition.

"As I see it, as Chair, in cases where there is concern that a conflict is diamond-related, the goal would be to objectively assess the situation in conjunction with the relevant country. If the conflict does not fit the definition the issue would be closed. If the conflict does fit the definition, the approach would be to assist and resolve, not punish, and the KP would seek to help the country to rectify the situation. Only if these efforts are exhausted and the problem persists would a limitation on the right to issue a KP certificate for rough diamonds originating at the concerned site be considered. The purpose is not to punish or exclude, but first to help a country with a problem to find solutions to fix that problem and only as a last resort move towards limitations on the issuance of KP certificates. All along, we ensure that it is the stakeholders in the diamond sector, from producing countries to manufacturing countries to all elements of industry and civil society, who are focused on making the decisions that affect the KP and the rough diamond supply chain," she stated.

"Leaving specific proposals aside, the important thing to focus on is that evolution and change are necessary. Sooner or later, institutions that do not have the capacity to change are doomed to irrelevance and businesses that fail to keep pace with the market will suffer as a result," Milovanovic said. The KP plenary is taking place while this issue of Diamond World is being printed. Surely, we will report more in detail on this issue in our next issue.

Apart from synthetic and conflict diamonds, another important issue that was brought to the table was the shift in geography and the new markets' needs. Talking about this, Varda Shine, CEO of the De Beers' Diamond Trading Company (DTC), discussed some of the issues that the DTC is addressing. She pointed out that with the new markets in China and India, it is important for the DTC and other diamond suppliers to adapt their production outlook and to look carefully at the needs of the new markets.

Elaborating about the issues at DTC, Shine said that the DTC does not view gem-quality synthetic diamonds as a threat to natural diamonds. Synthetic diamond, she emphasised, are a legitimate product that will find its own market. However, she said that those dealing in these products needed to adhere to the proper rules of disclosure. Detection and proper disclosure of synthetic diamonds were essential for these products, if it is to become accepted among the gemstones that are for sale in the market, she added

Interestingly, it was for the first time in the history of IDMA and WFDB World Diamond Congresses that there was gender parity at the head table at the Congress' joint session, with four men and four women on the stage. The women were: Varda Shine; Gillian Milovanovic; Susan Shabangu, South Africa's minister of Mineral Resources; and Donna Baker, president of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). All four addressed the meeting.

Both organisations lauded the hosts, the Bharat Diamond Bourse (BDB) and the Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) for their achievements in organising the congress, the mini conference sessions, and other social and cultural events.

Participants were especially pleased with the organisation and the content of the afternoon session—dubbed mini conferences where a variety of topics were discussed. Russell Mehta, CEO of Rosy Blue, spoke in the first session about the Challenges to the Diamond Industry, discussing the long-term challenges, the industry market share and the decrease in production; the sensitive topic of the lack of profitability in diamond manufacturing; the needs for transparency and regulation, how to attract new talents to the industry and other issues.

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