At the recent G7 summit in Hiroshima, leaders of the world’s seven largest economies pledged to “increase efforts” to curb the diamond trade. Even before the summit, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel – who was Prime Minister of Belgium at an early stage in his political career – emphasized: “We will limit the trade in Russian diamonds. Russian diamonds are not eternal. Explain openly and honestly why these sanctions are necessary and justified.”
However, businessmen from Antwerp, the center of the world’s diamond trade, are well aware of all the moral arguments in favor of the restriction.
They are opposed by economic arguments, cited by the Brussels-based business intelligence agency Eurointelligence: 80 per cent. Rough diamonds and 50 percent. cut diamonds reach end customers via Antwerp; Russia is the world’s largest supplier of rough diamonds, with a global market share of 30%; There is no way Antwerp can replace the sudden disappearance of nearly a third of supplies from other sources; Diamonds account for 15 percent. the value of Belgian exports outside the European Union; In 2021, Belgium exported diamonds worth €13.9 billion.
So far, these arguments have convinced the Belgian government, which has blocked attempts to sanction this lucrative business. Also profitable for Russia.
From the available data, in 2021 Russia earned about $4.7 billion from diamond exports. Of this, it has exported €1.8 billion worth of gemstones to the European Union. In 2022, this amount has decreased slightly to 1.4 billion euros. Russia’s diamond mining magnate – the Alrosa Group – is responsible for about 95 percent of Russian exports and is also the largest single partner of Antwerp. Saves about 25 percent. stones. About 60 percent of Alrosa’s shares are owned directly or indirectly by the Russian state.
Industry representatives in Belgium maintain that sanctions can only make sense with a global approach. Meanwhile, without the consent of India, which is one of Belgium’s competitors in the world market, this is not possible. Thus, if Belgium agrees to sanctions, Russia will easily redirect exports elsewhere. And the relatively few, but very influential people in the diamond trade will not agree with Antwerp, which has been a symbol of the gem trade for centuries. Especially since they have lost big pieces of the diamond pie in Dubai and Mumbai in the last 15 years.
In any case, as the German daily “Hädelsblatt” reports, Antwerp is not facing criticism and indignation for the first time. In the 90s, blood diamonds from Africa were sent there. The money from its sale fueled the brutal civil wars on this continent. Finally, in 2003, the United Nations introduced the Kimberley Origin Diamond Certification Process (KPCS) to ensure that rough stones do not come from conflict zones.
However, as Handelsblatt points out, hiding the origin of diamonds is still child’s play. The problem is that mine operators around the world sell their rough stones to about two dozen wholesalers. They mix them up and liquefy them. The testimonials say “mixed ancestry”. As a result, Russian diamonds are sold in the United States – despite the fact that Washington announced a ban on imports a year ago. In addition, if Russian stones are cut in India, they change their “nationality” to Indian and can be legally sold to America.
With all this in mind, as Eurointelligence sadly notes, the risk that G7 and Charles Michel’s statements will remain mere advertisements is extremely high.