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Diamonds are forever in Dubai

Dubai hopes to promote the emirate as one stop on "The New Silk Route" for diamonds.

The trading floor of the Dubai Diamond Exchange is designed to appear like the prow of an enormous transparent yacht sailing across the crystal clear waters of Jumeirah Lakes Towers.

At the centre of this modernist cathedral to the most precious of gemstones sits a huge hunk of plastic sculpted to the shape of a round brilliant cut diamond.

The floor towards the foredeck of this artificial ship is also transparent and hangs in the air over the lake.

The futuristic and sparse surrounds are enough to give any diamond trader the uneasy feeling that he is in some sort of Bond villain's lair and could fall to his death in shark-infested waters at any moment.

But there are no trap doors in Almas Tower, the tallest commercial building in the Middle East that is named after the Arabic word for Diamonds. Neither are their any sharks in the lake beneath the trading floor.

That floor, and the primary coloured chairs and sofas surrounding it, will be bowed under far more weight than usual today and tomorrow, as 500 of the world's leading diamond experts attend the Dubai Diamond Conference, the first of what is hoped to be a biennial event.

"The Dubai Diamond Conference is extremely significant, especially given the context of the current economic climate and global shift of businesses from West to East, North to South," said Ahmed bin Sulayem, executive chairman of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), host of the conference.

"The New Silk Route" is the theme of this year's event. "It is about the new trade routes from Africa to the new consumer nations in South Asia and the Far East," he said.

"We chose that title because with Africa rising, we will see this new route - where Dubai will be at the centre as facilitator and logistical hub - becoming a reality very soon."

The DMCC was established in 2002 as the gateway to commodities trade in the region. Less than US$5 million (Dh18.3m) worth of diamonds were traded through the emirate in the DMCC's first year but by the end of 2011 the trade in stones had swelled to more than $39bn, making Dubai number three in the world.

Today there are 600 companies involved in the diamond trade at DMCC.

"We have polishing and boiling facilities at Almas Tower; we have security services via Brinks; we have diamond financing via international financiers such as ABN Amro and Antwerp Diamond Bank and we have state-of-the-art vaulting services for both diamonds and gold," Mr bin Sulayem said.

"The majority of our diamond companies, however, are traders - a mix of wholesalers and retailers, rough and polished traders, from Damas and Dhamani Jewels to Rosy Blue, Dimxeon and Diarough."

Dubai has quickly climbed the global diamond trade ladder.

"The global shift in the diamond trade is a generational one and has been caused by a variety of reasons," Mr bin Sulayem said. "Most important is the rise of India and the Far East as consumer nations but also the proximity of Dubai to these two regions and Africa, with which it has historic trade ties."

To underscore this historic shift, De Beers, the world leader in the diamond industry, has moved the headquarters of The Diamond Trading Company, its rough diamond distribution arm, from London to Gaborone in Botswana.

"Dubai is naturally and conveniently located at the centre of trade - between producing and consuming nations. It has excellent air and sea links which makes doing business here easy," Mr bin Sulayem said.

 

jdoran@thenational.ae

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