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08 october 2012

Antwerp’s Dayekh Gems and Jewellery is a family business that was started by its founder Hassan Dayekh in 1975 (in the center on the picture). Currently, the company is run by his two sons, Alexander Dayekh (right) and Tarek Dayekh. Alexander Dayekh, Managing Director of Dayekh Gems and Jewellery, has kindly agreed to give this interview to Rough & Polished and shared his views on the state of affairs in the diamond industry and its prospects.

Tell us, please, about major events in the history of your company.

We have been involved in the diamond industry since my father first started at a young age by sifting river beds in search for diamonds. At that time he was a Lebanese expat living in West Africa working to support his family who remained back in Lebanon. As time passed and his business grew into becoming one of the major rough diamond exporter into the Antwerp Market. Having by now solidified his position in Africa he felt it necessary to establish a base in Antwerp, and as such he was the first Lebanese trader to open an office in Antwerp.

Deciding to do go downstream, he started polishing some of the exceptional diamonds that came thru the pipeline, such as the famous Challenger and Mali diamond, weighing in rough 295ct and 230ct respectively. There were other larger diamonds than those two however none matched their gem quality.

As my brother and I were coming of age, we started a jewellery manufacturing firm, which is again in the spirit of going downstream with finally having our own retail space as well.

So as a major first important milestone, we can proudly say that we are among the very few families in the world who have accumulated experience from mining all the way thru to jewellery retailing.

We have also the pleasure of having worked with a very talented diamond polisher, one who is known as being within the top 3 of the 20th century. As diamond branding started to seethe thru our industry, we understood that in order to have a Unique Selling Point, we needed a diamond cut of our own. Branding jewellery is a very hard thing to do since gold is gold, and a round brilliant cut is the same whether it is bought from world known jewelers or the small corner shop, everyone used the same ingredients. So having our own cut meant that we have something no one else has, but most importantly it meant that it is the diamond which builds a brand for our name, instead of having an established name throwing its weight on a product name and calling it a brand. Moreover our “D” Brilliant Cut as we named it has had a perfect score on light performance as measured in a third party laboratory, which is historic since no diamond scored perfectly on brilliance, fire and scintillation simultaneously. It truly is the perfect diamond.

How did you work before, and how do you work now?

In the past we had to follow our fathers way since he was in charge after all, so it was very much the traditional way of working. Do your best, make sure you deliver correctly at competitive prices and build your reputation to be an honest jeweler. Today, we still do all that however we now run add campaigns, we use social media, we have a website, www.dayekh.com.

In the past we used to sit in our shop and wait for a customer to walk in, whereas just this last weekend we were in Monaco for the Monaco Yacht Show, and we had our showcases in one of the boats, hundreds of people saw our collections and our brand is introduced yet further into a high-class society who today remain the only solid buyers.

We feel that our father built us a basement and my brother and I build the next floors.

Who are your main clients?

Our main customers remain the diamond companies in the diamond wholesale market, but we have a fast growing private clientele who today not only purchase jewellery but also are looking to buy investment grade diamonds to safeguard their wealth from too much money printing by the various Central Banks. Besides that we work along with some financial institutions which as well recognize diamonds as the next commodity for investment.

What is the most popular assortment for your customers?

Customers who enter our store will usually be looking to buy from 0.50ct to 2ct in preferably white color grading with an average purity and upwards. Whereas for investment purposes top gem quality is a definite requirement. But there are those buyers who looking for Masterpieces and they find that in our “D” Brilliant Cut. So as you can see, diamonds can be used for luxury, investment and art.

What do you think should be changed in the diamond business?

A two way pricing for diamonds would be welcome as some in the financial world keep saying, other than that, we are very tightly regulated industry and the mechanics of our industry are very smooth, but that doesn’t mean we cannot evolve and improve certain things. There is the Masterplan 2020 which has been presented by the Antwerp World Diamond Center (AWDC) to bring some change and improvements from now till 2020 to rejuvenate certain parts to keep Antwerp as the No.1 center for diamonds, and that is certainly very encouraging.

What are, in your view, the prospects for the development of the diamond market in the medium and long term?

The EU and USA, as two very developed supra-nations, the diamond market will merely service the existing economy without huge new growth, whereas the BRICS nation will provide a boost for the diamond trade. It is known that in Asia alone, over 100 million people are stepping into the middle class every year, and those people are becoming buyers as well. So there is a very large demand coming out of Asia and South America which lay a strong pressure on diamond prices as supply remains tight lacking finding any new mines, and even if we did find any new mine it will still take about 5-7 years before the first carat comes out of the ground.

What is your forecast for rough and polished prices? Are you satisfied with the current level of prices?

I suppose I half- answered that question in the previous question, but I am very confident that prices will have an upward trend in the middle and long term. Whether I am satisfied with that will depend of my customer. Certainly the financials will be happy because for investment purposes such a confluence of trends is rare and to have a guaranteed upward prices makes diamonds as an investment vehicle a very easy pitch, whereas to my private customers who are interested in jewellery, well, they do draw a line somewhere when it gets too high or they would accept buying smaller or of less quality diamonds because in the end, people still do get married and girls still want that sparkle on their finger to know there is [someone] truly committed to them. So as long as my customers are satisfied, I am satisfied.

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