A group of 16 prominent diamond manufacturers and traders, including De Beers, have expressed their opposition to a proposal by the G7 and EU to track the origin of diamonds and block the entry of Russian gems into the global market. The proposal has been criticized for lacking transparency, accountability, and inclusivity, according to a letter from the group to the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), Belgium’s industry lobby.
The G7 recently announced its intention to impose an embargo on direct and indirect imports of Russian diamonds, with the legislation expected to take effect in the coming weeks. Belgium, home to the Antwerp diamond industry through which 90% of the world’s diamonds pass, had initially opposed efforts by Western states to ban Russian diamonds. It warned that imposing such a ban would result in Antwerp losing business as a diamond hub to Dubai. However, Belgium has now proposed its own diamond ban.
Under the Belgian proposal, the G7 would implement a diamond tracking system similar to the SWIFT international messaging system used by banks. This mechanism would enable the G7 to prevent diamonds with links to Russia from entering its market. The AWDC has admitted providing technical advice on the ban to the Belgian government and stated that the final proposal was submitted to G7 countries and the European Commission after extensive government-to-government consultations over the past few months.
An unnamed Belgian government official has warned that Belgium would be severely affected by restrictions on Russian diamonds. The Antwerp diamond industry has an annual turnover of €47 billion ($50.3 billion), with 40% of its diamonds originating from Russia.
Meanwhile, the US, UK, Canada, and New Zealand have already banned imports of Russian rough diamonds. However, Washington permits the import of gems extracted in Russia only if they have been processed in other countries. The EU is also reportedly planning to include a ban on Russian diamonds similar to that of the G7 in its next package of sanctions against Moscow.
In response to the bans, Russia has been actively redirecting its diamond trade to alternative markets, including China, India, the UAE, Armenia, and Belarus.
In conclusion, a group of key players in the diamond industry has criticized the proposed diamond tracking system and embargo on Russian gems. Belgium, with its major diamond hub in Antwerp, had initially opposed the ban but has now proposed its own diamond ban. The US, UK, Canada, and New Zealand have already implemented their own bans on Russian rough diamonds, and the EU is expected to follow suit. Russia has been seeking alternative markets for its diamonds in response to these bans.