Last week, the Antwerp diamond industry learned that Tiffany & Co. was planning to restructure its manufacturing activities at its Antwerp subsidiary, Laurelton Diamonds, a move likely to cost 27 of the 30 polishers their jobs, while another six polishers from Antwerp manufacturer GemTech were also shown the door. It was unwelcome news for Antwerp's manufacturers, whose numbers have dwindled as a result of diamond polishing in low-wage countries. Today, however, the Syndicate of the Belgian Diamond Industry (SBD) had some positive news, announcing that all of the GemTech diamond workers made redundant last week have already found news jobs in the Antwerp diamond industry. Five were hired by two different polishing units widely recognized as among the best in Antwerp, while another has already set up a sole proprietorship. Those that had only performed diamond mapping for GemTech will also receive further training as polishers responsible for finishing work.
The diamond polishers affected by the potential collective redundancy at Laurelton Diamonds are still at work while negotiations between management and the manufacturers' union are ongoing. Should the situation effectively result in a collective redundancy, the industry's diamond manufacturing federation says it is cautiously optimistic that many of them will find another job in the Antwerp diamond industry. Melissa Smet, Director of the SBD, tells us, "The polishers at Laurelton are among the most skilled in the world, with their work on display in the shops of one of the world's most storied jewelery retailers, Tiffany's. Such talented polishers are always in high demand, and we have received positive signs of interest from other Antwerp businesses, though the negotiations with Laurelton are still underway." She notes that there are still job openings for diamond polishers in the Antwerp sector, and several new polishing units have recently opened shop. "Our manufacturers have had a difficult time for many years now, but we believe the highest quality is still valued, and as long as people demand the highest quality, there will be work for Antwerp's diamond polishers."