World Diamond Congress Opens in New York City

October 19, 2004

World Diamond Congress Opens in New York City

Lingering controversy over conflict diamonds and issues ranging from rough diamond sourcing to synthetic diamond manufacture dominated discussions at the World Diamond Congress. The World Federation of Diamond Bourses 31st World Diamond Congress opened Oct. 17 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City and runs through Oct. 20, 2004.

During some of the sessions of the Industrial Diamonds Manufacturers Association, members met with officials from Amnesty International and Global Witness who said the diamond industry had failed in its efforts to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the trade, a charge refuted by IDMA. IDMA officials pointed to the acknowledged efficacy and implementation of the Kimberly Process in dozens of diamond producing and consuming countries. Non Government Organizations also noted that in blind tests they had conducted, with the exception of a few well-trained retailers, retail sales associates could not adequately vouchsafe the integrity of the diamonds they were selling.

Conflict diamond discussions were nevertheless far less evident than in previous congresses. IDMA and the World Federation of Diamond Bourses concentrated on efforts to overcome problems stemming from the shortage of rough diamonds worldwide as well as the effects of the Supplier of Choice program instituted by Diamond Trading Co. of the De Beers Group. Diamond dealers have bitterly complained that DTC policies disenfranchise small- to medium-size diamond manufacturers and dealers. In opening remarks to the general assembly, WFDB President Schmuel Schnitzer said dialogue between diamantaires and DTC officials were far better courses of action than litigation. "The clearest achievement we attained in these talks is the DTC's promise to continue to support the secondary market, through Diamdel," Schnitzer said. "The leaders of the DTC, Gary Ralfe and Gareth Penny, assured us that they will continue to supply rough in 2003 and 2004 in the amount of up to $500 million through Diamdel. We are pleased to note that in 2003, supply exceeded this amount, and after the tenth sight of 2004, this will be repeated this year."

Schnitzer was re-elected as president of WFDB despite opposition from candidates who prefer a more aggressive approach towards dealing with Supplier of Choice and DTC. Both opposition candidates withdrew before it could come to a vote.

As its second order of business, the general assembely of the WFDB unanimously accepted two new members into its ranks. They are the Shanghai Diamond Exchange, which will become the first WFDB-affiliated bourse in mainland China, and the Dubai Diamond Exchange, which will become the first WFDB-affiliated bourse in the Arab world.

by Robert Weldon, G.G.

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