Israel’s Diamond Exports See Sharp Recovery
Israel’s diamond sector enjoyed a strong rebound in 2021 as global demand bounced back, with polished exports reaching their highest level in three years.
“I do not think anyone, just a year ago, expected such a rapid recovery of the industry,” said Ophir Gur, the country’s diamond controller, who regulates the trade.
Outbound polished shipments — after returns of unsold goods — jumped 54% year on year to $3.65 billion for the full 12 months, the Ministry of Economy and Industry reported Monday. The total was 7.5% higher than in 2019.
Polished imports rose 91% year on year to $2.94 billion. Rough exports more than doubled, soaring 109% to $1.8 billion, while rough imports leaped 94% to $2.07 billion. The figures were all higher than in 2019, when trading conditions were difficult but better than during the 2020 Covid-19 crisis.
The upturn also reflected the opening of a trade route with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) following the normalization of relations between the countries in 2020, Gore noted. Rough exports to the UAE — which includes Dubai, an important trading center — amounted to around $188 million in 2021, constituting some 10% of Israel’s total, the ministry said. Rough imports from the UAE came to $244 million, or approximately 12% of the total.
Israel’s diamond business suffered a hit at the onset of the pandemic as stores shut in the US and China — the two biggest retail markets — and the supply chain froze. In July 2020, Yoram Dvash, who was president of the Israel Diamond Exchange (IDE) at the time, wrote to then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to warn that the industry was “on the verge of collapse.”
Since then, jewelry demand has picked up, especially in the American market, as consumers had spare cash following government stimulus programs and because of a drop in spending on travel and other experiences. Many retailers reported unprecedented sales during the recent holiday period.
“We are very gratified by the industry’s excellent performance during 2021, and we are optimistic for 2022,” added Aviel Elia, managing director of the Israel Diamond Institute (IDI). “We believe that the first quarter will show strong demand for diamonds as US and other diamond buyers replenish inventories that were vastly reduced during the 2021 holiday season.”