The Belgian diamond industry is primarily located within a section of Antwerp that is called the Square Mile. About 84% of the rough diamonds which are mined in the world each year will make their way through this district at some point in time. This makes the industry one of the largest diamond districts in the world, generating an economic turnover of more than $54 billion each year.
There are currently 380+ workshops that are operating within the Square Mile, providing services for more than 1,500 companies. Another 3,500 merchants, brokers, and cutters are also based in Antwerp to support the Belgian diamond industry.
Although this neighborhood is a melting pot of cultures, over 80% of the Jewish population that lives in Antwerp works in the diamond trade in one way or another. Yiddish is the primary language of the diamond exchange and no trading occurs on Saturdays to observe religious needs.
Important Belgian Diamond Industry Statistics
#1. In 2016, the Belgian diamond industry was able to see 5% growth happen after having a difficult 2015 season. A total of $48 billion in diamonds was imported and exported through Belgium. (Antwerp World Diamond Centre [AWDC])
#2. In 2015, the diamond jewelry retail sales segment grew at 3% using constant exchange rates. With currency depreciation, however, the total value of the global revenues generated by the industry was a 2% drop. (Bain and Company)
#3. U.S. Dollar revenues for the Belgian diamond industry dropped by 2%, with rough diamond sales dropping by almost 25%. Part of the reason for this drop was a release of $5 billion in inventory from downstream markets in the cutting and polishing sectors. (Bain and Company)
#4. There was a total of 202 million carats of polished and rough diamonds that were traded in Antwerp in 2016. (AWDC)
#5. Compared to 2015, the imports and exports of polished diamonds declined. A total of 11.4 million carats of polished diamonds, which were valued at $23.2 billion, were exported by the Belgian diamond industry. (AWDC)
#6. 6 million carats of polished diamonds were imported to Antwerp, which reflects a 7% decline in volume, along with a 10% drop in value. (AWDC)
#7. There were more than 190 million carats of rough diamonds, worth $24.8 billion that were imported to or exported from the Belgian diamond industry in Antwerp. (AWDC)
#8. 39% of the polished diamonds that were exported from Antwerp were purchased by the United States. Hong Kong was the second-largest export destination, with 27% of the total. They were followed by Switzerland (7%) and England (4%). (Ministry of Economy and Industry)
#9. About 128 million carats of diamonds are produced from mines around the world each year. That means the Belgian diamond industry processes about one-third of the diamonds that are produced each year. (Statista)
#10. In the current market, the per carat diamond price is over $3,000 USD. 48% of the polished diamond demand in the world today comes from the United States. (Statista)
#11. Over 110 million carats of synthetic diamond production occur in the United States each year, with over 4.3 billion carats of synthetic diamonds influencing the industry as well. (Statista)
#12. The average price per carat within the Belgian diamond industry is $1,970 for imports and $2,276 for exports. That is on a total of more than 5 million carats with a value of over $11 billion in each segment. (Edahn Golan)
#13. The average price per carat of rough diamonds in Antwerp is $113 for the import market and $99 for the export market. (Edahn Golan)
#14. In 2017, the top destination for polished diamonds from the global export market was India, responsible for 27.3% of the total carats purchased. (Edahn Golan)
#15. The most expensive diamonds, per carat, come from diamond production facilities in Namibia and Sierra Leone, with the average price per carat being $518 and $423 respectively. The DRC is the cheapest location for diamonds priced per carat, at just $8.30. (Diamond Producers Association)
#16. The Russian Federation is the global leader in terms of total diamond production from 2007 to 2017, with over 38.3 million carats produced. Botswana came in second, with 33.6 million carats produced. (Diamond Producers Association)
#17. The Russian Federation also leads the world in total diamond production value, generating $4.112 billion in revenues from diamond activities in 2017. Botswana generated $3.32 billion, while Canada produced $2.06 billion. (Diamond Producers Association)
Belgian Diamond Industry Trends and Analysis
Antwerp diamonds do not have the best reputation in the world. “The Antwerp diamond exchange is a terrible place to buy diamonds,” says Michael Fried of The Diamond Pro. “You would need to navigate a minefield of disreputable and unethical business practices to avoid getting scammed.”
This reputation for dishonesty may be the force that is behind a severe decline in the number of polished carats that are being exported from the Belgian diamond industry. In 2011, there were 8.4 million polished carats exported, but in 2017, just 5 million carats were exported. The industry has seen declines now for 6 consecutive years.
Precision cutting is the trademark of the Belgian diamond industry. With automated laser cutting coming into play for global diamonds, just 1% of diamonds in any given year might be cut in Antwerp. The need for a trading center isn’t as important as it used to be.
Unless new technologies are developed that bring Antwerp back to prominence, the trend of declining exports is expected to continue. Although rising prices may keep revenues steady for the industry, the next 5 years should repeat the same trend.