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Welcome to the fascinating world of diamonds.

Global is not a new concept when used in the context of the diamond trade. Hundreds of years ago, families sent sons and/or brothers to run branches of their precious stones and diamond businesses throughout Europe, India, the Far East, and China where they developed international connections based on close personal and family ties.

From traveling the caravan and trade routes (for months at at time), diamantaires now clock in 100's of 1000's of air miles a year in search of business in all parts of the world, in an industry that generates billions of dollars a year in both polished and rough.

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    I've heard that "diamonds" is a popular family business. Is this still true?

For centuries, the diamond business was passed down from generation to generation within the same family. And, today, with the inclusion of the "younger generation", it's not unusual to visit offices where there are 3 generations working together in all aspects of a family business. Family members are involved in every stage of production and service - buying the rough, cutting and polishing, sorting the polished, marketing, and working with clients.

Today, the industry has diversified to some extent and companies that have been around for generations within the same family have been joined by "newcomers" who have become very successful in their own right.

"Diamonds" was never really considered a career for women, although in recent years, more young women - usually the "daughters of" - have become members of a Diamond Exchange. Even 18 years ago, it was next to impossible for a woman (other than a widow of a member) to become a member of a Diamond Exchange on her own; however, a few pioneering women (even without family ties) did get past the barriers and succeeded as buyers, exporters, and brokers in this very competitive business.

That being said, there are a number of offices where, for many years, wives have been working together with their husbands; and, now, the younger generation (both sons and daughters) has joined with them to continue the traditional family diamond business.

Anthony Oppenheimer said that it would be the diamond families who had built the industry who would bring it into the 21st century. In recognition of long-standing relationships, he said, "...it is the bond between families that is the unbreakable link."

I'm planning a trip to Antwerp and Israel during the first quarter of next year. I would like to keep my expenses down. Any suggestions?

Many of the hotels offer discounts to the diamond industry. We suggest that you ask one of the offices to make the reservations for you.
I'm a jewelry designer and sometimes I only need 2 or 4 matching stones, depending on the design. Is this type of business too small for Israeli fancy shape manufacturers?

You should find good options amongst the manufacturers who specialize in exact measurements, calibration, and matching pairs. After a few inquiries, you'll find someone who will be more than willing to work with you. It's preferable to send a fax with a drawing, diagrams and/or the specifications of what you need. Those who specialize in calibration are very experienced, but a fax is preferable to e-mail after the initial contact is made.
Can I buy a diamond just from seeing a certificate?

Can you, may you - yes, but the real question is should you.

I asked one of the diamond manufacturers who explained it this way. "There are both objective and subjective factors to take into consideration because diamonds are not 1 plus 1 equals 2. A certificate can give you a good indication of whether or not you want to go one step further and see the stone before you make the decision to buy."

Certificates are objective grading reports and are educational, but there are a number of subjective influences to consider that can't be explained by reading a certificate. It only takes one of these factors to make a difference in whether you decide that the stone is right for you.

One person may think color is the determining factor, another the clarity, and yet another the make/cut. The subtle differences within the color grade are hard to distinguish and should be judged by looking at the stone and preferably comparing it with your own master stones. The shade of color could be at the low end (or the top end) which could be significant, or fluorescence (which will be noted) could effect the stone dramatically, but this you would have to determine for yourself when you see it.

And what about the cut/make? This is definitely a factor as the cut makes a very big difference as to how the stone looks. Not only does everyone have his own preference about this, but also two stones of the same clarity and color can look significantly different depending on the cut and what you subjectively consider to be a pretty stone.
I'm not a professional, but - can I buy just 1 stone from a manufacturer or exporter?

Not necessarily. Usually these companies have neither the time nor the inclination to sell to private individuals (except for relatives and very close friends); however, if you happen to be in one of the diamond centers, and you are lucky enough to have an address and an introduction, you can try. I suggest, although, that you check out the sites on the company page. Some of them offer the names of jewelry stores for you to contact.

There are also quite a number of sites that sell diamonds on-line, and we will be adding more during the next few months. Please remember to evaluate each one for yourself, as a link is neither a recommendation nor an endorsement, and it is up to you to decide which one is the best choice for your needs.

What is a Diamond Bourse?

A Bourse (another word for an Exchange) is a private commercial enterprise governed by its own set of rules and regulations. Membership in a Bourse involves both obligations and privileges on the part of its members.

It is an international meeting place where diamond buyers and sellers meet to trade in all types of diamonds, both polished and rough. Access to the trading hall of a Bourse is limited to its members, members of foreign bourses, and buyers (usually accompanied by a member who vouches for him).

There are over 20 bourses around the world (Israel, Antwerp, Johannesberg, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Idar-Oberstein, Paris, Vienna, London, Amsterdam, Singapore, Bangkok), all affiliated with the World Federation of Diamond Bourses which is based in Antwerp.
What happens if something should go wrong with a sale at a Diamond Exchange?

An integral part of the system at a Diamond Exchange is arbitration, because legal problems can arise between members for any number of reasons. The by-law, requiring members to bring all disagreements to the Bourse's judicial committee and abide by the decisions of the arbitrators, is considered preferable to a civil lawsuit.

Can you recommend some books on the diamond trade?

The library at the Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Museum in Ramat Gan has an extensive collection of books and articles on the subject.

There are two articles that could be of interest to you. "Diamonds and the Holocaust" by David Federman appeared in the Modern Jeweler magazine in the mid-1980's. It's probably accessible through their archives, or from the library at the Diamond Museum.

Another article, "The Real Treasure of 47th Street - Mutual Trust Enriches Everyone" appeared in the New York Times (1994/5).

In the 1984 Jewish Directory and Almanac, Volume 1, the article, "Jews and the Diamond Trade" by Abe Michael Shainberg, covers Amsterdam, Antwerp, and New York including the Diamond Dealers Club.

With reference to books, "The Economic History of the Jews" by Salo Baron and Arcadius Kahan, edited by Nahum Gross, includes a chapter on the diamond trade. "Connections" by Russell Shore is about the diamond cities and communities worldwide, as well as the bourses affiliated with the World Federation of Diamond Bourses.

"Brugge Diamantsaad" (Bruge Diamond City), published in Belgium in 1993, describes 15th century Bruges as a prosperous world center of the diamond trade.

"Diamonds and Coral" by Gedalia Yogev is about the Anglo-Dutch trade in the 18th century.

"The World of Diamonds" by Timothy Green, "The Diamond World" by David Koskoff, "The Diamond People" by Murray Schumach, and "The Last Empire" by Stephen Kanfer offer interesting insights into the fascinating diamond business, industry and trade.
Why are you asking for stories about our families and the diamond business?

I think that it's important to preserve the heritage of your family and to pass it on to the next generation to keep the memories alive. I started a journal about my family's history about two years ago after I was contacted by Harold Brackman from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Museum of Tolerance.

During his research for an article on Jackie Robinson, he had come across the name of my father, Isadore Muchnick, and was impressed by his fight against social injustice (in the 1940's and 50's) on a number of levels.

In 1944, as a city councilman, my father threatened to reintroduce the "Sunday Blue Laws" which would have effectively stopped Boston's major league baseball teams (the Braves and the Red Sox) from playing on Sunday. In April of 1945 (months before Branch Rickey showed interest in Robinson for the Brooklyn Dodgers), the Red Sox were pressured into arranging a tryout for Jackie Robinson, Sam Jethroe, and Marvin Williams.

My father saw this as a step towards the desegregation of baseball. My mother remembered it this way, "the fact that the Red Sox didn't sign him was their loss - and the rest is baseball history."

My brother, David, and I had grown up with Jackie Robinson and the friendship that my father developed with him. For us, it had always been a family story. Now, more than 50 years later, with the publication of Brackman's article in the Spring 1999 Journal of Sport History, it was of interest to a wider audience.
As you can see, many of us reach back in time for our inspiration. My story may be about a baseball diamond, but I am pretty sure that there a number of stories out there in our diamond community that should be shared and passed on.

What I'm asking you to do is to take a few minutes and think back to how it all began for you, your parents, or your grandparents and let us hear from you. If you already have the information on your website, just make reference to the url address when asked for the description. Thanks in advance.

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Ruins We invite you to visit holylandblessings.com where you may send your personal prayers and blessings to holy sites on the Sea of Galilee and to other Christian sanctuaries of faith in the Holyland. And, if you have time, spend a few quiet introspective minutes in the Images and Insight Tableau Section of this interesting site.

Ardyn Halter is a talented international artist who creates wonderful illuminated family trees, geneological charts, and life-cycle works of art which have become collectors' items in Israel, Europe, and North America. You are invited to visit his site, www.ardynhalter.com, by clicking here.
Photo credits: Photos courtesy of CSO-London; Keyguide Ltd.
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