As the Antwerp Diamond Bourse (Exchange) welcomes a new President to guide the industry through a new and exciting chapter, Noble Fine Jewellery sat down with the man charged with leading a new era of change and challenges...
David Gotlib is the youngest President of the Antwerp Diamond Bourse (Exchange).
An important statistic considering the history and heritage of the very traditional and respected institution and the vital role it plays as governance of not only the Antwerp diamond industry but the wider global marketplace.
But as the 43-year-old, father-of-five is happy to admit, while this is a role that many would normally take on at the end of their illustrious careers, for David he believes now is the perfect time to lead the change the industry so desperately needs to embrace: “We cannot keep copying and pasting the same approach that we have done for the past 50/60 years otherwise our businesses will die. This is the moment for change and we need to support and encourage that.”
In our exclusive interview with the new President, Noble Fine Jewellery spoke with the third generation diamantaire and founder of his own eponymous exclusive diamond and gold cufflink jewellery line about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead and what he is hoping to introduce to the industry:
My Grandfather would be very proud of the Antwerp diamond world today. He joined the industry after the war in the 1940s when many older survivors warned him there was no future in diamonds. Back then there were very few traders and everything was based in Antwerp – today he would be so impressed by how we cover the whole world with centres in New York, Tel Aviv and Dubai that all originated from Antwerp traders.
Transparency and traceability have been the biggest change to the industry. Today we know who all the traders are and where their diamonds have come from and our diamond community is like a family. We are a close-knit industry and despite the globalisation and challenges of an uncertain marketplace, we are still a small and tight community, and keeping that together and strong will be our biggest challenge in the coming years.
The diamond industry has both suffered and gained from globalisation. The knowledge of diamonds and access to them is now available for everyone thanks to a new style of digital and international marketplace. Because of globalisation everyone is trying to eat the same cake, but the cake is not going to get any bigger, which is why as an industry we need to adapt and change.
The romance in diamonds is being lost as the global market trades diamonds as commodities rather than focusing on their heritage and history. For thousands of years diamonds have been given as gifts of love, friendship and marriage, and those tokens have been passed on from generation to generation. You cannot compare the price of a diamond, that has taken billions of years to form plus the extraordinary craftsmanship and expertise that goes into cutting and polishing it and then try to compare it dollar for dollar against petrol or gold or rhodium. Turning a diamond into something so basic is wrong, and it is our challenge as an industry to retain that romance to ensure diamonds are always more than just a list price.
Traders need to diversify and really consider what they offer in the marketplace. With so much competition, they need to reflect on what they stand for – just as for example the textile industry in Paris. Do they become niche in a certain area or an expert in a certain style, do they create a new cut, do they create a brand and a storyline to their business or expand into new commercial areas such as retail?
David Gotlib Cufflinks
Creating an authentic story and brand identity will be essential for all businesses to survive. If as a business owner you are able to share your heritage and expertise through a brand story, and if what you sell is real and genuine and high quality – then your business will survive. Buying from a business that is transparent and trusted and respected will not only ensure clients but also prices, especially when clients are made to feel confident in their transactions.
Trust and transparency is vital for our industry, and the Antwerp Diamond Bourse is a key part of ensuring this is constantly monitored and policed. The world is changing so fast, and we need to ensure that those not adhering to the rules and moral codes are out and there is no way back. No one can misbehave.
Every member has to go through a thorough application process before being welcomed into the Bourse. They have to present themselves and explain their business, the aims for their business and agree to the terms of trading in the Bourse. We hold a vital role in monitoring and policing the industry to ensure that any of the unfortunate events of the past never happen again.
We have a moral obligation to all our members that everyone follows our rules and regulations – not only for the benefit of our members but also the wider diamond community and clients as a whole. If a member should be found to be breaching our codes of conduct, we will address that through our own mediation and arbitration system in the hope to resolve issues, and if a member should be found guilty then they will be removed not only from the Antwerp Bourse but from our global network of Bourses as well.
There are challenges ahead and my advice is to really examine what you are doing or offering as a business. Globalisation has meant we are all becoming copies of one another and at a certain point you have to really look at your business in the short and long term, otherwise you become just another trader all running after the same client.
There are two options available: either join together to get the client or you re-evaluate your offering. If you are a diamond dealer, then become an expert; Are you providing a better service? Or are you offering a new service? Rather than just trading in diamonds, are you making jewellery? There are many opportunities to be had and traditional diamantaires have to be open to them and start connecting and responding to what today’s customers want.
Changing the culture of a business is a huge challenge and the Antwerp Diamond Bourse needs to support businesses in adapting and evaluating their future strategies. Look at how brands like LVMH and Tiffany’s are responding to the new marketplace: they already have the clients and now they are addressing the mines directly. Why aren’t we doing this as an industry? We have the mines plus the expertise, so we should be going after the clients directly like Noble Fine Jewellery.
Many in this industry are afraid of change – especially the older generations who are maybe still catching up with the speed of the new marketplace. But if they don’t embrace the change they are in danger of not only risking their business but also in losing their younger generations who are starting to leave the industry when they find the obstacles to change become impossible to overcome. The lucky ones are the business that are addressing the change and supporting it.
To support this shift, the Bourse has to bring in expertise, speakers, people of the industry who have already gone through change. We need to create a safe space for businesses to address those challenges and ideas with mentors and professionals who can share the tools and support the change in their outlook and direction of business.
David was inspired to launch his exclusive
cufflink collection by his late grandfather
We also need to support more women in the diamond industry and trading in the Bourse. Traditionally this is a very male dominated industry but looking at the marketplace, it is women who wear jewellery and can also offer a different perspective, we should be looking at working together more and it is businesses like Ilana’s and the forward-thinking bespoke design houses like Noble Fine Jewellery that will help build client connections and open Antwerp to fresh perspectives and new business.
When I started my cufflinks jewellery business I was nervous at the start and didn’t feel as if I belonged. I made mistakes and then made more mistakes, but I kept going. There were moments when I felt I didn’t belong in this new role, but I knew I was passionate about combining my diamond heritage with making exquisite and modern cufflinks. The idea came from when my grandmother gave me a pair of my grandfather’s cufflinks on the occasion of my firstborn son’s bar mitzva: he had passed away months before and when I opened the box and realised the value of the gift and how I wanted to cherish them and pass onto my own son in time, I realised that this piece of jewellery was something that would become an heirloom for my family. Men don’t have that many opportunities to wear jewellery or honour a piece of jewellery in the same way, however cufflinks are a way to do this, which is why the business was born.