Israel’s established diamond sector is scaling new heights by strengthening business ties and offering technology-driven services.
Please give us a brief history of Israel's diamond industry. How crucial is the Jewish culture to the success of the country's diamond sector?
Israel's diamond industry started in the 1930s when immigrants who had learned the diamond trade in Belgium brought the business to our shores. In 1938, the Israel Diamond Exchange (IDE) was formed and its first ever meeting was held in a room in a private house. Thereafter, meetings were held in a café in Tel Aviv until it found a more permanent home in Ramat Gan. By 1940, a handful of diamond factories started operating in Netanya and Tel Aviv. During World War II, when European centres fell under German occupation, Israel became a major source of polished diamonds.
With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 came an influx of immigrants who were enlisted to work in the newly formed diamond industry. Locally developed manufacturing techniques made it possible to train workers within months.
Jewish people have been engaged in the diamond industry since the medieval times in Europe. Legal prohibitions at the time limited Jews to certain professions and this was an industry free of trade restrictions. Over the years, the diamond trade became a popular occupation among Jews in Europe and many became expert diamond craftsmen and traders.
Since many of the Jewish people working in the industry were from the same or neighboring communities, trust became the basis of the diamond industry. This has continued until today with a handshake and the Hebrew words ‘mazal' and 'bracha' concluding diamond transactions all over the world.
What is the strength of Israel's diamond sector? What makes it stand out from other thriving diamond industries?
Israel's diamond industry has always been a pioneer in innovation and technology. Almost all of the technology being employed in the global diamond sector originated in Israel: The use of lasers in diamond cutting, automatic brutting machines and computerised rough planning systems, to name a few. Since Israel is known as the 'start-up nation,' we have decided to harness this strength to take the industry to the next level. Together with the IDE, we have opened a technological incubator inside the diamond complex that hosts start-ups in the diamond and jewellery fields. These companies are developing various new technologies that will certainly benefit the industry in the years to come.
Could you share with us IDI's latest initiatives to promote and further expand Israel's diamond sector, particularly in China and Hong Kong?
We are very interested in the Chinese and Hong Kong markets. There's great future for the Israel diamond trade there. We promote cooperation and business connections with Chinese retailers, and we are happy to host delegations from China. We have embarked on a successful partnership with Alibaba and Ali Auction. In addition to our annual participation in four trade shows in Hong Kong, we intend to hold a special Israel Diamond Week in Shenzhen in cooperation with the Shanghai Diamond Exchange (SDE) where 25 Israeli companies will offer goods directly to the Chinese industry.
What is the Israeli diamond industry's recipe for success?
We believe in developing our strengths in niches that we excel in. Israel is known as the leading manufacturer of large and important diamonds. This is an area that we will continue to develop by hosting more tenders of large rough stones of 10 carats and above in our International Tender Center. In addition, we are investing millions of dollars in building a special polishing plant for large diamonds within the diamond complex. The IDE has already signed a memorandum of understanding with the SDE, which will enable Chinese diamantaires to have their large stones polished in this new facility.
In addition, we will continue to invest in technological innovations. One of the areas we are investing in is e-commerce, which is an essential element in marketing diamonds internationally. In addition to Alibaba, we are looking at building cooperative relationships with other major online platforms. We are also continuing to develop our free B2B trading platform, Get-Diamonds.