The trip of a lifetime to India’s Diamond Centres

As the chairman of the Promotions Committee of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, I challenged the board to enable me to reach out to…

As the chairman of the Promotions Committee of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, I challenged the board to enable me to reach out to the next generation of Diamantaires to ask the question — what is important to you?

To that end, I founded a group seven years ago called the Young Diamantaires (YDs). The purpose was to create a worldwide platform for the next generation of the diamond and jewellery community under the age of 45 (give or take). It was founded to create a place where they can discuss issues important to them, and a safe space to challenge the current status quo, build new relationships and networks, and hopefully provide the diamond and jewellery community with the next generation of leaders.

The success of this group exceeded my expectations. Four years ago, DeBeers invited the YDs to bring 25 Young Diamantaires to South Africa to visit the Venetia Mine — a truly incredible experience. During COVID, the YDs held numerous webinars with some of the most influential people in the diamond community. We are strongly represented at every trade show and diamond congress, and we regularly hold evening events for people to connect with peers.

Approximately 12 months ago, I posted on our WhatsApp group, which numbers around 500 people worldwide, “Who would like to visit Surat in India and see the centre of diamond manufacturing in the world? ” There was a tremendous response, and seven months ago, we put it out formally to see who would really commit. While over 100 applied, we had to limit our guest list to 50 people by asking everyone to answer one simple question – “Why should you be chosen?” With great difficulty, we selected a well-balanced and gender-diverse group of 50 people, and began planning.

Fortunately, we had several large diamond producers in Surat who were incredibly supportive of this trip, as well as a number of our team members working with me in a specially convened organising committee, which involved many calls every week for nine months. The plan was for everyone to meet in Surat. We began with a private visit to the Sarine Technology offices followed by the opening dinner, where we were fortunate enough to
secure Mr Velumani to y into Surat to speak to us. Mr Velumani created Thycore, a pharmaceutical company he recently sold for $800 million USD. He was able to tell us his story from a business and life experience perspective, which he felt was important to focus on.

To build relationships and help challenge everyone’s thinking, the group would meet early for breakfast each morning to discuss a different topic, such as, “What’s it like to work in a family business?” Each table would discuss it for half an hour, and then one person would stand up and present the thoughts of the table. This was an excellent way to get people to open up and challenge their own way of thinking. To ensure that everyone felt part of the team, we organised a different coloured polo shirt every day. White on the first day, blue on the second, and black on the third, all embossed with the Young Diamantaires logo on the pocket.

Over the next few days, we visited the Hare Krishna group, where we were regaled by now 3000 employees leaving their desks, coming out and lining the streets from their three buildings to a bridge and football field while clapping at us as we arrived. This was truly a humbling and enriching experience. This was also a statement by the Indian community showing their appreciation for such a large group of Young Diamantaires coming to India to understand and see what they do and how they do it.

Every meeting and every visit to every factory was more amazing than the last. There were no questions that the Young Diamantaires could not ask. Everything was on the table, careful and detailed answers were readily provided. We visited jewellery factories and went to the open market of the diamond trade where 50,000 people stood around with no security and often on the back of a bicycle showing small parcels of diamonds and trading. It was wild. We met with a diamond specialist cutter whose forte is to identify traces of colour in diamonds, and with vast knowledge, understands how they can be recut to display the full-colour potential. We saw what looked like a pale grey diamond recut into an intensive vivid blue.

We went on to revisit SRK, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of polished diamonds. We were given a private tour of the unopened new Surat Diamond Bourse, estimated to have 100,000 people working on it per day. The design and the thought process were both inspiring and mind-
boggling, how they combined positioning and green tech to make this the first fully carbon-neutral complex of its size in India. We held an amazing dinner that discussed a fundraising goal for the Renaissance School in South Africa, which we have been working on for the last four years to help them build a kitchen to feed the children. Many of the children have only one meal a day. Within five minutes, we managed to raise $140,000 USD from the Young Diamantaires and sponsors attending.

Then, we made our way to Mumbai by train. Once again, we were given an unbelievable welcome by the Bharat Diamond Exchange. The largest diamond bourse in the world, with currently 45,000 people moving in and out of this ecosystem daily and something like 80 percent of the world’s polished diamonds are traded there. All of this concluded with a vibrant Bollywood evening, culminating in newfound relationships and friends, everyone realising the importance of creating new networks and understanding that one can truly build another family around the world. The key ingredients are mutual respect and being open to both learning and sharing, and that doesn’t mean you have to do business with each other. Fortunately, nine Australians were able to participate in this incredible trip, and some have detailed their experiences.

Ewen Ryley, creative director of Ryley Jewellery Creations says, “I went into the YDs India Trip with no expectations. What I experienced completely blew me away. Having exclusive access to the world’s largest diamond cutting factories and the minds of the amazing teams which run them was truly incredible. I experienced and learnt countless lessons, tips and messages, which I am still trying to unpack. My fellow trip adventurers were from all aspects of the diamond industry, I could only have dreamt to be in the same room as some of these amazing people, which I can now call friends. The itinerary was organised to perfection, the hospitality of the local people was immense, and the experience will live with me for a lifetime.”

Brett Low, director of the Jewellery Industry Network describes the trip to be a “10 out of 10” with his appreciation for what he saw being “hard to put into words.” Liran Lahav, the chief operating officer of Q Report says, “the trip was a once in a lifetime experience and incredibly memorable” and he describes how being “exposed to the science and seeing first hand the diamond and jewellery manufacturing process was great.”

Craig Miller, chief executive officer of JC Jewels says he enjoyed “connecting with old friends, making new friends and developing new business opportunities and relationships,” He adds, “I have spent my whole life in the diamond industry, travelling regularly to all global major bubbles, but somehow, on this trip, Rami and our amazing organising committee managed to make every second count and ensured we covered almost every facet in the pipeline. This trip showed me how one will never stop learning about our industry, the people in it and new developments, and the value this brings to my business.”

Cameron Robinson, owner of Bruce Robinson Diamonds says the trip to India was “the most incredible experience of my life and I am well
travelled.” He gushed when reminiscing on the experience and says he gets “goosebumps” when he speaks about it. “It is no wonder they call it incredible India,” he says. Cameron describes a “fundamental shift” within himself since the trip to India and he eagerly looks forward to returning.

“My most amazing memory from the trip was the Hare Krishna that stopped production for an hour, he had all his workers, more than 3000 people standing outside waiting for us to come in and [they] clapped their hands for us when we walked in. I felt like ‘wow’, I felt like I was a movie star!” says Tamara Gabay, head of technology, sales and development at Your Diamonds. “To see how those companies are treating their workers and to see how the industry really cares about everyone, it’s like a big family,” she adds.

Tim Sung, director of Janai Jewellery and Reine Jewels says his favourite part of the trip was the communication. “To me, working in the industry can be lonely because of my knowledge, being able to talk and share with [people] who understand is amazing.” Tim describes how he can “talk about diamonds all day” and this trip allowed him to share his thoughts and frustrations about how the general public don’t fully know or understand the diamond industry. The trip to India has made Tim want to “share and understand the impact of natural diamonds” and its progression.

“I loved being part of such a diverse group of talented, generous and motivated individuals from all areas of the jewellery industry. The calibre of people could have been intimidating. It felt though that as a YD, we were all on eye level regardless of titles, history and achievements in the industry. We had a lot of fun.” Robert Grynkofki, co-founder and managing director of Sarah & Sebastian says. “Each manufacturer made sure to go the extra mile to make us feel welcome. The organising committee did an amazing job curating the entire trip, with all experiences going hand in hand to form a deep impression of the industry. From learning about the history and achievements that made India the diamond capital to state-of-the-art manufacturing, and everything in between.”

Trade well,
Rami Baron
President, Diamond Dealers Club Australia.

Further reading: