Over the past two weeks, the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) and the University of Antwerp welcomed 22 students from 10 different countries and 3 continents to the third edition of its summer school program, “From Mine to Finger: A deep dive in the world of diamonds” As AWDC CEO Ari Epstein explained regarding the motivation behind the summer university, “If we do not reach out to the younger generation, we run the risk of losing those very qualities that set Antwerp apart: forward-thinking, innovation and creativity. We need young people not only to join the trade, but to understand it in all its complexity, to see where it is heading and be the agents of progress. Change is coming to the diamond industry. We organize these courses in the hope of developing people who are ready to lead that change."
The students represented an ideal mix of young diamond professionals from major companies such as Alrosa and Okavango Diamond Company, smaller businesses in the midstream and retail sectors, as well as university students from across Europe who were just getting to know the world of diamonds. The course provided background on the geological, technical, economic, commercial and ethical perspectives of the global diamond trade. It offered a series of lectures by internationally-renowned academics and professionals focusing on future trends, challenges and opportunities in the industry, with a particular focus on innovation, marketing, sustainability and artisanal and small-scale mining.
In addition to company visits throughout the Antwerp diamond industry, the students received hands-on training in workshops devoted to rough-diamond valuation, polished-diamond grading and jewelry design. At the conclusion of the two weeks, the students presented their thesis projects to a jury of U. of Antwerp professors and diamond industry specialists. Three groups focused on developing a business and marketing plan for a diamond start-up, one for developing a sustainable and transparent mine-to-market model and the other two which saw opportunity in the emergence of lab-grown diamonds. A fourth group explored the potential of artificial intelligence applications throughout the industry while a fifth outlined their five-year plan for the Kimberley Process.
In developing their arguments, the students clearly drew inspiration from their intensive two weeks of instruction in Antwerp, but also formed bonds with their fellow participants and networked with people in the industry. While the students praised the high level of organization and thoroughness of topics at the course, most of the praise was directed to the students themselves. “It was truly an exceptional group this year,” said Tali Goldstoff, an expert in diamond inventory assessments, valuations and risk assessments for the leading International diamond banks in Antwerp, who has served as a teacher and coach at all three summer schools. “We threw a lot at them and they were up to the challenge. Very impressive.”
The AWDC and University of Antwerp are already looking forward to next year’s summer school, which always takes place in the last week of August and first week of September. The University of Antwerp runs a wide array of intensive summer courses each year, welcoming students and professionals from across the globe. The diamond edition offers young industry professionals the opportunity to broaden their knowledge and perspective by meeting colleagues from across the diamond world with diverse specializations. It also introduces students to the very wide range of skills and professions involved in the diamond industry, with which they might have no prior experience.
Photo: Shruti Mehta @DiamondsandAntwerp