China: The Next Big Cutting Center?

The diamond chain can at times resemble the food chain. Many years ago, Antwerp snatched diamond manufacturing from Amsterdam. Then Israel nabbed some from Antwerp. Now India has grabbed some from Israel. Could a country one day snatch it from India?

If one does, the likely candidate is China, which Indians see as their main competition in the years ahead. Like India, China has cheap labor and connections to what could be an enormous consumer market.

Already, big names like Israel’s Schachter and Namdar have relocated a substantial amount of their production there. “You have to go where the labor is most advantageous,” says the company’s Eric Austein.

Guo Zhiyue, chairman of the China Diamond Manufacturers Association, told the local press that mainland China is already the second-largest cutting center after India, with over 18,000 cutting factories. That should reach 21,000 by the end of the year.

China and Hong Kong also are seen as a gateway to a potentially huge consumer market. Many diamantaires expect that the domestic Chinese market will, in a few years, become the world’s second-largest diamond market behind the United States. For now, however, it’s hard to get solid estimates on the market since many goods are smuggled.