October marked “the end of an era” at De Beers, as it closed the book on 80 years of holding its sights in London. And now, we turn the page to a new era: November brings the first allocation held at De Beers’ new sorting center in Gaborone, Botswana.
This move affects three groups: The people of Botswana, who hope to benefit from the increased activity there; employees of what used to be known as the Diamond Trading Co., some of whom have elected not to move to Africa (with De Beers vice president Varda Shine’s status unclear); and the company’s clients, who have to attend the sights 10 times a year.
And speaking with the latter group, reactions to the move ranged from nonchalant to strongly negative.
The chief complaints center on the travel. From virtually every cutting and trading center, Botswana is a longer trip than London. And we are talking substantially longer: from New York to London is six to seven hours; New York to Gaborone, 17. Which means, for U.S. clients, a trip that used to take a few days now takes closer to a week. “I don’t know many business owners that can take a week out of their schedule,” one said.
Others worry whether the country will be ready to handle everyone. “There is growing concern about the speed,” said one sightholder. “It will be a pity if Botswana fails to live up to the expectations.”