Antwerp plans to become a diamond distribution center

The Antwerp Diamond High Council (HRD) will attempt to launch a program that will result in Antwerp developing into an international distribution center for diamond jewelry, the HRD said in a statement.

Peter Meeus, the managing director of the Antwerp Diamond High Council (HRD), made his announcement during a speech at the Antwerp Diamond High Council Awards ceremony, June 13, during which the winners the HRD’s 10th jewelry design competition were announced. Fittingly, this latest competition was the first in the series to be opened to an international field, and it attracted 414 entrants from 35 countries.

“The Antwerp diamond sector has set out the beacons for the future,” Meeus said. “As the vertical integration between mining companies, diamond manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers is accelerating, Antwerp wants to become a service provider for these new jewelry activities. Antwerp, the city of diamonds, will become also the city of jewelry.”

To put the new program into motion, the HRD has tabled a list of proposals to the Belgian Prime Minister that will allow diamantaires to expand their activities into diamond jewelry. The proposals contain measures concerning infrastructure, administrative procedures and tax related matters. The goal of the program is to turn Antwerp, the world’s leading trade center for loose, rough and polished diamonds, into a leading distribution center for both diamonds and diamond jewelry. A key element of the program is to establish a “prestigious” jewelry shopping center adjacent to the city’s diamond district.

In his speech, Meeus referred to the decision by De Beers’ Diamond Trading Company to reduce by one third its 120-member sightholder list. The traditional diamond trading centers saw significant changes, he said. New York and Tel Aviv each lost about half of their original sightholders, and Antwerp about one-third of its 45. Antwerp, though, will continue to be the largest single recipient of DTC-supplied rough diamonds, he said.

Antwerp’s new diamond jewelry program corresponds neatly with the goals of De Beers’ Supplier of Choice strategy, which aims to drive the sale of diamond jewelry in the major consumer markets, Meeus explained. “If Antwerp subscribes to the new Supplier of Choice strategy of De Beers, it may expect from De Beers a commitment for its new role as well,” he said.

By opening its 2003 jewelry contest to an international field, the HRD showed the world that Antwerp is ready to serve as a platform for the international diamond jewelry trade, Meeus said. “Artists are always ahead of their time. If more than 400 of them have found the way to the Diamond High Council Awards, then I am convinced that many thousands of traders, designers and manufacturers will follow their example to choose Antwerp as a diamond jewelry center.”