Industry bewildered by new sightholder list

De Beers has “shocked and awed” the industry with its new sightholder list, reportedly lopping off some of the biggest names in the industry.

At press time, rumors and sometimes counter-rumors were flying thick and fast as to who was staying and who was going. The only thing for sure was that De Beers’ Diamond Trading Company had, in its words, “confidentially advised applicants with regard to their future status as sightholders.” There was talk that as many as 25 to 35 sightholders had been axed and eight or nine new ones added.

Although De Beers had promised the selection process would be “objective”—partially analyzed by a computer and based on its publicly announced criteria—many struggled to see the logic in some of the choices. Prior to the announcement, the diamond associations asked De Beers to give fair consideration to smaller and medium-sized companies. The company seems to have taken this to heart—in the view of some, perhaps too well.

Among the widely mentioned names were at least two companies considered institutions in their respective centers. De Beers also cast out at least two companies that are showcasing their marketing initiatives at The JCK Show. Several people active in associations were said to have not made the cut.

Principals of many of these companies had expected they would stay, and some seemed genuinely blindsided by the turn of events.

India, not surprisingly, was said to be the big winner; most of the new names come from there, solidifying its status as the dominant center. New York and Israel were losers, reportedly losing as many as four and eight sightholders, respectively. Antwerp lost many long-established firms as well.

At press time, it wasn’t entirely clear who was added. New York added one, Dynasty Diamond. Among the new Indian sightholders are S. Vinodkumar, Shree Ramkrisha, and Venus Jewels.

A De Beers statement said: “Not qualifying for sightholder status under Supplier of Choice is no criticism of a client’s business. The DTC holds those businesses in high regard. Where the DTC will regrettably no longer be able to supply them, this has followed, in almost all cases, from competition for limited supplies of particular goods.”

It also left the door open for some of the companies to come back once its new contracts with sightholders expire in two years: “DTC hopes to be considering, in early 2005, applications from these clients for readmission as DTC sightholders.”

It said of the current sightholder list: “What they have in common is a commitment to driving demand for diamonds, a passion for protecting the integrity of our unique product, a shared vision regarding the future of our industry and a track record of achievement.”

The nixed sightholders will continue to get their allocations through the end of the year.