Antwerp’s diamond industry dates back at least 570 years, making it the oldest and most established of the global trading centers. It’s also the largest, and it maintains its relevance today despite the many challenges it faces.

The local trade has dealt with change before, even in its earliest days. City archivists uncovered an edict from 1447 in which the “College of Mayor and Alderman” decreed that “no one can trade in fake diamonds.” It seems history repeats itself, as one industry spokesperson observed: “It’s just amazing that we’re dealing with the same issues today.

However, Antwerp’s diamond industry main challenge doesn’t lie with synthetics, or even the effect they might have on consumer confidence, although those issues are certainly on the radar. Rather, the bigger issue is dealing with the banks. After all, a business cannot operate without a bank account, and many are struggling to achieve that.

Banks in all markets require a higher level of client compliance than they used to, but it appears the European financial institutions are stricter. Some argue that the bank restraint in Belgium is not specific to the diamond industry. However, there does appear to be excessive caution when it comes to diamonds, and a risk perception that repels bankers from getting involved.

The May edition of the Rapaport Research Report outlines these issues in Antwerp’s diamond industry. It also details the performance of the sector in 2017, highlighting the potential of the market there.

Antwerp’s diamantaires have done well to achieve growth in the current banking environment. To its credit, the local industry leadership has consciously worked to raise compliance standards and to enhance the ease of doing business in the city.

The global diamond trade has recognized that effort, as companies continue to choose Antwerp as their base or preferred selling location. Now the banks need to do the same to ensure that the city’s most important sector continues to grow over the next 570 years.