In my opinion, it is honestly, quite ok. With that being said, it has also taken me a lot of time, hard work, and dedication to be accepted in the diamond trade world, as a serious and knowledgable diamond dealer.
I moved to Belgium 15 years ago at the same time that I was just finishing my Graduate Gemology course at GIA in London. There I was, curious and ready to start my career in the Diamond world, but couldn’t find an open door. The Diamond District in Antwerp is a very closed business, and you can only join by knowing and being recommended by someone within the trade. Just to be considered to be let into an office, you would need to be invited and best of all recommended. Most diamond offices are family offices that have been inherited from father to son. And unfortunately, I am not from a diamond family, as my mom was a school teacher, and my dad a professor of medicine.
So I figured out that the only way to get into the diamond business in Antwerp was by signing up for all the courses available at the HRD office in Antwerp. I studied rough diamond courses such as rough diamond planning, rough diamond grading, jewelry design and learned a lot of valuable information, in addition to networking and meeting people within the industry. This slowly and step by step helped me work my way into the diamond offices.
And I can definitely tell you, it really is a man’s world! There is actually only one female diamond dealer in Antwerp, and her mom was the first woman ever to open a diamond dealer office in the diamond district in Antwerp. I love visiting and spending time with this wonderful lady, listening to her stories about how she started and how she got to where she is now.
The first diamond dealer I met was a Belgian man who went to Angola 3 months a year to buy rough diamonds which he then took back to Antwerp to get them cut and thereafter sold. He had the most intriguing and beautiful diamonds, sadly in a mix of all different shapes and colours, which is rather difficult for me to use as most of my clients want identical stones to match.
In Antwerp, it is mainly Orthodox Jews that are dealing diamonds, and given their religion some of them have difficulties shaking hands or even dealing with a woman. I respect their decision and don’t mind, but bring my boyfriend Peter with me to help in these cases. Peter is super interested in the diamond world too and loves helping me in these situations. So while Peter does all the small talk and I do the business, it helps ensure that all transactions are done from man to man, and therefore complying with their religious rules. It is however not only Orthodox Jews that are diamond dealers, we also have a lot of from India, Lebanon, and some Belgians, which I deal more frequently with.
I have definitely been tested within this industry and have bought some bad-quality stones, but I have also learned my lessons and have come very far. I have been so fortunate to have been mentored by the Head of the British Gemology Insitute in Hong Kong during my first years within the industry. She has been very helpful in guiding and assisting me, especially when it comes to coloured stones, which she knows everything about.
Nowadays I mostly deal with the same 3 to 4 trusted diamond dealers who I have built a strong relationship with throughout the years. However, I also spend a lot of time in Antwerp, meeting other diamond dealers to make sure that I always get the best diamonds at the best prices for my clients.
So – a woman in a man’s world is actually a good thing.