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Home > Diamond News Center > Features > Articles > Diamonds, Gems and Jewelry

Jewelry Center Blossoming Around Israel Diamond Exchange

/ Israel
 Photo credit Shira Ami Enlarge
 HaRakon Street in Ramat Gan

A jewelry center is flourishing in the area around the Israel Diamond Exchange, which is located in Ramat Gan, not far from the coastal city of Tel Aviv. Crowds of shoppers fill many of the stores on Friday mornings, at the start of the weekend in Israel, while other shoppers visit the more exclusive jewelry stores by pre-arranged appointment.


The first upscale jewelry store to grace the vicinity of the Israel Diamond Exchange was ‘Keren Or’ (‘ray of light’ in Hebrew), which is located on Abba Hillel Street. Other exclusive jewelry stores cropped up after the establishment of the Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Museum back in 1986. The 1990s saw the first jewelry store open inside the Diamond Exchange buildings, and a second store followed in the early 2000s.


Today, the streets surrounding the Israel Diamond Exchange are littered with jewelry stores, and a fully-fledged jewelry center has grown up in the backyard of the Diamond Bourse. Diamond factories have become retail outlet centers, while former outlets have moved their premises from upstairs to the main street.


We set out on an expedition to establish the facts on the ground – asking the owners of the stores when and why they arrived, whether they are satisfied with their choice of location, their feelings on the surrounding area, as well as their vision and projections for the jewelry center's future.


Change is in the Air

The jewelry center growing in the streets adjacent to the Israel Diamond Exchange is currently evolving organically without a distinct direction. The changes in both the Israeli and the global diamond industry are affecting the development of the center, whether the business owners fully appreciate it or not.


We often heard comments like ‘it happened by chance’, ‘it was a coincidence’, or ‘it wasn’t planned’, rather than hearing that strategic planning was involved in establishing jewelry stores. Many of the diamantaires and jewelers acted on instinct, following their gut feeling. Only a few arrived out of a conscious choice after analyzing the situation and formulating a work plan.


Many of the jewelry store owners we spoke with explained that they began moving to the area about two and a half years ago – during the period when wholesale stores began sprouting up in the streets surrounding the Israel Diamond Exchange. Two and a half years ago brings us back to 2007 – which was a tough year for the diamond industry, despite a 7% increase in rough diamond exports from Israel.


Back in 2007, rough diamond prices were up, polishing plants were being established in diamond producing countries, dollar rates were slumped, the euro was climbing and profitability had eroded. All of a sudden your elderly aunt and distant cousin, whose requests for the occasional piece of jewelry had always seemed like such a big favor, were more appealing than ever …. as were the requests of their neighbors, friends and their friends' friends.


The Israeli market looked quite interesting from the 2007 perspective, especially concerning the Russian immigrant population, both old and new. Some jewelry stores schedule special meetings with deep-pocketed oligarchs, while others happily welcome brides and grooms who are in the market for very affordable rings. Some jewelers depend on tour buses while others bank on medical tourism, which proves to be profitable not only the medical facilities, but also for hotels, restaurants and jewelers.


While some jewelers cater to an exclusive clientele, others are interested in walk-ins, or clients who come by after visiting their websites. Other companies prefer supplying other jewelers with their goods. Despite the diversity, the majority of jewelers in the Israel Diamond Exchange area cater to mainstream customers, and carry an enormous range of engagement and wedding rings.


While the center is evolving from the ground up, various diamond and jewelry officials are contemplating the potential of the area.


Diamond Exchange Area Committee

Three local diamantaires are involved in the municipality's thought processes concerning the area around the Israel Diamond Exchange: Brothers Ben-Zion and Pinhas Pozaylov, and Ilan Samuel. All three are active in the business owners' committee in the diamond district.


"A few years ago, a decision was made to promote the diamond exchange area," Samuel told the haYahalom magazine. "The city architect approached me and Ben-Zion and Pinhas Pozaylov, and asked us to participate in the area's development committee. Other committee members include businessmen, lawyers, accountants, doctors, high-tech professional and diamantaires who work in the diamond district. I am disappointed that we are only seeing this momentum today. So far, people have failed to see the potential of the district. They thought that HaMedina Square and Dizengoff would be better, but now jewelers understand that people are seeking out the original.”


"As an Israeli and a visionary, and as one who has served for a decade as Chairman of Jewelry Administration department at the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute, I am delighted that the Diamond Exchange district, with the exchange at its center, is becoming a jewelry center, and in the future – I hope – a center for jewelry factories. Many goldsmiths and artisans already work here. I believe that eventually the jewelry sector will regain its stride and the jewelry export from Israel will be massive,” explains Samuel.


"In addition to jewelry stores, many of the diamond factories around here are being converted into law offices, doctors’ surgeries, architects premises as well as student housing. The district won't be like 47th Street; it will be more like Soho. That is my vision – an area for artists, students, restaurant, coffee shops – a young, dynamic, vibrant area for shopping and entertainment,” he concludes.


Ben-Zion Pozaylov adds: "The area used to have diamond factories by day and prostitutes by night. The exchange district had a negative stigma, as a place unfit for upscale recreation. The mayor has been searching for ways to resolve the situation. I met with the city architect, who traveled abroad to see how similar areas operated. It seems that the City is willing to give business owners incentives to keep an orderly nightlife going – restaurants, cafes etc. Meanwhile, the city is pushing for turning the factories into loft apartments – housing that would attract young people to this area.”


"The area's development is coming along slowly. My vision is to see a center like the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center [an Israeli university] here, one that is unparallel in the world: the length and breadth of the streets will have businesses in the day-time and crowded restaurants by night. In Herzliya, the area was designed to suit this dual role. There have to be efforts invested in reassigning the purpose of the Diamond Exchange district. I hope to see the area develop to accommodate this dual role,” continues Pozaylov.


Residential Opinion

The business owners themselves are still conflicted over the center that is evolving under their noses. Avi Sacharoff, for instance, who was the first to open a jewelry store in the Diamond Exchange, is very pleased: "My clientele are the jewelry store owners in the vicinity. I supply on consignment to all of the jewelry stores in the area, who take my most expensive, exclusive merchandise. Any new store that opens in these streets will be my business partner."


Oded Burnstein of Inbar Jewels, a store adjacent to the Diamond Museum, derives gratification from the development, even if it has no direct impact on his business: "The development of the jewelry center and the wholesale stores 'coming to the street' in the past six months, is a very powerful process. Shoppers who used to look for jewelry in central Tel Aviv are coming here now. There is an onslaught of people, especially young ones, looking for engagement and wedding rings. You have to come here on Friday mornings, and see the hundreds of people coming to the stores. It's amazing. There are huge crowds coming here and that's great."


Marc Bluman from Shai-Ann, also adjacent to the Diamond Museum, is not happy at all, however: "The surrounding streets have stores that do not necessarily adhere to our standards of integrity and honesty. The police have already been involved in several incidents in the area. This has to be a sterile area. Our main concern is making sure that the stores in the vicinity adhere to standards of integrity and honesty befitting our industry."


Another jeweler based in the Diamond Exchange building also expressed his dissatisfaction from the multitude of stores in the area, citing his similar concern that they would harm the reputation and standards set by jewelers based in the Diamond Exchange buildings.


David Jackson, who owns a popular jewelry store in the district, also ponders: "It would be great if the area becomes a jewelry center. It would be great if the younger generation would open jewelry stores here, but when I see lower-class store owners coming here at night to scout for locations – I'm not sure I'll stay here. I may move somewhere else." It is a sad statement from the owner of a store that is crowded every Friday.


Israel’s 47th Street

Benny Soulayev, of Y.B.Soul, is convinced that the area will become Israel's 47th Street within five years. "Clients come here from all over the country. In a few years anyone who comes here will see one jewelry store after another. That's what we’ll have here.”


Another person pleased with the development is Jack Lindenman, the in-house designer for Illimitee jewelry – a subsidiary of Yosef Ovadia Diamonds. In June 2009, Moshe Sinai opened a small showroom combined with a little factory – the fourth step in the company's efforts to become closer to the end consumer (See issue 195 of the haYahalom magazine). Now the showroom is moving from a rather shabby-looking building to a new location with a huge front window facing the street, while the back will feature the atelier – the workshop. "We've chosen the French word as a gesture to the brand's target audience," explains Sinai.


"The area's evolution as a jewelry center is wonderful," enthuses Lindenman. "The Diamond Exchange's area had a reputation. Overseas clients know that this is the source for diamonds in Israel and in the world. The area's English name ('Diamond District') is very attractive, and the clients understand that they can get affordable prices due to the proximity to the source. There are a lot of workshops in the area that have taken to the streets and opened stores to work directly with private clients. Ten years ago they wouldn’t have dared do so. The variety and prices attract many young couples here. The rent is low compared to HaMedina Square or Herzliya, so it attracts many business owners. This area is on the verge of becoming one big mall, which will attract crowds."


Finally, Ari Nestel from D-Card near the Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Museum, said that "the clients come to this area because they think that here, due to the proximity to the Diamond Exchange, it's cheaper and the quality is better. While that is technically true, the area needs to have more class, and serve as a source of attraction to Israeli clients as well as tourists. That is why this area needs an upgrade. The municipality has to encourage quality businesses in the area."


This article is part of a series appearing in the HaYahalom magazine on the vision - and realization – of the Israel Diamond Exchange District. Forthcoming interviewees include City Architect Chaim Cohen and architect Sergio Lerman, Amotz Weinberg, former President of the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, and finally Yehuda Kassif, curator of the Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Museum, who was named to the post in 2008, as part of the Israel Diamond Institute's decision to promote its ties with the Israeli jewelry industry as well as the ties between the diamond and jewelry sectors, especially in Israel. Kassif has been trying for years to convince various elements of the local industry that a jewelry center within the district is essential, and he is once again relaying his vision as to the Diamond Exchange district’s future facade.


This article originally appeared in Hebrew in the HaYahalom magazine, issue 199.


To read the latest issue of the HaYahalom magazine.

By: Shira Ami and Iris Hortman
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