India's Palanpuri Jains and World diamond Center, Antwerp, Belgium

Raw diamond


Diamond necklace.

Since the dawn of civilization, the Indians have a fascination for costly jewelry and precious gem stones.  In the Medieval period and later, the Indian kings donated lots of gold, silver and gemstone studded jewelry to the Hindu temples. Even to day in numerous temples in India , Gods and Goddesses are adorned with valuable jewelry. The Vishnu temples at Tirupati, AP and at Thiruvanathapuram, Kerala have costly  jewels worth in billions of dollars. Once India was a major producer of diamonds in the world  and, as a matter of fact, majority of world famous, fascinating diamonds such as Kohinoor, Orlov, Dresden, etc are from  India -  Kollur /Golconda  diamond  mines near Hyderabad. Indian  jewelers , for centuries, are highly skilled in the art of making wonderful, impressive jewelry  and metal idols. As far as diamonds are concerned, in the 20th century the diamond traders of Gujarat are a force to reckon with. They have been major suppliers of diamonds through out India and their foray into the international diamond center in Antwerp, Belgium  is not accidental. Decades ago they moved over to Antwerp,  relying on their skill, business acumen and trust.

As we all know  Antwerp city, Belgium has the largest diamond market in the world and all kinds of diamonds are traded over there. For centuries  Orthodox Jews  had a monopoly in that trade which requires a lot of skill, 

Antwerp,Belgium diamond stock exchange.,
strategies and marketing, besides fundamentals of gemology with reference to diamonds. Hence, this city has the largest orthodox Jewish community in Europe and most of them are in diamond trade - making a living  by polishing diamonds in their shops  on Hovenier street, Antwerp. 


On account of globalization, the scenario in the diamond trade had changed  drastically as far back as early 2000. Jewish community domination is on the decline and their place has  already been taken over by the Gujarati business community,  consisting mostly of  Mehtas and Shahs. The recent entry is Patels. Because of their arrival in Antwerp,  the future of  Jews - mostly Sephardic Jews and their legacy became a question mark.

The High Diamond Council, the trade's main governing body has a 11 member board and in the later part of 2000, Indians  won five of the six elected seats, wielding enormous power. In the mid 2000 Indians  already  accounted for whooping €15 billion ($19 billion) of the annual diamond trade of a total of €23 billion. This will give you some idea about the  grip  the Indians  have on the international diamond trade. The reasons for the success of Indian community are manifold. However, a few warrant attention. Leading Indian traders have global network in every part of the continent mostly managed by their relatives. The family relationship is a positive factor. They are highly enterprising and most importantly they know the nuances of this tricky business well. The major advantage they have over other foreign traders is  their technical skill in cutting and polishing diamonds with less weight - below 5 carats to a few points.  They do not waste the diamond dusts. They buy them  in bulk and turn the earthy, raw  small diamond pieces into dazzling, resplendent stones of considerable value. Another advantage they have is  most of the polishing of low weight stones is done in Surat, Gujarat, India where the labor is cheap, definitely more than 7 times.

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To day big stones - raw diamonds weighing more than 10 or 20 carats are polished by Jewish traders in Antwerp, using special software and machines supplied by Israel.  As for big stones, the Indians go to the Jewish shops for cutting and polishing because they do their job fairly well better than Indian counterparts.  In spite of competition, Indians - mostly Palanpuri Jains  have cordial relationship with the Jewish community as some of the religious traditions of Judaism and Jainism are more or less  similar. Gujarati traders are hard workers  and concentrate more on their business and shun any form of violence.  Unlike the Jewish community, the Indians aren't sentimental about Antwerp. If the government

regulations squeeze them and are not reasonable, they will pack up and go somewhere where the atmosphere is congenial to them. Jewish community does not have this kind of attitude because of their 500 year association with Antwerp town and diamond trade. Indians here earn comfortably and may move over to any other place if things do not work out for them. 

Now there are more than 400 families living in Antwerp. The Jains of Palanpuri had a costly Jain temple built in Antwerp. It is one of the expensive temples in the world.