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Nurit Rothmann: Gradually Breaking Down Industry Barriers

23 may 2016

nurit_rothmann_xx.jpgDiamantaire Nurit Rothmann has been working in the diamond industry for the past two decades. Starting out in polished goods, but in the past 15 years working in rough goods, she is optimistic about the future, saying the global diamond industry has a great story to sell. She also wants to see more women in the diamond trade, particularly in industry-leading positions.

When one thinks of diamonds, one thinks of women wearing diamond jewelry of all sorts, but when one thinks of successful diamond manufacturers and traders, it is, usually, men that are seen running firms, and walking the corridors and trading halls of diamond bourses around the world. But In the Israel Diamond Exchange, the picture is somewhat different, with many women involved in all sectors of the trade.

However, even here, there is only a handful of women running their own firms. Even fewer are securing tens of thousands of carats of goods and more first hand from mines across the world, sorting the rough diamonds themselves and successfully bringing in buyers from across the world to purchase the stones. And in addition to all that, being active on social media and running a blog with well over 1,000 loyal readers and a contributor in a range of industry magazines worldwide.

That, in a nutshell, sums up Nurit Rothmann, a rough diamond trader. However, there is much more to this dynamic diamantaire. She started out in the diamond business in 1994 after completing a course in polished diamonds. She left the trade briefly in order to study Interior Architecture and to work in that field, but returned to diamonds, this time in the rough sector.

“Women can be successful because they don't have the ego issues that many men have. There is less of the 'you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours' mentality. Women know how to keep hold of money and manage finances in a more responsible way; they think more of their responsibilities towards their families and business. I believe that a lot of the bankruptcies we have seen at the exchange were connected to ego issues and a lack of responsible management.”

Dealing in rough goods, she says, is a much different business to polished, with a different set of skills required. "You visit mines and create contacts with producers, but also with government officials as well as traders and manufacturers," she explains. "Rough diamonds have taken me to Africa, Russia, India, Antwerp and elsewhere. It's a job I love because I acclimatize very easily and quickly."

The job, she says, is a constant challenge because the rough market is changing so quickly. Traders are disappearing because the squeeze on profit margins means there is no room for middlemen – and women. As for her success in business, she says she secures first-hand goods and insists on providing a complete service but in a non-pressurized way.

"I don't simply throw diamonds at buyers and pressurize them into buying with all kinds of sales tricks. Buyers have faith in me; everything is on the table and very clear. Integrity is very important to me. Rough needs to be seen and inspected before it can be sold. This is a business that needs a personal touch. You have to create a pleasant atmosphere and give clients the feeling that they will not lose out and that they can make a profit on the goods."

In the same way that she says she carries out her business in a clear and honest way, Rothmann says the industry in general needs more transparency and "sunlight" so that people will buy more goods. "If sellers try to cover up information, then buyers will have no belief in their suppliers and that can stop the flow of prosperous trading. If you act in good faith, then people will return to buy again. Many people in the diamond trade simply do not understand this.”

"I believe there are two important points that need emphasizing regarding recovery in the industry. The first is the false assumption that crises are needed to encourage growth. The broken window fallacy is a good way to explain that: If a child, for example, breaks a window in his home, this forces the father to repair the damage. Initially, it seems that the boy has contributed to the economy because by repairing the damage, his father will need to hire a glazier, a contractor and pay for both labor and products. The hired professionals will then have more money to spend, money will change hands and the economy will flourish.”

"The assumption that breaking windows (representing wars, crises and catastrophes or in our industry: downsizing, closure of companies and dismissals) stimulates the industry is false and, in fact, causes even significant companies to declare bankruptcy. Unemployment ensues, as well as a lengthy chain of economic “earthquakes.” In turn, industrial reconstruction forces the industry to spend more. Time and effort is invested in rebuilding, and ultimately these crises simply recycle the economy, which is absolutely not the same thing as stimulation. Economic considerations must take into account the full picture, not only immediate consequences such as benefits, profits or alliances, but also the long-term effects and the widespread impact."

She explains that by breaking the window pane, the child has actually reduced his father's capital income since he now has to spend money on repurchasing instead of buying items such as a new suit, shoes or other luxury items. "While it’s true that he might have benefited the glazier and the contractor, he discriminated against the tailor, the salesclerk, and the designer. Maintenance doesn't stimulate production. It recycles the economy rather than moving it forward."

She also discusses the widely held assumption that major companies are more significant to the industry than medium-size and smaller ones. "I am a council member in a non-profit association and I once asked the chairman if the small donors are as significant to the organization as the wealthy donors who contribute large sums of money. In his reply I received a valuable lesson in economics. He answered that when crises are acute, the first ones to stop donating are the wealthy, while the small donors continue to give their support. The diamond industry must nurture the small manufacturers. Healthy industry encourages all its members because it relies on them all."

Despite the somewhat subdued mood in the diamond industry currently, both in Israel and abroad, Rothmann says she is optimistic about the future. "I believe there are many niche markets that can be exploited. People do not always understand how diamonds should be marketed. I also believe that the industry organizations should be more heavily involved in promoting diamonds. We have every reason to believe that we have wonderful product to sell with a great story behind it, and that's what we should all be working towards. I personally have a lot of ideas on how to brand diamonds and I believe that the first to take up the challenge will benefit greatly," she added.

By our Israel correspondent Abraham Dayan