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Those who do not define their own niche, will not survive

27 march 2017

thierry_polakiewicz_full.jpgThe Antwerp Diamond Trade Fair (ADTF) enjoys broad industry support as a key annual event for the international jewelry community.

The invitation to the ADTF can be obtained directly from the organizers, on the recommendation of one of the participants, or through registration on the website of the fair.

The sponsor of the ADTF is the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC).

Thierry Polakiewicz, Member of the Organizing Committee told about the major features of the ADTF, called BrilliANT in an interview to Rough&Polished.

How did the Antwerp Diamond Trade Fair come into being?

The first edition of the Antwerp Diamond Trade Fair was held in 2010. The idea for the fair was the result of a few brainstorming sessions of a group of entrepreneurial diamantaires.

The sessions began in 2008, at the very ‘bottom’ of the market. We understood that for Antwerp to gain visibility and to attract buyers we needed to bring them to Antwerp.

Of course, many Antwerp-based diamantaires participate in the diamond pavilions at shows in Hong Kong, Switzerland, Las Vegas and other as well. But while exhibiting at these shows is important, it does not bring buyers to Antwerp itself.

You see, exhibiting at an international tradeshow, with thousands of booths in one big space show is like showing a luxury car in a car show. The car is set on a revolving platter, you can open the door, maybe sit behind the wheel for a moment, but not much more.

On the other hand, by coming to Antwerp, you get to look under the hood, test drive the proverbial car, and really get to know its potential and power. Therefore, by bringing buyers to Antwerp, we offer them an introduction to the diamond capital of the world, where many thousands of diamantaires, from all over the world, have offices and offer an unmatched choice of diamonds for sale. During the BrilliAnt Fair, close to 95 exhibitors are showing their goods at the visitors. But since the show takes place inside the Antwerp diamond quarter, the doors of all offices are also open to them. 

Who are the main participants of BrilliANT?

As I said earlier, we have about 95 exhibitors who exhibit their goods in the hall of the Antwerp Diamond Bourse and the Diamond Club of Antwerp. The show is laid out elegantly on the trading halls’ floors. We’re also allocating space to international diamond firms who wish to exhibit at our fair.

How successful were previous sessions of BrilliANT?

We have had good years and also some difficult ones, just like the diamond business in general. We’re fortunate to have a strong body of exhibitors who believe in the fair and understand the power of its unique concept. The results can be gaged throughout the business year with visitors who came to the fair coming back for more business. Mind you, they come back Antwerp because we have given them the first introduction and given them a roadmap of the quarter. Once they have been here, they come back, know where to go and with whom they want to do business. In that sense, BrilliAnt-the ADTF opens the door to buyers by giving them a key to the quarter and the city.

Are there clients from Russia?

Certainly, the Moscow Diamond Bourse, a small bourse whose members are mostly retailers, brings a delegation of retail jewellers almost every year. But we also have many Russian buyers who come under their own steam and flag. We believe that Russia has enormous potential as a consumer market. You have a long time, brilliant and impressive jewellery tradition in your country and with the economy improving, we will see quality diamond and diamond jewellery sales grow. It helps to be optimistic in this business!

Are you planning to hold BrilliANT sessions outside Antwerp?

If you’re asking if we are setting up shows outside the quarter, the answer is no. After all, it makes no sense whatsoever to have a show in Antwerp or anywhere in Belgium outside the quarter, be it three kilometers away or a thousand. Once you’re in a non-descript exhibition hall, you could be anywhere.

Most Antwerp companies participate in Antwerp Pavilions that are coordinated by the marketing department of the Antwerp World Damond Centre (AWDC), our industry’s umbrella organization. They meet their clients at those events, but can only show what they have taken with them. This is not so at BrilliANT.  There, exhibitors can supply visitors whatever they have in their safes and stocks. That’s a big and most important difference.

Could you imagine that one day synthetic diamonds will be exposed for sale at BrillANT?

Let me state that we have nothing against synthetic diamonds. They are a legitimate product and can be sold when disclose properly. Unfortunately, we have seen a lot of problems with exactly that issue, i.e. the non-disclosure of synthetic diamonds. This is the reason we rather would not see them on the trading floor of BrillANT. I believe the hype around these synthetics will soon die down.  The price levels will drop and if we wish to learn something from our colleagues in the colored gemstone business, who have been dealing with synthetic counterparts of their leading natural gemstones more than century, it is that synthetic gemstones, even if they look like a million dollars, are sold for peanut prices. I just read a quote somewhere by your own Maxim Shkadov, who runs Russia’s largest cutting plant in Smolensk and is immediate past president of the International Diamond Manufacturers Association (IDMA).  He was asked, years ago, by a reporter what he thought of synthetic diamonds.  His deadpan answer was: I don’t know, but what woman would want synthetic love?

How do you feel about the state of the world diamond industry?

The days you could sit back and wait for buyers to come to you are long over. You need to be proactive, find a niche, give top quality service, form downstream partnerships, and so forth. I see a lot of younger people doing exactly that. And that’s why Antwerp has a future. Not only because of its power as a rough diamond distribution centre but also because we’re constantly looking to innovate and meet the markets’ challenges.

Do you think the current prices are fair?

Would we like to make twenty percent profit on each sale? Sure!  But that is not the case.  Margins are razor thin and as long as the pipeline does not change its structure, with the miners and suppliers finally taking some of the financing brunt upon themselves, this will remain so. Therefore, I refer back to my answer above: we’re not selling only diamonds. We’re selling service, quality, originality, design, innovation, ingenuity, etc. Those who do not define their own niche, will not survive.

Alex Shishlo, Editor of the Rough&Polished European Bureau in Brussels


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