1. What are your current titles/functions in the diamond industry, both private and organizational?
In a personal capacity, I am Director of ROSY BLUE NV in Antwerp. I am also a Board Member of Watches and Jewelry Initiative 2030, a Board Member of Get Diamonds, and a member of the SDB Taskforce by RJC. As the representative of ROSY BLUE NV, I am a founding member of RJC, a member of WDC, a member of the UN Global Compact and a WEP Signatory.
2. Tell us about your journey in the diamond industry, how you began and where you are now.
It was sort of decided at a very young age that I would join my father’s business, Diamond Cutters Antwerp. I joined in 1990 at the age of 19 after getting training for 2 years. I wasn’t much interested in further studies, so my father literally picked me up and put me into this amazing business.
I started with rough trading, which was the simplest part of the business, and then moved into polished sales which was a completely different world. I realized that different clients wanted different kinds of polished diamonds, but I decided to pick the better end of the spectrum.
In order to be able to supply our clients consistently, I realized that we cannot be without manufacturing. Therefore, we built factories in both Belgium and China. Then we developed an entire team at Diamond Cutters Antwerp and developed different markets for the polished we were manufacturing. My goal at the time was already about going downstream to jewelry manufacturers, designers, and brands. We met and acquired some top clients.
In the summer of 2000, suddenly the doorbell rang at DCA, and Mr. Dilip Mehta of Rosy Blue was at our door, curious to know more about our business. Since we are all competitors, small or big, I was a bit surprised by his visit. However, since we are also family, I didn’t mind sharing with him some of the developments at DCA.
We soon entered discussions about us being acquired by Rosy Blue NV. My family and I discussed the proposition and eventually agreed to integrate our operation with that of Rosy Blue in January 2001. Since then, I have been working along with Messrs. Dilip Mehta, Amit Bhansali, Rajesh Mehta, and now Ravi Bhansali. Ravi and I together run Rosy Blue’s Antwerp operation, and my day-to-day actions are towards developing distribution opportunities for the polished business.
I have a great passion for this business and have seen it change several times; some of changes were challenging and some easy. Nonetheless, my passion has only increased because of the people I meet every day.
3. What is the current situation in the diamond industry in Antwerp? What are the greatest challenges the industry faces?
I don’t think the day-to-day situation in Antwerp has changed. For example, we still have challenges with the banking system here, whether it is for private or business requirements. However, as a very established trade center, Antwerp gives us an ease of doing business with its infrastructure and framework designed for the trade.
The greatest challenge our industry is facing not just in Antwerp but globally is that there is no generic marketing that promotes our natural diamond business. This must start at the tip of the value chain pyramid. This means that more money needs to be invested in marketing. I commend De Beers for committing $20 million for the upcoming generic marketing campaign, and I hope that this is just the beginning. Furthermore, the distribution of rough diamonds needs to be tightened so that the pipeline can become more traceable, since this is what the downstream needs and wants.
4. How has the war in Ukraine and the sanctions against Russian diamonds impacted the local diamond and jewelry industries?
This was very challenging at the beginning because we needed to make dramatic and urgent changes in the way we sourced rough and the way we held our polished diamond inventory. We worked hard to make sure that we are aligned with our clients’ requirements on new traceability measures, and we improved and enhanced our systems even further as a result. We will constantly need to improve as a trade, with the challenges we are facing today.
5. What do you think about the popularity of LGDs in the US market? Do you think that this poses a significant challenge to the natural diamond industry?
From what I understand from our US-based clients, LGD is a more profitable business than natural now. Therefore, it is obvious that why some are diverting more resources towards it.
LGD does get more attention among both the trade and consumers and the word LGD appears to be trendier these days. However, there’s a huge amount of production in LGD, steep falling prices, inventory being offered on memo and consumers are not being aware of all the environmental facts concerning LGDs. People should read more of the facts and data presented by the Natural Diamond Council.
More importantly, this situation highlights once again the need for generic marketing to promote natural diamonds. Just to be clear, I am talking about promoting natural diamonds, on which the livelihood of mining communities is dependent, and has a considerable socio-economic contribution, and not about attacking LGD, which I think is a waste of resources.
6. Looking forward, how do you think the local industry will fare during the holiday season this year? In 2024?
I feel that the situation right now is “too bad to be true.“ It’s a difficult and complicated time, but we will get through it like we did before. We have a different set of challenges each time, but I am sure the industry will come out of it even stronger. The diamond industry has always proven to be very resilient. The most important action that should be taken is Generic Marketing, because we are competing with other luxury products.
7. You recently joined the Watch & Jewelry Initiative 2030 board. What do you think needs to be done and how can this be accomplished?
Indeed, I recently joined the Watch & Jewellery Initiative Board. From the start a robust governance mechanism and a solid leadership structure was a priority and I am confident we have a diverse community of Board Members with the right skills to support the Executive Director Iris Van der Veken in leading WJI 2030 forward. We also have an independent Risk and Compliance committee to protect the integrity of the work of the initiative.
We are very focused on what we want to achieve in the areas of climate resilience, biodiversity, and inclusiveness. As you can read in our first stakeholder report, companies that join have to make clear commitments to science-based targets, biodiversity risk assessment, human rights due diligence and gender. We want to encourage companies to accelerate action in a meaningful way. The business case for sustainability is clear – and CEOs are ready to act. I was at the WJI 2030 CEO Forum in Paris recently hosted by Kering & Cartier. There was one common denominator. The C suite is embracing sustainability as the foundation to build resilience and identify new opportunities for growth, reimagining their supply chain, looking to increase transparency and decarbonize, to build resilience in the face of global uncertainty and the conscious consumer.
8. Tell us about your interests/family and anything else you would like to add.
I am very positive and always looking forward to new things and challenges. I like to find solutions rather than just complain about the problems. If things were easy, everyone would do them. My ways to remain composed are by cycling a lot and working out. I love spending time with my close friends and family, as well as enjoying food and art.