“HRD Antwerp — We bring our Antwerp Heritage to India”

Grading is a must when dealing in diamonds and HRD Antwerp is the name to be reckoned with. Having served the diamond industry for more than four decades, the company commands a leadership position in issuing one of the most respected diamond grading reports. In an exclusive interview with Floroscent, Ravi Chhabria — Managing Director, HRD Antwerp India — gives a broad insight into the company’s activities in India, the market need for grading and the company’s plans to help strengthen its position in the market.

For the benefit of our readers, kindly give an overview of HRD Antwerp and its activities in India.

HRD Antwerp is Europe’s leading authority when it comes to diamond grading, education and equipment. HRD stands for Hoge Raad voor Diamant (HRD) which literally translates to ‘Diamond High Council’.

Our headquarters is located in the world’s leading diamond trading centre — Antwerp, Belgium and can therefore draw on 570 years of experience passed down through Antwerp’s diamond trade.

Our diamond and jewellery grading laboratories are situated in Antwerp, Mumbai and Istanbul. They have gained the diamond industry’s confidence by offering highly reputable diamond and jewellery grading reports, state-of-the-art innovative solutions and extensive in-house expertise that allows any consumer to purchase diamonds or jewellery in full confidence.

State-of-the-art technology has always been at the core of our business. Each one of our labs is equipped with an extensive set of modern tools and machines, some of which have been developed in-house. As a consequence, consistency is guaranteed, no matter in which lab of ours a stone has been graded. Our grading reports have the same value anywhere across the world.

HRD Antwerp was launched in India in 2007 with a representative office offering HRD’s educational services. In 2012, HRD activities in India extended to their full services which included the diamond grading services.

Setting out with a limited capacity, we expanded quite extensively owing to the growing demand. Now, we have a full-fledged lab strategically located in proximity to the Bharat Diamond Bourse (BDB), where clients can either safely carry their stones for grading or use our transportation partners for free pick up & delivery pan India. We have also re-launched our education services in India recently, which includes the coveted ‘HRD

HRD Antwerp India Office

Antwerp Certified Diamond Grader’ diploma course, retail jewellery training and consumer seminars to meet up with the growing educational demand within the industry.

Tell us about the equipment that HRD Antwerp provides.

Our equipment department, based in Antwerp, invests massively in research & development to offer world-class equipment tools to our customers worldwide. We have a representative office in Surat to serve our local clients.

One of our pioneering equipment tools is our popular microscope — the D-Scope. It is a very well-regarded tool in the industry which is also preferred by many of our competitors. We have recently launched a new version of the microscope, called the D-Scope+. Every aspect of the D-Scope has been further optimized in the D-Scope+, offering not only the best, but also the most innovative diamond analysis experience in the market.

The ‘M-Screen+’, a superfast automated melee screening device is also one of our globally recognized equipment. The M-Screen+ automatically feeds, screens and sorts round brilliant diamonds at a super speed of minimum 3 diamonds per second or 80 to 100 carats per hour. Depending on the size of the stones and the batch, the speed can be as high as a staggering 15,000 diamonds per hour. This provides a super-fast screening solution, enabling traders and manufactures alike, to screen large melee parcels.

Our equipment range also includes hand-held portable devices such as the D-Screen, that distinguishes natural diamonds or HPHT colour enhanced diamonds, from stones that are potentially laboratory grown or had their colour improved by means of HPHT.

What makes HRD Antwerp unique in its operations?

Our unique identity resides in the “Antwerp Heritage”, the 570 years of experience passed down through Antwerp’s diamond trade that has made us who we are today — Europe’s leading authority when it comes to diamond grading, education and equipment.

In the current scenario, where there are many grading labs across the world, we have maintained our grading standards and consistency across the globe throughout the years. We follow strict quality grading guidelines which allows consumers to purchase diamonds or jewellery graded by HRD Antwerp with full confidence.

Tell us more about the recent initiatives where HRD Antwerp allowed grading of 5 carats and above diamonds in India?

As of now, in our Mumbai lab, we grade diamonds up to 4.99 carats. Diamonds that are five carats and above are collected in India and sent for grading to our lab in Antwerp.

We launched a five carats and above programme to celebrate the opening of our new office in 2017 at the IL&FS Financial Centre in Bandra-Kurla Complex.

To celebrate the opening of our new office at IL&FS Financial Centre, we launched a five carats and above programme. The programme was a huge success, so we reiterated it during the India International Jewellery Show (IIJS 2017), where we offered three types of service to visitors who submitted their stones: Superfast — same day grading service; Fast — next day grading and Normal — three days.

What is HRD Antwerp’s view on synthetic diamonds and what efforts are being made to make the detection process easier for diamantaires?

The current threat posed by synthetic diamonds is the issue of undisclosed mixing of synthetic with natural diamonds, which damages consumer confidence in our business.

We are taking action to counter this threat by developing high-tech detection systems, such as our M-Screen+. We are committed to making continued technological progress in detection equipment, and making this equipment available on a wider scale to potentially more vulnerable locations.

In our lab, we do offer Laboratory Grown Diamond Grading Reports, but for disclosed laboratory grown diamonds only. Undisclosed synthetic diamonds are never graded by us.

This, together with the educational resources we provide and efforts we make to foster a mentality of transparency and consumer confidence, shows that we are taking the detection process seriously.

 

How does certification impact jewellers as well as consumers in context to the Indian market?

Indian consumers are following the buying pattern of the International market whereby a diamond is accompanied by a third party certificate. In India, jewellers sell their products based on their brand identity amongst consumers. To reassure a consumer’s faith in their products, jewellers also sell certified diamonds which are often sold loose or mounted in jewellery. An international grading laboratory such as HRD Antwerp aids in providing an unbiased grade for the diamonds that are certified. Other than only certifying a diamond, each diamond that is submitted to us is checked for being a natural, treated or synthetic diamond. This gives the consumer as well as the jeweller a boost of confidence. An additional benefit that comes along with an HRD Antwerp diamond certificate is the international brand value of the grading lab.

Are online buyers more receptive towards certification than buyers at a brick-and-mortar store? Kindly share your views.

India is a large market in which the brick-and-mortar stores yet have the upper hand when it comes to selling jewellery. The trust built over generations and the one-to-one customer service has always appealed to the Indian customer. At the same time, the younger generation is exploring the online buying options for reasonably priced jewellery. In online buying, a customer is usually drawn towards the certificate that accompanies the diamond. Customers will usually check the name of the lab which has issued the certificate before narrowing down on their purchase.  HRD Antwerp has the option of checking the report number online on the webpage, which makes it easier for a consumer to check the authenticity of the certificate before making the final purchase. To summarize the same, be it online or brick-and-mortar stores, a consumer benefits from the third party certification when it comes to something as rare as a diamond.

How and in which cities does HRD Antwerp want to set its next base in India?  

Presently, we are based in two places — Mumbai and Surat. We definitely are looking at expanding our footprint, and we are considering setting up full-fledged jewellery lab in SEEPZ, for the export market. We are also looking at opportunities to be located within BDB premises as well. Our educational services are currently available at our Mumbai campus alongside specialized retail training programmes offered to retailers at their chosen venue.

The priority is to be closer to the industry in general, customers and business partners and continue to provide the highest levels of quality and consistency.

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