Antwerp sparkles for world's diamond elite

Tue Jan 31, 2012 10:37am EST
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By David Brough

ANTWERP (Reuters) - Several hundred diamond traders braved a cold snap to attend a glitzy gala dinner and opera recital and enjoy the best of Antwerp's culture as they put aside concerns over a fragile economic outlook.

The diamond dealers, many of them from Israel and India as well as Antwerp, enjoyed food on Sunday night prepared by a Michelin-starred chef as they listened to renowned soprano Ana-Camelia Stefanescu and the Nuove Musiche orchestra.

Many of the world's leading diamond dealers and manufacturers had assembled for the third edition of the Antwerp Diamond Trade Fair, from January 29-31, a key event for measuring the market outlook against this year's tough economic backdrop.

As light snow fell on Monday night, the dealers, manufacturers and jewelers, visited the MAS museum at Antwerp's port to see an exhibition about ancient civilizations around the world, followed by drinks and canapes.

The organizers also showcased the Belgian city as a vital point for the cutting, polishing and certification of diamonds.

Antwerp is battling for its place at the diamond high table against rising competition from India, which has many factories around Mumbai and Surat and lower labor costs, as well as Dubai, an increasingly important trading hub.

"We hope that this fair will strengthen Antwerp as an important centre for diamonds for years to come," Raphael Rubin, a senior official of the organizer, the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), told the elegant crowd at the dinner.

Some dealers toured the International Gemological Institute, a diamond testing laboratory located in the heart of Antwerp's diamond district, to see technicians working with microscopes to grade and certify gemstones.   Continued...

<p>Buyer Lotta Torstensson of Sweden inspects a 0.90 carat diamond valued at $3,000 at the 3rd Antwerp Diamond Trade Fair in Antwerp January 31, 2012. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir</p>