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Diamonds bring couples, and countries, together

Updated: 2012-05-02 09:59
By Li Wenfang in Guangzhou ( China Daily)

Diamonds bring couples, and countries, together

Ronald Daems, chief operating officer of Guangzhou Mickey Weinstock and Co Diamonds Manufacturing, observes the quality a polished diamond. [Photo / China Daily]

While diamonds witness marriages of men and women, the top-grade stones also facilitate increasingly closer links between China and Belgium as Chinese workers cut and polish them for Belgian companies.

East Unicorn, a Sino-Belgian joint venture in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, has been producing the highest-level of diamonds, which are shipped to Antwerp to be distributed to international jewelry brands, said Koen van Ishoven, assistant executive director of the company.

"We have had a 97-percent success rate in making triple excellent diamonds in China. Only China can do it," Van Ishoven said. Triple excellent refers to the top rating of cut diamonds given by the Gemological Institute of America.

Shortly after the operation started in 1994, sales people "were scared to say the diamonds came from China" because of a lack of confidence in the quality, but now they are proud to tell the truth, Van Ishoven said.

"Chinese workers are highly diligent, concentrated and hard-working."

The 2,400 workers at the plant can polish 450,000 stones a month, and the company plans to expand its workforce due to the rising appetite Chinese people show for the shiny stone.

China is the second-largest diamond processing country in the world, with output from diamond cutting and polishing surging from $600 million in 2007 to $2 billion last year, according to the Shanghai Diamond Exchange.

China has become the world's second-largest diamond market after the United States.

Ronald Daems, chief operating officer of Guangzhou Mickey Weinstock and Co Diamonds Manufacturing, said the company has seen its output grow every year since it was set up in 2004.

The Sino-Belgian joint venture now employs 280 people.

Though it seemed "crazy" at first to be sent to China, Daems has taken the factory in Panyu district, Guangzhou, as an operation "with long-term vision."

The output of the factory should continue to grow in the years to come, he said.

It supplies 85 percent of its diamonds to famous Hong Kong jewelry brand Chow Sang Sang, which is very popular among Chinese consumers.

In the case of East Unicorn, the factory has taken over planning, sourcing, designing, and research and development, except the distribution of rough diamonds and polished ones in Antwerp.

The city of Antwerp is the world's capital of diamonds. Out of every 10 rough diamonds, eight are sent to Antwerp for further manufacturing and 80 percent of global diamond trading is conducted in Antwerp, according to Antwerp World Diamond Center.

Diamonds represent 25 percent of all the trade between China and Belgium, said Johan D'Halleweyn, consul general of Belgium in Guangzhou.

"Chinese investors should have a presence in Antwerp" like the Russian, Israeli and Indian investors have done, he said.