Q. What are your current titles/functions in the diamond industry, both private and organizational?q
My name is Philippe Barsamian. I am the former managing director of Barsamian Diamonds in Antwerp (Belgium), for whom I work at present as a consultant. I am Vice President of the Diamantclub van Antwerpen, one of the 4 Belgian diamond bourses, and President of the Federation of Belgian Diamond Bourses.
Q. Tell us about your journey in the diamond industry, how you began and where you are now.
My grandfather Carlo Sirakian was the first generation in our family to enter the diamond trade in Paris in 1907. In 1948, Varham Barsamian, my father and Carlo’s son-in-law, began the activity in Antwerp as founder of V. Barsamian Diamants. My father was one of initiators of the Diamantclub under its present form in Antwerp (Belgium), where the headquarters of our family business has been located since 1969. I was born in 1952 and started working in the diamond sector in 1970, having joined my father’s business. I worked as a trainee in Paris (France) and in Venice (Italy) in 1971 and 1972, before joining De Beers in London (United Kingdom) where I worked from 1972 to 1974.
After my military service in France, I had the pleasure to work alongside my father Varham Barsamian, as an employee at V. Barsamian Diamants. I was still quite young when my father passed away in 1981. From one day to the next, I had to take the reins of the family business, with large shoes to fill. With the help of some remarkable people and some luck, I must admit, I carried the business, today known as Barsamian Diamonds, forward until 2016. Since 2017 I assist my sons, the fourth generation, with the help of an external managing director, in running the business, in which I am no longer a shareholder.
Since 2008, I have had various functions in the diamond trade. From 2008 I have been a director at the Diamantclub van Antwerpen, and since 2010 also Vice President. From 2010 until 2015 I have been Vice President of Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC). From 2017 I have been President of the Federation of Belgian Diamond Bourses
Q. What is the current situation in Belgian diamond industry? How has Covid and the war in the Ukraine impacted the local diamond industry?
The situation in the Belgian diamond industry is mixed at present. On one hand, the diamond trade has had a far better year in 2021 than in 2020, which brought a sharp decline in trade volumes due to the global Covid crisis. The year 2022 started very well, but then the situation changed. Due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, the subsequent sanctions and provenance requirements imposed by major buyers, important supply chain issues affect the local diamond trade.
Q. Looking forward, how will the local industry fare during the second half of the year? In 2023?
Unfortunately, this situation could last. Other factors like the ongoing Covid pandemic in China, the first signs of reduced consumer spending in the USA and global economic turmoil may take their toll in the months to come. It is difficult to predict what will happen in 2023, but as uncertainty builds, I am not very optimistic, unless the skies clear up on the geopolitical front.
Q. What are the challenges and opportunities facing the Belgian diamond industry?
The challenges facing the Belgian diamond industry are linked to the supply chain issues. Antwerp has always played an important role in lifting the standards in matters like transparency, KYC, sustainability, Kimberley Process and other ethical issues. With an uneven playing field in terms of the current sanctions, Antwerp may lose part of its trade volumes to other diamond hubs. It will be challenging to combine a leadership role on sustainability and ethical questions, while solving the current supply chain and provenance issues. At the same time, this leadership may prove an opportunity for Antwerp “as the dust settles”.
Q. Tell us about your interests/family and anything else you would like to add.
My interests are mainly my children and especially all my grandchildren. I love sailing around the Mediterranean. I have a passion for old cars. The
cherry on the cake is to live this adventure with my sons in Antwerp.