Global economic tensions slam Israel’s diamond industry

Exports of the precious stones drop 22% since last year, likely due to the US-China trade war and Hong Kong protests, official says

The Diamond Exchange in Ramat Gan, outside Tel Aviv, December 18, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
The Diamond Exchange in Ramat Gan, outside Tel Aviv, December 18, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Since the start of 2019 Israel’s diamond industry has seen a 22 percent drop in exports of polished diamonds, likely due to the global economic slowdown and international trade concerns.

Exports of stones in the first three quarters of 2019 stood at $2.62 billion, down from $3.32 billion during the same period last year, the Ynet news site reported on Tuesday, noting that 2018 was a relatively strong year for the diamond industry.

In the third quarter of 2019 imports and exports of all diamonds by Israel plummeted 28% compared to the same time last year.

Globally, the industry is going through a similar decline, likely due to the ongoing trade war between the US and China, fears over spiraling protests in Hong Kong and other international concerns.

Yoram Dvash, president of the Israel Diamond Exchange, told Ynet: “There is a global crisis. The government needs to help out the industry. Everywhere people are helping because they understand that there are difficulties now. Trump’s trade war with China and the Hong Kong protests really influence the industry. Hong Kong accounts for about 30% of our exports. The Hong Kong government said that in recent times the sector that’s been damaged the most there has been the jewelry industry.”

Hong Kong jewelry chains sell billions of dollars of goods a year, mostly to middle and upper class Chinese looking for cheaper deals than they can find in mainland China, Dvash said.

“Right now the Chinese government isn’t granting visas to Chinese to go to Hong Kong in order to put pressure on businesspeople there and hurt the economy. It’s paralyzing the number 2 diamond market in the world,” Dvash said.

Another official from the diamond exchange told Ynet that a credit crisis involving several large Indian diamond companies had impacted the global industry.

The global discourse around conflict diamonds and a lessening interest in the stones among the younger generation also played a part in the decline, he said.

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