By Rivka Borochov
Color, clarity, cut and carat are defined by diamond industry standards. And the gold standard for handing out these certifications is the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Now, the GIA has opened up a satellite certification office for diamonds in Ramat Gan’s Israel Diamond Center.
This center, inaugurated in September, will provide the “Rolls Royce” of diamond quality certificates for Israel’s $20 billion diamond market, the fourth largest in the world.
The center, which now employs 20 Israeli trainees, will become the sixth international training center for the GIA to create the diamond experts, or “diamantiers,” of the future.
Udi Sheintal, managing director of the Israel Diamond Institute (IDI), a non-profit that oversees the interests of Israeli diamond traders, says that the new GIA center results from a concerted effort between his organization and the Israel Diamond Manufacturers Association.
Having such a center in Israel isn’t just a stamp of legitimization for Israel’s place in the diamond world market, he says. It will shorten, by weeks and months, the amount of time needed to obtain certificates of quality so that Israeli diamond traders can move product into the market more quickly.
“The fact that there is now a gemological lab in Israel will shorten the time to market for Israeli diamantiers,” says Sheintal. “Instead of six to eight weeks for a certificate we can now get the Israeli lab results in 10 days. This helps cut the costs and the risks.”
Up until now, Israeli diamond traders had to send any diamond above one-third of a carat to New York for certification. That involved high costs for transit insurance and ties up inventory. The new GIA center in Israel will eliminate these problems, and the lower cost ultimately will be felt by the
World market suppliers
Israel’s diamond industry is an important supplier of cut diamonds to the wholesale diamond market. Its diamonds are certified as 100 percent natural and conflict-free.
The Diamond Tower in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv,
houses the world’s largest trading floor for diamonds
Sheintal believes this new GIA center in the heart of it all won’t necessarily increase foreign traders coming to Israel, but it will make the business in Israel flow more smoothly.
The center could also serve as a European hub for young diamond traders who want to learn the tools of the trade; it’s easier to fly into Israel than to America, for instance.
Sheintal also expects that neighboring countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel will take
advantage of the close location and similar time zones and send trainees to the new GIA school, set to open within a year or two. He says this kind of center will boost the training standards for people in the region, which benefits the whole industry.
The facility will operate an on-site lab service, along with GIA Grading Reports, diamond dossiers and other services essential to the diamond trader.
"The opening of the GIA facility is of major significance to the Israeli diamond industry and advances our position as a global diamond trading hub," said Moti Ganz, chairman of the IDI.
The diamond trade has been considered largely a “Jewish” profession since the 15th century. Jewish diamond cutter Lodewk van Berken from Belgium invented the scaif, a diamond polishing wheel that uses olive oil and diamond dust. He passed on his knowledge to the Jewish community in Europe.
The pre-state Israeli diamond trade started in 1937, founded by immigrants escaping Nazi persecution in Holland.
No ‘blood’ diamonds
Israel has no known diamond mines. Working with international Kimberly Process protocols, Israeli diamond traders work as close as possible to the diamond mines.
The Kimberly Process, a system for identifying and stopping the trade of “conflict” or “blood” diamonds, resonated with Israeli diamond traders from the beginning of the project about 10 years ago. Israel was one of the founding members of the process and in 2010 Israel chaired the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme.
Udi Sheintal, managing director of the Israel Diamond Institute
“Once you control the source of the diamond and are connected to the government of where it is being mined, then all the certificates can be traced through the invoice all the way back to the source,” says Sheintal.