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World Federation Of Diamond Bourses

Interview with Thierry Polakiewicz, President of Diamond Club of Antwerp

Thierry-Polakiewicz

Q. What are your current titles/functions in the diamond industry, both private and organizational?

I am a fourth-generation diamond dealer and have run my own company called BEDIMEX BV since 1994. My daughter Olivia recently joined the business after having worked for some time in consulting for Deloitte.

We are exclusively active in polished diamonds and are mainly focused on the European market, servicing both jewellers and jewellery manufacturers.

Since 2000, I have been a board member of Antwerp’s oldest bourse, established in 1893, Diamantclub van Antwerpen, (the Diamond Club of Antwerp.) In 2018, my colleagues elected me to become its President. Replacing my outstanding predecessor Mr. Willy Rotti, is no easy task but I am up for the challenge.

Q. Tell us about your journey in the diamond industry, how you began and where you are now.

In 1986 I started working for my father, who had been a sightholder since 1955. He first sent me to work in his manufacturing plant; only after I had completed this very interesting apprenticeship, was I able to work in the office where I learned the business aspect of our industry.

We had a very enjoyable 10-year collaboration, after which my father passed away, and I continued my journey on my own. With my daughter now having joined the business, I am happy to see my father’s legacy continuing.

Q. What is the current situation in the local diamond industry?

Our industry is facing a couple of serious challenges: lab-grown diamonds and globalization.

I tend to believe that lab-grown diamonds are a side business just like the cultured pearls industry is to natural pearls. While the end-consumers are not entirely the same, the lab-grown industry is now tremendously harmful to our natural diamonds business for a couple of reasons.

First, lab-grown diamonds do eat away at part of our natural diamond clientele. Second, they are doing a great job at marketing their products to end-consumers, from quality and beauty to sustainability.

Our natural diamonds industry could definitely learn from their marketing efforts, as I believe we should massively invest in marketing and publicity to explain that the sustainability aspect of lab-grown diamonds is not what is portrayed.

Globalization on the other hand is harming our industry’s structure and will force some smaller players out of the game as large companies are vertically integrating. I believe that this is a shame as small and medium-sized diamond dealers collectively founded and fueled our sector.

Q. The G7 decision about imposing limitations on Russian diamonds will likely be given in the beginning of 2024. How do you think this will impact the diamond trade in Antwerp and also the rest of the world?

We have to accept the fact that sanctions will be implemented sooner or later but at this stage we cannot yet talk about the positive of negative aspects of the future decision of the G7. It will depend on which path they will follow.

These sanctions will surely have an impact on the global market as it might create a parallel trade of goods under sanction. The result might be a sudden rise in the prices of the so called “G7” goods….

Q. What do you expect from the Christmas season of 2023?

For the past few years, I have noticed that the season tends to start later every year. I remember that 20 – 30 years ago customers prepared themselves for the season much sooner than nowadays. Customers used to visit Antwerp in July and September in order to buy the goods they would need by year’s end. This has unfortunately changed a lot since then.

Q. What are the challenges and opportunities facing the local diamond industry? Facing the world diamond industry?

The main challenge that Antwerp is now facing is the banking issue. As a diamond dealer, both corporate and private, it is almost impossible to open a bank account in Belgium.

While a law was voted that obliges banks to provide basic banking services to diamond companies, they tend to do everything they can in order to make our lives impossible…. they just don’t want us! Their anti-diamond company policy is harming our industry tremendously as newcomers are facing huge obstacles when setting up a company. I myself was obliged to open an account in a French bank as no local/Belgian banks would accept me, not even for a checking account. As you can imagine, a bank loan is a distant dream.

Another very important challenge is our industry’s catastrophic reputation. 99.99% of the diamond dealers are kosher and want to generate an honest income out of our business, but we collectively suffer from the negligible minority that is misusing the system.

Most often, it is their stories that end up in the media and that further contribute to ruining our reputation. That said, we should collectively work on improvement of the respectability of our industry.

Q. Tell us about your interests/family and anything else you would like to add.

As its President, I’m very much involved in the Diamantclub van Antwerpen as I believe community work improves our industry. While it takes a lot of time, I am happy to be able to serve.

On the private side, I am taking care of my mother who will soon turn 101 and do my best to save some time for my family and friends as well.

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