Indian earthquake halts diamond production

Diamond cutting has all but ceased in India following the devastating Jan. 26 earthquake that may have claimed as many as 100,000 lives.

The 7.9-magnitude quake caused considerable damage in Ahmedabad, home to several hundred thousand cutters. In one polishing factory, 127 cutters were killed when the factory’s walls caved in on them, the Associated Press reports. The quake had a lesser effect on the main diamond-cutting city of Surat, and almost no effect on the diamond dealing capital of Mumbai (Bombay).

But work all over India has stopped as people focussed on cleaning up the damage, helping the wounded, and grieving the dead. ”No one’s working, they are just trying to help people,” says Amal Jhaveri, president of the Indian Diamond and Colorstone Association.

Local Indian diamond dealers expressed shock at the quake but thought it wouldn’t have much effect on supplies.

”We will probably lose about a half a month of production, but there is already excess inventory in consumer centers like America,” says Prakash Lakhi of Vishinda.

The Indian Diamond and Colorstone Association has set up a fund to support international relief efforts, which has already raised $500,000. Anyone interested can contact the Indian Diamond and Jewelry Industry Charitable Foundation, c/o The Indian Diamond Colorstone Association, 56 West 45th Street, Room 705, New York, NY 10036, phone 212-921-4488, fax 212-768-7935, email: idca@worldnet.att.net.

”This is not an ordinary disaster,” says Ramesh Mehta of Bombay Diamond Corp. ”This is beyond what any of us have ever experienced. The suffering is beyond imagining, beyond tears, beyond any words of consolation.”

For more information on the quake, go to http://www.rediff.com/news/quake.htm.