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The following is an interview with DDCA President Rami Baron, published in the Jan/Feb issue of Jewellery World

What were the biggest highlights for the DDCA in 2013?
The biggest achievements in 2013 were not so much in Australia but on the international stage where the DDCA was recognised as a major contributor to the future growth of the world diamond industry through its contributions to the World Diamond Mark marketing campaign. The World Diamond Mark is a generic marketing campaign which is non-brand specific but looks to bring all sectors of the trade together. It is the most exciting marketing campaign to be launched by the diamond industry since De Beers brought us ‘Diamonds are Forever’.

What challenges has the DDCA faced in the same period?
Like every organisation and trade body, the DDCA (a non-profit organisation) has found it difficult to galvanise members as everyone is so busy with their own businesses.
The good news is that although I understand this mind-set, I (and a few others) don’t subscribe to it.
We take the attitude that if we can make a difference and can help to effect change, then we will do so.

What do you think are the biggest challenges currently facing the jewellery industry?
In the diamond trade the wholesaler must come up with a greater value proposition to the retailer otherwise both sides will suffer.
We are being forced to reinvent ourselves – it’s no longer just price or even availability of goods because in 2 hours you can now bring almost any stone from overseas into the country.
I think the issue of synthetic diamonds could also be a real problem for our industry as very few are even aware of the proliferation of them and the difficulty in identifying them.
Larger synthetics are coming into the market and if the wholesaler or retailer is caught out, they will be personally responsible.
The flip-side to that is synthetics expand the industry offering by making it more affordable for consumers to own a diamond-like stone.
The critical aspect is that there must be full disclosure.
In addition the web is getting stronger and its happening faster- how are you using it?
If you think you don’t need the internet and you can just do your own thing, then my response is simple: If you are making money and your business is growing, and more importantly you have a great quality of life, then don’t look left or right, just stay on course, because this formula works for you, and that’s all that matters.
If however you are going financially backwards then move and move fast to learn (or hire those who have the knowledge) how the web and social media can be part of your business.

What do you think are the biggest opportunities in the industry?
We live in amazing times.
A small bench jeweller is no longer restricted to his suburb; he or she can create a website, watch a bunch of YouTube videos on optimisation, and reach out to the world.
He or she can create their own YouTube channel and showcase their creativity all with little more than an iPhone video and some clever editing.
Today we can look at the best designs of jewellers to get inspiration all over the world whilst sitting at our desk.
We can join specialist chat groups, read blogs and speak to others in the industry to share ideas and collaborate.
In my eyes this is bigger than the industrial revolution.
It all starts from desire and allocating time to reach out.
It’s not easy and it takes effort but the access to information and opportunity has no limits.
If you are ambitious this is your ideal time to take advantage of change.
The biggest opportunity in our industry is the realisation that one must find a niche and be the best at it -you can own that space (and not just in your city) because the web has no borders.

What are the DDCAs plans for the year ahead?
Adam Selikman, the vice president of the DDCA, and I have embarked on an ambitious project to redraft the club’s constitution to make it more relevant to the Australian market and also find ways to generate a revenue stream which will enable it to begin marketing programs for its members.
We are also very excited that Australia may be one of the first countries in the world where the World Diamond Mark will be launched.
2014 will be a fantastic year for those who are hungry and looking to take advantage of the opportunities and changes coming.

WARRANTY is intended to cover consumers for manufacturing defects for a limited time. It’s a guarantee that a product has been made correctly, that you are getting what you paid for.

INSURANCE will cover you for things like accidental damage, malicious damage, and loss and theft.

Understanding these differences is essential, particularly because some consumers are being misled when it comes to warranties, which are absolutely no replacement for insurance.

The ACCC has issued a warning to jewellers about extended warranties. There have been complaints there are some jewellers making claims that an extended warranty has certain benefits when it does not, and that an extended warranty provides additional benefits which consumers are in fact already entitled to.

Australian Consumer Law (ACL) provides consumers with automatic guarantees. Depending on the product purchased, these guarantees could last beyond any warranty provided.

Several business have been taken to court by the ACCC, including Hewlett-Packard Australia, who had been making misleading claims to their customers regarding their rights. This included telling them that the warranty period for HP products was limited to a specific amount of time, and that the customer would have to pay extra to extend this period.

The important thing to remember here is that according to the ACCC, extended warranties should only be offered to consumers if they provide benefits beyond what consumers get automatically under the consumer guarantees. If any business sells extended warranties any less than or the same as what people are already entitled to, it leads consumers to think that they are getting extra benefits when they are not.

This puts an even stronger emphasis on the fact that warranty is no replacement for insurance. Not only is warranty entirely insufficient if you were to lose or damage your new engagement ring or other piece of jewellery, but you can’t even be sure that paying for extra services will make any difference!

www.qreport.com.au

I write this article whilst in Antwerp Belgium as we come to the close of the 36th World Diamond Congress. Without a doubt the highlight for me on this trip was having Gus Hashem, a fellow club member, join me and to see and experience what I have in the past few years and appreciate the high regard in which Australia is held on the world stage. This year I was tasked to run the trade and promotion committee meeting, as the president could not attend. It was not only a great honour but we had a huge turnout of observers, in particular the Minister of Mines and Mining Development of Zimbabwe, the Hon W.K. Chidakwa and a number of his ministers . It was a robust and interesting meeting where we discussed launch of the new WFDB Website and the impact of social media in our industry . The most contentious issue was the unbelievable delays experienced in GIA certification. The numbers are staggering. GIA grades approx 16000 stones per day – not bad for a non profit organisation. The issue is that it can take three months to get merchandise graded, in simple terms, is becoming an untenable situation which requires immediate action. The US Bourse already had discussions with the GIA who admited they dropped the ball and are looking to play catch up as fast as possible. At that point I formed a committee from members of the Israeli, Antwerp, and USA clubs which I took to the board for approval to look to see what could be achieved for the benefit of our members. As we are in ANTWERP, a dialogue with other respectable Labs to provide capacity was initiated. HRD was keen to respond and by the time this article goes to print there should be possible solutions in place.

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Gus Hashem together with (on the left) Gaetano Cavallieri – head of CIBJO and (in the middle) Ernie Blom – WFDB President

In the numerous discussions with the various LABS the verdict is consistent, the degree of synthetic diamonds in the market has been greatly exaggerated. Large companies like Sterling in the USA are testing even one pointers. We had Tom Moses, one of the heads of GIA on a panel where I personally posed the question when and is a tool being developed to test diamonds already set in jewellery. The answer was it’s on the horizon, but no firm commitment was made although he agreed it is critically needed as those who maybe passing off synthetics will not even send the stones to a Lab. Tom and I spoke subsequently and he gave me an undertaking that a synthetic diamond testing machine will be sent to Australia in the coming months. The World Diamond Mark has recorded a major success with the official signing of Istanbul being the launching pad for the pilot of the WDM. The President of Boursa Istanbul flew in for the signing ceremony. Following Istanbul the WDM will continue a secondary program in Dubai. Both these steps bring to fruition a vision which Alex Popov, Suresh Hathirami and myself envisioned to create a generic diamond marketing campaign to ensure the health and growth of the diamond and jewellery market. This dream is coming to reality and it is enormously gratifying.

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Gus, Martin Rapaport and myself during a catch up break.

As usual I caught up with great friends and colleagues from around the world. I can tell you all that under the WFDB IDMA and the World Diamond Council the industry is in good hands and it is highlighted by the integrity and statesmanship of our leader Ernie Blom, President of The World Federation of Diamond Bourses. Trade well.