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Q&A: HRD Antwerp on why lab services have ramped-up in 2018


As HRD Antwerp invests in high-tech systems to improve detection of undisclosed lab grown diamonds, CEO Michel Janssens talks to David Brough about lab services, grading reports and why CARAT+ is an opportunity for Antwerp-based diamond businesses. 

Q: Is HRD Antwerp seeing an increased volume of stones being submitted to its labs for verification and certification?

Michel Janssens: The number of stones being submitted to our lab typically follows market trends, which ultimately rise and fall according to consumer demand. But in late 2016- early 2017, the whole midstream segment slowed because of the Indian currency crisis.

This created a logjam of existing stock. When the trade started moving again, diamond dealers sold their existing stock first, which was already certified, and this resulted in less activity for our labs. An excess of diamond inventory then shifted from the upstream of the diamond industry, the miners, to the mid-stream segment.

HRD Antwerp has seen its activity increase in 2018. Image Credit - HRD Antwerp.

 As a result of the diamond pipeline flowing again, our activity in early 2018 has ramped up. Global supply is estimated to slightly decrease and polished diamond prices have started to inch upwards, reflecting higher consumer demand and availability in the market. Therefore, we expect to grade a higher number of stones in the coming months.

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Additionally, we are developing new programmes with key partners in the diamond industry, which should result in an encouraging number of stones entering our labs in Antwerp, Mumbai and Turkey.

Q: What types of gemstones are being submitted increasingly to HRD Antwerp, and where is business growing?

MJ: HRD Antwerp only certifies diamonds and diamond jewellery. The vast majority of diamonds submitted to our lab are large-sized diamonds, as Antwerp is well-known for having the most qualified polishing factories cutting the biggest diamonds available in the market.

That being said, 99% of polished diamonds traded annually are below 0.30ct (source: Pharos Beam Consulting LLP), and the overwhelming majority of these diamonds are not graded because the cost of grading is too high to remain profitable for the mid-stream segment. 

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In response to this trend, HRD Antwerp has developed an affordable new type of grading report, the ID CARD, for diamonds that weigh between 0.08 and 0.998 carats. This highly secure, credit card-sized grading report offers a description of the 4Cs, and the unique QR Code gives access to an online detailed picture of the diamond.

 HRD Antwerp’s new type of grading report, the ID CARD. Image Credit - HRD Antwerp.

Q: What are the main challenges facing the global gemstones industry today? Do you see growing risks of undisclosed synthetic diamonds entering the marketplace?

MJ: The current threat posed by synthetic diamonds is the issue of the undisclosed mixing of synthetic with natural diamonds, which damages consumer confidence in our business.

In our labs, we do offer Laboratory Grown Diamond Grading Reports, but for disclosed laboratory-grown diamonds only. We never grade undisclosed synthetic diamonds.

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We are taking action to counter this threat by developing high-tech detection systems, such as our M-Screen+. We are committed to making continued technological progress in detection equipment and to making this equipment available on a wider scale to potentially more vulnerable locations.

HRD Antwerp's M-Screen+ device. Image Credit - HRD Antwerp.

Q: Why is CARAT+ an important event for HRD Antwerp?

MJ: We are very proud to welcome CARAT+ to Antwerp. The city, with its intimate connection to the diamond trade for many centuries, needed this kind of high-end trade show to attract a new range of potential clients, and to reinforce the business relationship with existing ones.

Drawing on 570-years of experience passed down through Antwerp’s diamond trade, it makes perfect sense for HRD Antwerp to have a strong presence at this event. During the event, we will demonstrate the three key activities that form our core business (Grading, Education, Equipment), and will introduce our new products and services.

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We will offer a diamond grading service during the show. Clients will be able to drop off their diamonds for grading and/or sealing at our booth and have them returned the next day.

HRD Antwerp will take part in the CARAT+ Conference 2018. Image Credit - HRD Antwerp.

We will also host a lecture as part of the CARAT+ Conference 2018 on Tuesday, May 8 at 11:00. We will explain the HRD Antwerp solution for referrals and synthetic diamonds, alongside a discussion on ‘Diamonds under Black Light’, a detailed fluorescence analysis of one million polished diamonds.

>> Discover more about HRD Antwerp

To secure your entrance pass to the event, please REGISTER TODAY via the website.

CARAT+ is The World’s Premier Diamond Event, covering the full spectrum of the diamond and diamond jewellery trades. The show specialises in four sectors: loose diamonds, branded diamond jewellery, non-branded diamond jewellery and services for the diamond jewellery industry.

Taking place in Hall 1 and Hall 4 of the Antwerp Expo on 6, 7 and 8 May, entry to the show is restricted exclusively to industry professionals, including diamond and jewellery wholesalers and manufacturers from around the world, and jewellery retailers from across Europe and the wider world. 

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