WFDB in the Next Normal – an Exclusive Interview with Yoram Dvash Julius Zheng

Founded in 1947, the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB) has 30 affiliated bourse members worldwide, with its mission to promote the interests of affiliated bourses and their individual members and to further the amicable settlement or arbitration of disputes between individual members of the affiliated bourses and/or between affiliated bourses. Members of affiliated bourses pledge to uphold the traditions, principles of mutual trust, consideration and friendship which prevail among the members of the bourses worldwide. The membership of a WFDB-affiliated bourse has been regarded as a good standing and status in diamond industry, and the bourses’ trading halls have been traditionally important venues for diamond companies and traders to conduct regulated face-to-face trading and information exchange under one roof.  In the internet and digital era where trade members are scattered around the world and very often make transactions remotely, the WFDB has a vital role to carry on the traditions and spirits of the bourses while ushering into a new trading environment. At the WFDB Working Session during the recent 39th World Diamond Congress in September 2020, Mr. Yoram Dvash, President of the Israel Diamond Exchange (IDE) comprising approximately 3,000 members, was formally elected as President of the WFDB for a three-year term after having served as Acting President since April. In the opening session entitled “Diamonds in the Next Normal” of this first-ever virtual World Diamond Congress, Mr Dvash said that although the coronavirus pandemic made 2020 a very, very challenging year, there is a return to demand in major markets. However, he said, the problems of the diamond industry were not only caused by the virus. “The industry has been suffering from a lack of profitability, a shortage of financing and reduced demand. It needs to transform to meet the demands of the twenty-first century. That means adopting the values of the day – transparency, sustainability and consumer confidence. It means working together with regulators to create rules and measures that benefit all.” In an exclusive interview after the Congress, Mr. Dvash explained more about the WFDB’s initiatives.

1) What is the most important message from the 39th World Diamond Congress?

Yoram Dvash:I think that the most important message is that despite the Coronavirus crisis, the diamond industry is succeeding in adapting to the “new normal”. Although there was a huge decline in demand at the beginning of the crisis, the diamond industry is seeing a return to demand in Asia and the United States, which are the major markets. We were surprised and very pleased by the number of participants throughout the Congress. I think that people have gotten used to the online and video format, since it has become such an important part of our lives in the past months. 

2)   What are the new challenges of the WFDB and its member bourses under the Covid-19 pandemic situation and the influences of younger diamantaires who rely heavily on online communication and are in scattered locations? What are the importance and functions of the WFDB to carry on the tradition and to usher into a new trading environment? 

Dvash: During the lockdowns the bourses have had to close down and then reopen, and then close again. We all had to make adjustments, working from home, using our computers and smartphones. As we couldn’t travel we discovered that we could still reach customers virtually and save quite a bit on expenses. The bourses are still active and still fulfill very important functions for their members even if they are physically working from home. This includes services such as providing information, arbitration, aid to needy members and more. 

3) What will be your initiatives in near future after being elected as the president of the WFDB? 

Dvash: Since becoming Acting President in April, I have added other players such as shipping companies, banks and retail chains to our ranks as Associate Members, in order to strengthen the WFDB. My goal is to expand the points of view we hear around the table, so that the WFDB can be a forum for the entire diamond and diamond jewelry industry globally. As President, I intend to continue in these efforts.

Moreover, two years ago we began the Young Diamantaires initiative, led by Rami Baron, President of the Australian Diamond Dealers Club. This has developed into a large group of dedicated diamantaires and jewelry professionals from around the world. I intend to work with them and involve them as much as possible in the WFDB, so that they can bring their energies, knowledge and understanding of the market to our organization. 

4)  Why is an important initiative for WFDB? 

Dvash: What is most significant about Get Diamonds is that it was established “by the industry, for the industry.” It shows what the industry can accomplish when it acts in unity. The initiative came from the field – a group of young diamantaires from around the world wanted an alternative to the hegemony of the existing ecommerce websites. The WFDB saw that this was an opportunity to strengthen the industry and immediately embraced the initiative. We established Get Diamonds, which became the largest trading platform within a few weeks.  We are very excited and see a great future for it. 

5) The Abraham Accords were signed recently to normalize the relations between Israel and UAE. How do you see the potentials of diamond business between the two countries, and the cooperation between the IDE and the DMCC? 

Dvash: In September the IDE and the DMCC signed a strategic collaboration agreement in which we agreed to share information, promote trade cooperation and business ties between the two entities. Each bourse will open an office in the other location, to aid their members in entering the new markets. We have also pledged to hold Israel-Dubai Diamond Weeks in Israel and in Dubai. We see a great potential for business. Israel specializes in the large polished stones favored in the region, and Dubai specializes in rough diamonds, of which Israel is a large client. So we definitely complement each other.

6)   Do you see a lot of members of the IDE trading and working with Thailand? How is the market potentials of Thailand for diamonds from Israel? How is the working relationship between the IDE and the Bangkok Diamonds and Precious Stones Exchange (BDPSE)?

Dvash: There is a relationship of appreciation and respect between the diamond exchanges as both are members of the WFDB, and especially between me and Mr. Henry Ho, the president of the Bangkok Diamonds and Precious Stones Exchange (BDPSE). We often talk about the situation regarding the cooperation between our two industries. There are quite a few Israelis who are active in Thailand, both in diamond trading and in manufacturing diamonds and diamond jewelry. We would of course be happy to see more diamond buyers from Thailand in Israel, which will expand trade between the countries.

C:UsersappleDesktopBangkok Gems & Jewellery 2020World Diamond CongressmaterialIsrael Diamond Exchange small.jpg

The Diamond Exchange complex in Ramat Gan, Israel consists of four towers covering approximately 100,000 square meters, connected by secure pedestrian bridges. It houses more than 2,000 private offices and extensive public areas. Photo courtesy of the Israel Diamond Exchange

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The trading hall of the Israel Diamond Exchange (IDE). The bourses’ trading floors have been traditionally important venues for diamond companies and traders to conduct regulated face-to-face trading and information exchange under one roof. Photo courtesy of the Israel Diamond Exchange

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Yoram Dvash, President of the Israel Diamond Exchange (IDE) and Ahmed Bin Sulayem, chairman of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) signing a strategic collaboration agreement during a video conference in September 2020.  Photo courtesy of the Israel Diamond Exchange

C:UsersappleDesktopBangkok Gems & Jewellery 2020World Diamond CongressmaterialJulius Zheng Portrait at senimar small.jpg

About the author

Julius Zheng is a jewellery industry analyst and senior consultant to various important firms and institutes. Actively engaged in industry matters, he has developed various projects that connect China’s diamond and jewellery sectors with international markets, including organizing around 30 China Buyer Delegations, and has developed international gemological educational programs. Formerly general manager of Rapaport China, he has over 20 years’ experience in the international diamond and jewellery industry. He is also the China Coordinator of the GJEPC, and a member of Executive Board of the Bangkok Diamonds and Precious Stones Exchange (WFDB affiliated). 


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