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Tuesday, Oct 26, 2021
Outlook.com

Sparkling Trade

Migrant Gujaratis take over the world's largest diamond bourse

Sparkling Trade
Sparkling Trade
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
THEY came, they traded, they conquered. That's the story of some 300 migrant Gujarati families from Surat and Bombay, who, within a short span of 15 years, have come to control 50 per cent of the diamond business in Antwerp, the world's largest diamond trading centre, ending the overwhelming five-century-old Jewish domination of the trade in this Belgian port town.

With over 200 Indian offices, and 15 to 20 new ones being set up each year, the bustling Pelikanstraat and the famous square mile in the heart of Antwerp, where the world's diamond capital is housed, has come to wear a different look. Distinctly linked with Hasidic Jews in their hats and flowing beards till the early '80s, today the diamond trade is as commonly associated with the 'foreign' banter of cellphone  carrying Gujarati diamond traders in their $1,000 suits and their silk sari-clad wives driving the latest Lexus, Mercedes and BMW models.

Eighty per cent of the world's rough diamonds and 65 per cent of all polished diamonds are traded here, generating an annual turnover of $16 billion, half of which is on account of the Gujaratis. Says Peter Meeus, director of Beurs Voor Diamanthandel, one of the four diamond exchanges in Antwerp: "150 of our 2,000 members are Indians who have come to control around 50 per cent of the business within a mere decade-and-a-half." Adds Chetan Choksi, a third generation diamond merchant who moved to Antwerp 12 years ago: "The Indian community in Antwerp is diligent and there is unity among us. Most of us being first generation immigrants, we have worked hard to establish ourselves." Choksi's company, Diminco NV, has a $150-million annual turnover and boasts of being the biggest "importer of polished diamonds from India since the past five years". Every year, these Gujaratis ship $2 billion worth of diamonds, predominantly small stones, to India...

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