Inside the world's largest diamond trading floor
As with many aspects of Dubai, the city's diamond trade has grown up fast.
"Back in the 1990s, there was no diamond industry in Dubai," says Martin Leake, special adviser for precious stones at the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre, a free zone where the Dubai Diamond Exchange is incorporated.
In 2018, the value of diamond trading in the city exceeded $25 billion, according to the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre.
From being barely a pinprick on the international map, Dubai's diamond industry is now gunning for Antwerp's crown as the world's leading center of the trade. The Belgian city's diamond business was worth $46 billion in 2018.
The Emirate's progress has been facilitated by its minimal tax demands and convenient location between producer countries in Africa and major sales markets such as India, says Leake.
The Dubai Diamond Exchange has undergone multiple renovations in recent years and now accommodates more than 1,000 companies involved in the trade. The site contains facilities for processing diamonds, jewelery merchants, and an office of the Kimberley Process — the authority charged with ensuring diamonds are ethically sourced.
Dubai's diamond developers are also using new tools such as a waterjet laser, which keeps the diamond cool and stable while it is cut.
"The value of the machine is $1 million, which might sound a lot of money," says de Henau. "But the profit you make sometimes with one or two incisions in one stone [can be worth] tens of millions of dollars."