Antwerp’s Rough Tenders Thrive Despite Pandemic

Market Analysis
06/01/2021 21:00

While it is clear COVID-19 had a major impact on what will be recorded in history as one of the most difficult years ever for the global diamond industry, one thing is certain, as far as diamond trade is concerned, Antwerp managed to keep the engines running in 2020, fueled by nearly 100 rough tenders that were held in the city in the past year.

Critical Mass & Infrastructure

While trade halted for months on end in competing hubs like Dubai, Mumbai and Tel Aviv, it is remarkable that in Antwerp, trade picked up relatively quickly, with the first tenders restarting as early as June 2020. In the past decades, the trade in Antwerp moved away from the traditional bourse floors to the privacy and safety of individual offices and state-of-the-art tender facilities, which proved an invaluable advantage in keeping the business going and at the same time maintaining social distancing and hygiene measures at a high standard.

As one industry veteran commented: “Antwerp has the advantage that it is home to the largest critical mass of buyers and sellers in the business, and equally important has an infrastructure that allowed businesses to remain operational and adapt to restrictions and health and safety measures fast. The first tenders restarted in June, and immediately it became clear that the market in Antwerp was actually performing really well without compromising on the safety of clients, staff or the entire diamond community for that matter.”

10.5m Carats Tendered

More than (est.) 10,5 million carats of rough diamonds were sold via tender in 2020, not taking into account the sightholder or long-term client sales that eventually started to pick up after summer. In comparison, in Dubai, Tel Aviv, Mumbai and Surat, trade came to a virtual standstill, with very few tenders taking place, as COVID-19 forced the closing of country borders, trade floors and manufacturing units while the self-imposed ban of rough imports in India further reduced the flow of rough into the country for months.

Philip Hoymans, Bonas Group: “One of the major attractions of Antwerp is the quality and consistency of what is being offered here, as well as the presence of a solid, and well-established buying community. Even in times with travel restrictions in place, we are able to reach out to a large number of companies that don’t depend on travel. Antwerp is where what we call “original” goods, run of mine productions straight from the source are being tendered. The physical presence of a number of mining companies, as well as tender houses such as ourselves that promote original productions, is a very powerful tool.”

Size matters, but quality matters even more

And it is about more than boasting numbers on how many millions of carats pass through Antwerp’s tender houses.  ““In Antwerp, we have always experienced high attendances and strong interest at our tenders. What is important to note when comparing to other markets, is the percentage of bids we receive that are highly competitive which in turn results in the highest possible prices achieved per lot. This critical mass of buyers and bids is a result of Antwerp’s inclusivity of all buyers from across the world as well as the diverse polishing skill of all categories present in the market.  The strong bidding and high prices achieved is extremely important and attractive to producers who have consistently chosen to market their goods in Antwerp.”, Johan Erikson, First Element says.

And there’s another element that plays an important role in choosing Antwerp, as the city is the benchmark in due diligence, a recent campaign video from the Belgian government and umbrella organization AWDC highlights: it is the most controlled, most transparent diamond trade hub, and the fact that true market value can be generated in full transparency in Antwerp is a compelling argument for producing countries and miners who strive for sustainable development.

Challenges and Opportunities

As a third wave of the pandemic hits countries worldwide, with informal but alarming reports on a surge in COVID cases in for example India and Dubai, challenges for the global diamond industry remain.

“Every crisis poses challenges but also opportunities”, David Kuchler, I.Hennig comments. “The pandemic has boosted a digital transformation on all levels of society, including in our industry, and also pushes us to keep innovating, to embrace digital technology but also to nurture our expertise, know-how and traditions.”

For a full overview of tenders, you can download and synchronize AWDC’s tender calendar to your smartphone or mail client agenda via www.awdc.be/calendar, an overview of Antwerp's tender houses can be found here.