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37th World Diamond Congress - POSITIVE HEADWINDS
Business leaders, industry think-tank meeting and discussing industry related issues is not new but when these leaders speak on common grounds and emerge as one voice, it definitely is a welcome change. Issues of transparency, beneficiation, responsibility, sustainability and finance have been the troubles and concerns of the industry and the same were the prime subjects of discussions at the recently concluded 37th World Diamond Congress in Dubai. Diamond World brings you how the discussions unfolded in this Cover Story.
By: Diamond World News Service
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Jun 22 2016 2:50PM
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Reference: 13144  

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The next speaker was Howard Davies, the Head of Commercial Development at De Beers, who spoke on financing options and requirements for the diamond industry. Because diamonds are portable and rapid cross-border transactions were possible and many family businesses were involved along together with the number of bankruptcies due to bad debts in recent years, it would be difficult for the banks to see the sector as low-risk, he explained.

The banks were also under pressure due to the massive fines that some have paid for noncompliance issues. Consequently improved industry transparency is critical. “Banks want to finance quality assets,” he commented. “Transactions must all be real with real clients and real invoices. Sustainability multiplied by transparency equals bankability.”

Among the more contentious issues for WFDB delegates at their closed meeting was the issue of Signet Jewelers Ltd’s sourcing protocol. The details of the Signet plan were fleshed out by David Bouffard, the firm’s Vice President of Corporate Affairs.

He said Signet is the biggest jeweller in the United States, and buys $1 billion of polished diamonds annually. He said Signet “wants to know where the diamonds are coming from that our suppliers provide them with, and who touches them along the way from the mine to the company’s jewellery production factories.”

He said Signet is committed to responsible sourcing in terms of the suppliers it works with. He added that the company has mapped 99 per cent of its gold supply and believes that understanding where its diamonds were from was also possible.

There was significant opposition from some WFDB delegates to the proposed adoption of formal WFDB support for the initiative, with representatives saying that the financial cost of such compliance would be too heavy for small and medium size manufacturers.

An innovation at the Congress was the panel format which was introduced for the first time. The aim was to create an interactive discussion rather than simply having speakers delivering their speeches without any feedback. The first panel discussion featured Bouffard, Davies, Panama Diamond Exchange President Mahesh Khemlani, Geert van Reisen and Feriel Zerouki the Head of Government and Industry Relations at De Beers, who described the transparency across all operations that the miner has been requesting for the past 10 years and it’s Best Practice Principles which were ultimately aimed at increasing consumer confidence. Meanwhile, Bouffard said that responsible sourcing is a “must-have issue not a nice-to-have option.”

Young Diamantaires
Among the standout issue of the Congress was the attention paid by the WFDB and IDMA to the issue of establishing a Young Diamantaires group.

“The Congress also saw promising progress in the development of our international Young Diamantaires group,” said Ernie Blom. “These are members of the younger generation of diamond firms from all the main diamond centres, including Israel, India, Belgium, the United States and South Africa, who are taking responsibility for taking on the challenge of leading our industry in the future. I am delighted that we have young people who are bringing their specific generational skills and outlook into the industry,” Blom added.

Meanwhile, VanderLinden added that his organisation was also pleased with the participation of younger representatives. “It was inspiring to meet new delegation leaders and members, and to have them participate actively, and sometimes forcefully, in our discussions. This also was obvious in the extensive and vigorous discussions we held about the future imprint of IDMA on the diamond industry.”

Meanwhile, the WFDB also said that it recognises the importance of increasing transparency and integrity in the global diamond supply chain in order to boost consumer confidence in diamonds. “We are proud that the global diamond business is one of the best regulated industries in the world, and we have been at the forefront in proactively seeking to ensure that this continues. Our members work according to wide-ranging rules and regulations that ensure that diamonds are totally free of any possible suspicion, including U.N. resolutions, the Kimberley Process national legislation, anti-money laundering regulations, Know Your Customer programmes and the WFDB Code of Conduct and chain of warranties requirements,” Blom explained.

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