Some Wishes for the Diamond Industry

Earlier this year, Dr. Martin Hochbaum left the Diamond Dealers Club after 17 years as managing director. At a warm, well-attended reception at the DDC in September, Hochbaum—who is now working on the U.S. Kimberley Process Authority at the Jewelers Vigilance Committee and was given a Diamond Award on Oct. 6 by the 47th Street Business Improvement District—shared his thoughts about where the industry needs to go. I found his talk so insightful I decided to reprint it here. As the Jewish New Year—a time of reflection—has just come to a close, he provided much to consider:

One of the major changes in our business is that the government is involved in this industry in a way it has not been historically. In Fiddler on the Roof they talked about praying for the czar, that he should be in good health and stay far away from us. In the post-9/11 era, the government has major concerns with security. They have major concerns with money laundering and the Kimberley Process. All of these concerns will continue to grow, and we must learn to work with all levels of government. 

A second must is the need for everyone to work together. I am delighted to see so many colleagues from so many different organizations—including the Indian Diamond and Colorstone Association and the Diamond Manufacturers and Importers of America. This is an industry that must work together in situations involving cooperation and not conflict if it will continue to thrive.

This industry must also embrace change in a way it historically has not. In particular, I’m taking about change as far as diversity. When I came to work here no one had ever heard of Shanghai or Dubai. Today in every business school they teach the following phrase: “Shanghai, Dubai, Mumbai, or bye-bye.” If you are not involved in business in those realms, you are not in business. There are also tremendous opportunities to enroll more women in this industry, and we must continue to do so.

The late vice president and chairman of the board Ray Perlman always emphasized to me the need to engage in due diligence. All members have to repeat to themselves: Due diligence, due diligence, due diligence. 

The industry must also become more transparent. Obviously this has to comport to the industry’s very real security needs. But we must open ourselves up to outside bodies so we can be more hospitable to the public.

The final point is something that a lot of people already do in a very sincere and admirable way: We must continue to have compassion for people. I have seen people here pay off mortgages for other people. I have seen people here pick up significant debts for others. When we had problems with staffing, members got together and put together a nice amount of money out of their own pockets to pay employees’ salaries.

If you follow these suggestions, I believe this industry will continue to thrive, and not just survive. 

Many of you have asked me what I will miss about the diamond club. Basically, it’s you. It’s the arguments, the banter, it’s someone telling me it’s too hot and then 10 minutes later hearing it’s too cold.

To paraphrase Samuel Ha-Nagid, the leader of the Jewish community in the 10th century in Spain: There are three types of people we meet in life. The first are like poison, to be avoided at all costs. The second are like medicine; they are bitter to the taste and you need to have contact with them occasionally but not too frequently. The third are like bread. We need them to sustain ourselves. We need to sustain those bread-like relationships with one another. 

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JCK News Director