By Michelle Graff
New York--The United States is still the No. 1 market for polished diamonds from both Antwerp and Israel, with both industry hubs reporting an increase in their respective diamond trades in 2013.

According to figures published by Shmuel Mordechai, Israel’s diamond controller, the country’s net polished exports increased 12 percent year-over-year, from $5.6 billion in 2012 to $6.2 billion in 2013. Net rough exports climbed 4 percent, from $2.8 billion to $2.9 billion.

On the import side, net imports of polished diamonds were essentially flat year-over-year, totaling $4.3 billion compared with $4.26 billion in 2012. Imports of rough rose 4 percent from $3.8 billion to $4.0 billion.

Moti Ganz, chairman of the Israel Diamond Institute Group of Companies, said the industry was able to grow in 2013 despite high rough diamond prices, a slowdown in demand from Asian markets and less available credit for diamond companies.

In Antwerp, the Antwerp World Diamond Centre reported that the total value of traded diamonds in 2013 reached $55 billion, very close to the record $56.6 billion it set in 2011.

However, these highs are being set in a time of rising rough prices. The AWDC notes that over the past 10 years, the average price per carat of rough diamonds has nearly tripled, from $50 to $140 per carat.

Antwerp’s rough trade, counting both imports and exports, rose 8 percent while its polished diamond trade was up 4 percent year-over-year. The AWDC said rising rough prices and shrinking margins for diamond traders and manufacturers have resulted in a competitive trading environment for polished.

Antwerp signed a new cooperation agreement with Alrosa in 2013 and worked with government officials from Zimbabwe to hold a tender of goods from the country’s Marange region in December. The AWDC said Zimbabwe will account for at least a quarter of the world’s rough production over the next decade.

For both Israel and Antwerp, the U.S. remained the main polished diamond export market.

The U.S. claimed up 37 percent of Israel’s polished exports in 2013. Hong Kong was the next largest market at 27 percent, followed by Switzerland at 9 percent, Belgium at 7 percent and India at 2 percent.

Ganz said the U.S. and some European markets were “flourishing,” and IDI Managing Director Eli Avidar said the international buying events held in the U.S. last year were successful.

In 2014, the IDI plans to hold several special rough events in addition to those in Ramat Gan and New York and participate in new trade shows in selected markets.

In Antwerp, the AWDC also reported that the U.S. remains its No. 1 export market for polished diamonds, followed “closely” by China. The organization also notes growing trade with Dubai and South Africa, while trade with European nations remains flat.

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