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Israel: World Leaders in Diamond Trade


TEL AVIV, Israel – You may have heard that diamonds are a girl's best friend but what you might not know is that a lot of those diamonds come from Israel.

Israel is probably best known for its biblical history, an outstanding military and cutting edge technology.  Now it's also becoming a world leader in diamonds and the center of that activity is The Israel Diamond Exchange in Tel Aviv.

The Israel Diamond Exchange has the largest trading floor in the world. Some say it's like shopping in a diamond supermarket.

"Israelis have a very special knack in being able to run around the world – in the most positively  [Notes:sic]   way possible –  [Notes:to]   aggressively pursue business," said David Lasher, managing director of New York's Diamond Dealers Club.

"And you see Israelis in NY all the time.  You see Israelis in the Far East. It's become a very important hub for global distribution of diamonds," Lasher told CBN News.

"New York is the bedrock of the world diamond industry. Over 40 percent of the world's diamonds are consumed by the U.S. Israel is a very important partner in moving the goods through the world and to the U.S.," he added.

The Israel Diamond exchange boasts some 3,500 members.

"It's not easy to become a member here. You have to show your accountability in all aspects," said Shmuel Schnitzer, lifetime honorary president of The Israel Diamond Exchange.

Oddly enough, this diamond connection began in Europe because it was one of the few trades allowed to Jews. As Jews returned to the Holy Land, they brought their knowledge with them.

"It started in the '40s when Jews ran away from Europe  [Notes:and]   came to Israel," Schnitzer told CBN News. 

"They built the industry here. Since then, praise God, we're growing and growing.  [Notes:In]   1940 we had $70,000 US dollars exports. Today, we have about $7 billion, only for polished diamonds," Schnitzer said. And there's about another four billion dollars in rough diamond exports, he added.

There are no diamond mines in Israel. All of its gems are traded, cut and polished. Israel does not deal in conflict diamonds – stones that are sold to finance civil wars and bloodshed in Africa.

Even today, the industry is very family oriented – passing the business from generation to generation. 

Nurit Choshen is a diamond jewelry designer. She, her parents and two siblings all work together in the family business. 

"We are a family.  My father is a diamond manufacturer for 50 years. For 50 years, we manufactured diamonds.  Me -- myself inside the business, I'm making jewelry, diamond jewelry," Choshen told CBN News.

Schnitzer's two sons are also following in their father's footsteps.  CBN News asked Schnitzer how a customer should choose a diamond.

"The only thing you have to ask yourself  [Notes:is]   what is my budget?  How much would I like to spend? Go to somebody you trust. He will advise you, give you the best advice," he said.

And it's possible to spend a lot!

Sun Yanovich works for one of the largest Israeli diamond companies, Lili Diamonds.  He showed CBN News a set of "kite" diamonds – named for their shape –that had been carefully chosen to form a necklace and earrings.

"It's very difficult to collect all the sizes of the same quality, all the same weight, color, size, shape and the same make is very hard," Yanovich told CBN News. "This is exactly what Lili Diamonds are good  [Notes:at]   manufacture [Notes:ing]  ." 

They buy from around the world, he said, and sell to wholesalers and jewelry makers, not individuals.

The kite diamond set, which was not yet set in jewelry, would run between $150,000 to $200,000, he said.  Once it's set in jewelry it could cost a million dollars!

But why are diamonds so enduring? Schnitzer said it's a combination of women's love for diamonds and their lasting value. 

That could be why they say, "Diamonds are forever."

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