The Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) will no longer provide financial backing to the city’s diamond-technology unit, citing difficult conditions in the local industry.
“As a result of the high cost of labor in our country, almost the entirety of our diamond manufacturing has relocated abroad,” AWDC spokeswoman Margaux Donckier said Friday.
The AWDC established the Scientific and Technical Research Center for Diamond (WTOCD) in 1977 to support the Belgian diamond-manufacturing sector. The venture was created to improve Antwerp’s competitive position in the global industry, and to develop and implement products for the trade.
“The market for these high-quality machines in Antwerp continues to shrink,” Donckier noted. “They are also too hi-tech, and too expensive, for the majority of polishing units in low-wage countries.”
Those factors have put WTOCD in a difficult situation, Donckier explained. AWDC tried to work with the research center on Fenix, a new, fully automated diamond-polishing process that it believed would offer a competitive edge to Antwerp’s diamond industry. However, the technology, which had been set to debut last September, is still not ready.
“The technology has the potential to spark a revolution in diamond polishing, but at this point we recognize that additional investments are needed to ready the product for the market,” Donckier added, stressing that AWDC cannot afford to invest more given the state of the market.
During the course of its operations, WTOCD created synthetics-detection equipment, such as the M-Screen+ machine, which is sold by HRD Antwerp.