On American Sightholders

Now that the sightholders applications have been filed, talking to New York sightholders and others in the industry, I am struck by the undercurrent of anxiety here. It is not just the articles from Chaim, prophesizing no New York sightholders. There is a very strong feeling that this may be New York’s last stand, and that its beleaguered cutting industry (down to several hundred cutters, from several thousand in the eighties) may receive a near-fatal blow in the latest sightholder selection.

No one is denying that Botswana, Namibia and South Africa should have a bigger cutting industry. These countries’ mines are the backbone of the diamond market. But let us also be clear: The United States is also the backbone of the diamond market, on the demand side. There would be no industry without it. That means something.

And who best to service this market? Some of the New York sightholders have been supplying U.S. retailers for generations. They know this market intimately. One can have all the best intentions – and wads of cash – but mastering the U.S. market from overseas is difficult. We have seen that time and time again.  This market is too important to leave to people who are still on a learning curve.  

You can go insane trying to puzzle out the intricacies of Supplier of Choice (I believe several sightholders already have.) But if “adding value” remains important, if the DTC still considers it important to be close to the retailer, and if the DTC is sincere about wanting to grow the overall market and increase demand, then I don’t see how they can turn their back on New York sightholders.  

By the way, yes, I’m biased. I am from New York. I have known most of the sightholders for years, and I like and respect them. They are all “excellent” companies, which De Beers says it’s looking for.  I can’t over-emphasize what a bad signal that sends when a company complies with the sightholder criteria, and then is dropped anyway. 

In its latest selection process, the DTC has a chance to show that its sightholder criteria really mean something, and that it really does want to do business with the brightest and the best.   Here’s hoping they do the right thing. Come on, DTC … support the country that’s supported you. Support America.

JCK News Director