There are two places that are particularly significant for the international diamond trade: Antwerp and Surat. Antwerp is the global center for the trade in cut diamonds. For Surat, on the other hand, rough diamonds play a much greater role, as these are both cut and traded there. How big the importance of Surat really is for the international diamond industry, you will find out in this article.
From the beginnings as a provincial town...
Surat is a city of 4.5 million inhabitants in the state of Gujarat on the west coast of India. India's history has long been shaped by the diamond industry, because until the beginning of the 18th century, India was the only place in the world where diamonds had been found. For Surat, however, the diamond industry only began to play a role in the 20th century. As recently as the 1960s, Surat was a sleepy provincial town with a population of about 300,000. At the time, diamond cutting was done mainly in Antwerp and in Tel Aviv. Surat's fortunes changed when the Indian government approved the import and export of the gems. This began the migration to Surat and the economic upswing of the city. Mainly because of the low-cost labor, Surat quickly became very popular. Many traders from Africa and Australia began to bring their diamonds there for cutting and a real boom began.
... to Diamond City
Today, Surat is the diamond cutting center of the world: 9 out of 10 rough diamonds mined worldwide are cut in Surat. There are about 4,000 diamond cutters there and 1.5 million people work directly or indirectly in the industry, 500,000 of them as diamond cutters. The salaries of the cutters start at the equivalent of 400 euros, and specialists can even earn more than 4,000 euros per month. For India, 400 euros is a very good salary; in international comparison, it is almost nothing. This is what makes it so attractive to have diamonds cut in Surat.
Trade is booming too
However, diamonds are not only cut in Surat but there is also a large market for trading them. In the Mahdiharpura district, diamonds are traded on the open street six days a week. Around 50,000 men - because the common opinion still prevails that this is exclusively a man's business - gather here every day to buy or sell diamonds. The quality of the diamonds is discussed, magnifying glasses are unpacked to check the clarity and there is bargaining. When an agreement is reached, diamonds get traded for cash. There is no receipt or even a certificate for this, the transactions are done on a basis of trust. This diamond trade on the open street is therefore very intransparent. Even if in theory only diamonds with a Kimberley Process Certificate may be imported into India, smugglers still find ways to bring stones from conflict regions into the country undetected. But this is a risk you have to take, if you want to buy diamonds at the bazaar in the Mahdiharpura district. Rough diamonds worth around 1 billion euros are traded here every month. The city is thus not only the center of diamond processing, but meanwhile also the largest trading center for untreated diamonds. In any case, one thing is clear: for Surat's economic development, the diamond trade plays a decisive role, but so does Surat for the diamond trade.
DIAVON is also working with a diamond cutting factory in India. If you would like to learn more about our Indian partner, you are welcome to read the report about the production facility that was published in the Goldschmiede Zeitung. Please not that the article is only available in German.
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