A rough diamond changes hands at least five times before it reaches the cutting wheel, an industry veteran explained to my amazement when I first started writing about the market. A polished stone is traded even more often before being set into a piece of jewelry, he continued.
The journey a diamond undergoes from mine to finger is truly a global one. It can be unearthed in Lesotho, sold at a tender in Johannesburg, traded in Antwerp, and perhaps laser-cut in Israel before being polished in Surat and graded in Carlsbad, California. Once polished, it is likely to be sorted in Mumbai, subsequently sent to a Hong Kong show for display, and sold to a jewelry wholesaler who sets it in an engagement ring at a factory in China. The ring is exported to a dealer on New York’s 47th Street, where it might shift from office to office before finding a buyer — say, a jeweler in Bloomington, Indiana, who sells it to a couple planning to settle in Toronto, Canada, after their wedding.
The permutations are endless, demonstrating that any stone carries with it the DNA of hundreds of individuals. The diamond connects the trade around the world, and perhaps more importantly, it strengthens the bond between couples as they build their lives together.
That’s an important observation as we deal with the coronavirus, which has traveled the globe with even greater ease. If we, as an industry — and as human beings, for that matter — had forgotten how much of an impact one person has on another, the COVID-19 outbreak should serve as a reminder. What began as a seemingly local virus in China became a global pandemic in less than two months. COVID-19 demonstrates what the trade intuitively knows from the diamond journey: We live in a small global village.
Of course, the ramifications can be negative, as in the case of spreading a virus. But we should recognize that the opposite effect is also true. Our positive actions have a far-reaching impact that can spread very quickly.
The virus has forced us to stop and consider what is important. Perhaps the world has become too fast-paced, and we need to slow down and engage with our families, colleagues and friends in a different way. Without a doubt, social media has become too noisy and often nasty. The irony of the Facebook- Instagram-Twitter era is that the easier it has become to communicate, the more difficult it has been to connect on an intimate and personal level.
COVID-19 provides that perspective. It should be a catalyst for strengthening our private and professional relationships at a time when global health concerns are forcing us to isolate.
To its credit, the diamond trade has always thrived on networking, a handshake and a sense of community. Perhaps that’s one reason the current crisis is so difficult for the industry to navigate, as most of us are in quarantine or lockdown as of this writing. It’s not in our DNA to withdraw.
Photo © Forevermark.