Israel's diamond exports rising while industry battles legislators
Israel's polished diamond exports rose by 12% over the past year, after a 23% dip in 2012, the Israeli Diamond Industry announced on Thursday.
The country's trade in polished precious stones brought in $6.2 billion – $1 billion less than in 2011, a record year for polished diamond exports. Rough diamond exports totalled $2.9 billion, compared to $2.8 billion in 2012.
The US is still Israel's biggest customer with 37% of the market, followed by Hong Kong, Switzerland, Belgium and then India.
“The global diamond industry faced serious economic challenges in 2013 – high rough diamond prices, a slowdown in Asian markets and a reduction in credit," Moti Ganz, Chairman of the Israel Diamond Institute said in a statement. "Despite that, the Israeli Diamond Industry was able to achieve significant growth through creativity and resourcefulness.”
In an interview posted on the organization's website, Israel’s Diamond Controller Shmuel Mordechai said that while exports have recovered somewhat from last year, profitability is still suffering.
"The percentage of profits has dropped, and it may be that some of the firms experienced losses," Mordechai said.
The industry also faces a dilemma because while the price of uncut stones rose "dramatically … there was no corresponding increase in the prices of polished diamonds," Mordechai explained.
Israeli diamond traders have also been fighting lawmakers that are introducing anti-money laundering legislation.
"We hope that the continued advancing of the restriction will happen in lockstep with the industry, but if it doesn't, it will happen in any case without the industry's approval," Mordechai said.
The restrictions are currently being drafted and are part of a broader move to make Israel's diamond industry more transparent, especially in regards to 'blood diamonds.'
Moredechai recently told Haaretz that within a year gemological labs will have to be licensed and adhere to a set of standards for determining the origin of the stones.
Israel is a big player in the global diamond industry; the country's Diamond Exchange is the largest of its kind in the world.