Antwerp Diamond Trade Rebounds After Rough Diamond Clearance Delays

The slowdown in Antwerp diamond trade stemmed from increased scrutiny of rough diamonds entering the market to prevent the import of sanctioned Russian stones


Surat : Indian diamantaires have heaved a sigh of relief as trade in rough diamonds in Antwerp, the world’s leading diamond trading center, has recovered after a slowdown caused by stricter customs checks following the EU and G7 ban on Russian rough diamonds. Initially, diamond traders faced delays of 15-20 days for clearance of rough diamond parcels from various countries.

The slowdown stemmed from increased scrutiny of rough diamonds entering the market to prevent the import of sanctioned Russian stones. This resulted in a backlog at Antwerp’s Diamond Office, the dedicated customs center for the industry. In response to a presentation by industry representatives highlighting these issues, the Belgian government allocated an additional 30 personnel to the customs department specifically for handling rough diamond parcels. This swift action has significantly improved clearance times, with parcels now cleared within a single day.

The ban on Russian rough diamonds, a key measure implemented by the EU and G7 countries in response to the Russia-Ukraine war, created ripples in the Antwerp diamond market. While the clearance delays have subsided, concerns about circumventing the sanctions remain.

Concerns Linger Over Loopholes and Polished Russian Diamonds

The US, Canada, Japan, UK, France, Germany, Italy, and other countries have imposed a complete ban on Russian rough diamonds. To further tighten the noose on sanctions evasion, Belgium has implemented a special tracking system, “iGlass,” to monitor the movement of rough diamonds and prevent them from being polished and entering other markets through indirect channels.

However, concerns persist among Belgian officials and industry insiders. They fear that Russian rough diamonds might still be smuggled through other countries. A particular worry is the possibility of polished Russian diamonds entering the US and other markets from India, a major diamond polishing center.

Rumors of Russian Rough Diamond Lines in Belarus and Armenia

Further complicating the situation are whispers within the Antwerp diamond trade. Some sources suggest that diamond traders might have attempted to set up alternative supply lines for Russian rough diamonds through Belarus and Armenia, both European countries bordering Belgium. These attempts reportedly involved routing diamond parcels through these countries using specific currencies, but ultimately proved unsuccessful.

While direct import of Russian rough diamonds to Antwerp is currently blocked, the Belgian government is closely monitoring attempts to circumvent sanctions through these neighboring countries. The details of these alleged attempts have been shared with the G7 countries and the EU, raising concerns about the potential for future loopholes.

Looking Ahead: Continued Vigilance and Potential for Extended Ban

The successful streamlining of customs clearance at Antwerp’s Diamond Office offers a sigh of relief for the industry. However, the underlying issue of circumventing the ban on Russian rough diamonds remains a challenge. The Belgian government’s “iGlass” tracking system and close collaboration with the EU and G7 countries are crucial steps towards plugging any potential loopholes. As the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues, the embargo on Russian rough diamonds is likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future, requiring continued vigilance from all stakeholders involved.