Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are the two largest cities in Israel and have been competing since time immemorial. Tel Aviv became the de facto capital of Israel after it gained independence on May 14, 1948. It earned the title due to its significant population density, standing at around 200,000 inhabitants then. A year later, Jerusalem snatched the title from Tel Aviv, becoming Israel’s new administrative center. Things have remained that way to date, though Jerusalem receives partial recognition as Israel’s capital.
Many first-time visitors to Tel Aviv confuse it with Jerusalem because it is more vibrant. A lively nightlife scene is one of the city’s main attractions—no wonder it is christened the Non-Stop City.
The 20-square-mile town may appear relatively small. However, there are attractions that you cannot possibly explore in a day. The enchanting sandy beaches are some of Tel Aviv’s most fantastic appeals. Tourists looking for excellent accommodation facilities can sample the city’s numerous hotels. Some of the high-end global hotel chains have branches here, such as Carlton, Hilton, and Intercontinental.
Tel Aviv also boasts many cultural and art museums, including the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the BeitHatfutsot-Museum of the Jewish People. Most of these archives store much of the Jewish heritage. In these museums, you will learn more about the Jewish struggles against the Nazis and will uncover the Jews’ deep attachment to diamonds. Indeed, there are numerous things to see and do in Tel Aviv. It does not matter whether you are a local or a first-time visitor to Tel Aviv; you will always desire an experience of the city’s diamond industry.
Tel Aviv is arguably the world’s largest diamond city. Its reputation for stylish and refined diamonds is unmatched, with only a few other cities like Amsterdam, New York, and Antwerp coming close. But Tel Aviv did not become a global diamond hub overnight. Diamond cutting and polishing have been part and parcel of the Jewish culture from time immemorial—it may be the oldest skill that Jews have inherited for generations. No wonder Jews form a significant proportion of the workforce in almost all diamond processing factories in the world. Therefore, by any standard, Tel Aviv is the world’s largest diamond city.
With a heritage deeply steeped in the diamond trade, shopping for diamonds in Tel Aviv should be a walk in the park. However, it is not always like that. As a buyer, you must still be astute enough to find your desired diamond. But how do you go about buying diamonds in Tel Aviv? That will be the focus of our article, but first things first.
The Jewish Role in Designating Tel Aviv as a Global Diamond Hub
As we’ve already mentioned, Jewish history is firmly steeped in the diamond trade. Jews have been associated with diamonds right from the Bible. In the Book of Exodus 28:18, we read how God intended the Israelites to build the priestly breastplate. A sapphire, emerald, and a diamond were some of the most precious stones the breastplate was supposed to contain. However, some anthropologists have argued that it is unclear whether the diamond mentioned in the Bible is the stone as we presently know it. It is possibly due to the absence of diamond mines and resources in Israel. All in all, it is safe to say that the Israelites have had a deep connection with diamonds from prehistoric times.
Around the middle ages, the Jewish culture of diamond cutting and polishing began to blossom. The Israelites either lived in Ottoman empires or were scattered all over Europe. During this time, they were primarily forbidden from acquiring land or engaging in agriculture. As such, they moved to professions in the service sector, such as trade and banking. Diamond polishing is one of the trades that the Israelites learned and furthered. Jews preferred this trade as it did not require much of a workspace. You only needed to polish a small carat weight, and you had massive wealth in your hands, which is how Jews mostly stored and preserved their riches.
Another thing that bolstered the Israelites’ success in the diamond trade was their apparent unity. Wherever they settled, Jews would form well-established communities. In countries where they were accepted, such as the Netherlands, they made diamond trading big business.
One major problem that the Jews faced was the absence of regulatory bodies. It was often hard to establish the true worth of diamonds. Today, merchants sell their diamonds in exchange centers and well-established stores. However, the diamond trade during the Middle Ages happened around a table. The seller would unleash his ware from a stack of paper bags. Afterward, the buyer used a unique piece of a magnifying glass to clip the stone while checking for its clarity under a lamp. If satisfied, the buyer paid either through cash or a cheque. Some of these practices are prevalent to date, notably in regions without diamond exchange centers.
As early as the 1930s, many European merchants were impressed by the Jewish diamond polishing expertise. The traders trooped to Israel to learn more about how diamond processing works. Such interest heralded the establishment of the Israel Diamond Exchange on December 8, 1937. Across Europe, most diamond merchants were Jews. The traders maintained close ties with their associates back home.
However, things would take a nasty turn during the Holocaust. The Second World War saw the annihilation of around six million Jews - amounting to roughly two-thirds of the European Israelite population - spread across Europe. The surviving Jews ran to concentration camps where their safety was not guaranteed either. It was virtually impossible to continue doing business in Europe. Only a handful of survivors in relatively peaceful towns like Antwerp went on with the trade, albeit unenthusiastically.
Back home, Jews were still smarting from the effects of the Holocaust. On May 14, 1948, just three years after the Holocaust, Israel declared independence. Diamond business picked up in earnest.
Today, Israel is one of the fastest-growing economies in the Middle East, with the diamond trade accounting for about 16% of the country’s GNP. Much of the business takes place in Tel Aviv.
Also, approximately 80% of the global small polished stone products come from Israel. The Israel Diamond Exchange accounts for over 40% of the worldwide jewelry market.
Diamond trade has become an integral part of the Jewish culture, so much so that the industry adopted many Jewish and Yiddish expressions. One such expression is Mazal U'Bracha, used after closing a diamond deal.
How to Buy Diamonds in Tel Aviv
Right off the bat, we must stress the importance of buying diamonds online, be it in Tel Aviv or anywhere else.
According to the Times of Israel, over 95% of internet-savvy Israelis had purchased at least one thing online as of December 2016. About 72% of this demographic had made more than three purchases a month. Among the list of commodities that Israelis buy online are electrical appliances, clothing, and jewelry. Indeed, there must be a reason behind the popularity of internet shopping in Israel.
However, the benefits of online shopping go beyond the sheer convenience it brings. It also happens to be the safest option, especially when buying diamonds in Tel Aviv. But for a city that hosts the world’s largest diamond exchange, a customer would rather buy their diamonds from a physical store. Indeed, a visit to the Israel Diamond Exchange is an experience. The bourse teems with some of the world’s most exquisite diamonds. You can sample as many displays as you can and never get enough of it.
The Israeli Diamond Exchange is located in Ramat Gan, east of Tel Aviv. The exchange occupies a series of four buildings that are interconnected. For accessibility, the four buildings are interlinked by a series of hallways and special elevators. IDE, or the Bursa as it is locally known, boasts the world’s largest diamond trading floor. It handles thousands of diamond trade by merchants from all over the world every day. Some of the world’s leading diamond companies also have outlets within this complex. According to executives here, the exchange nets $28 billion in annual turnover.
Why Buy Diamonds at the Israeli Diamond Exchange?
Variety is Guaranteed
The Diamond Exchange in Tel Aviv is the biggest diamond trading bourse in the world. Besides, the exchange bears a close resemblance to a diamond district. Therefore, it is an ideal place to shop for all kinds of diamonds. From marquise diamonds polished by the finest craftsmen in the industry to preset engagement rings, you can find it all here. Israel Diamond Exchange is home to renowned jewelry dealers. About 1,500 companies have a presence within the trading complex. The bourse also hosts over 15,000 workers. The workers are drawn from different areas of diamond processing, including diamond polishing, engraving, mounting, insurance, and appraisal.
Thus, besides getting variety, you are also assured of the quality of diamonds sold here. With such a vast collection of skill sets under one roof, your diamond shopping experience will be one to savor forever. The workers strive to offer their clients a personalized shopping experience. Contrary to a regular diamond district, hard selling is hardly the norm here. Instead, the sales assistants tend to be more concerned about helping their clients locate their preferred diamonds.
The Jewish culture of adherence to ethical business practices manifests in each shop you visit. Diamond shopping is a high-stakes process. As such, you need a seller who is patient enough to answer all your queries, not one who is solely driven by the profit motive. The high concentration of merchants in one place also reflects favorably on the overall cost of diamonds. You can seamlessly check the prices across multiple stores without tiring yourself out. In any case, most jewelers offer their merchandise at wholesale prices.
It is a Learning Experience
The IDE is a treasure trove of information for those who wish to learn a thing or two about diamonds. With the IDE, you do not have to spend hours on end researching online. The exchange offers a massive resource of information on the history of diamonds.
Besides history, you will learn more about some of the world’s renowned manufacturers. Such knowledge will enable you to establish the kind of diamonds a company sells. For instance, are they conflict-free or blood diamonds? Also, are those diamonds certified by reliable grading labs? Information is also available on how to handle diamonds during the buying process and after.
Above all, you will uncover some tips on how to shop for your ideal stone. Once you’ve located your desired diamond, you can learn more about that specific gem. For instance, each stone comes with elaborate descriptions. The descriptions are primarily based on the stone’s carat weight, cut, color, and clarity. So, if looking for a place to carefully study diamonds before making a purchase, a visit to the IDE might be worthwhile.
Security is Guaranteed
It is natural to associate diamond districts with gross insecurity. Besides, it is understandable to believe that the Israel Diamond Exchange is equally insecure. The IDE is one of the safest places in the whole of Israel and is christened Fort Knox. It is worthy of commendation given the kind of business that goes on here.
Authorities and merchants take no chances, one reason why the IDE has some of the most sophisticated security systems in place. Surveillance cameras dot the entire span of the complex’s perimeter. Additionally, armed guards keep watch of the four buildings and their immediate surroundings 24/7, ready to neutralize any security threat.
Visitors go through rigorous security checks. Besides being scanned for illegal weapons, you will also be asked a series of questions. International tourists must have a valid passport. Jews are highly intolerant of theft and other unethical business practices, and therefore, cases of dishonesty are not as common at the IDE as they are elsewhere.
Experience an Exclusive Indoor Tour
The Israel Diamond Exchange is a one-stop-shop for all your jewelry needs, just like you would expect in a diamond bourse. Besides diamond sales, lots of other jewelry-related activities take place here. The facility boasts state-of-the-art diamond trading technology. The bourse is also fitted with large computer systems and cutting-edge diamond weighing systems.
A visit to this exchange will introduce you to the elusive world of the diamond trade. Numerous tour companies operate within the facility to enable you to have a fantastic experience at the Bursa. Whether you are looking for diamonds or not, a tour of the IDE offers enough sightseeing opportunities.
Most tour companies operate during the trading hours of 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. The companies mostly conduct their trips in English, Chinese, and Russian. The best part about these tours is that a certified member of the Tel Aviv Diamond Exchange will always accompany you.
All Services Under One Roof
Besides the over 1,500 diamond shops operating here, the Tel Aviv Diamond Exchange hosts many banks, such as the State Bank of India. The presence of banks takes away most of your security concerns. You do not have to carry large sums of money to the bourse. After locating your preferred gem, you can conveniently withdraw your money from any of these banks and complete your purchase.
Besides banks, the bourse also houses synagogues. You can walk into any of these and reconnect with your higher power, before or after shopping. Other facilities within the complex include a customs office, a workout gym, a fully-operational office, and lots of restaurants. As you can see, there are enough facilities to sustain a day-long shopping escapade.
How to Buy Diamonds at the Tel Aviv Diamond Exchange
Buying diamonds at the Tel Aviv Diamond Exchange is remarkably easy. However, you must know what to expect before visiting the bourse. As we have mentioned earlier, the complex houses a vast collection of diamond stores, which can be a pro or a con depending on how you look at it. For instance, if you go shopping unprepared, you will find any diamond on displays here stunning. Excitement may get the better of you, causing you to make an unwise decision. Therefore, we cannot overstate the importance of preparedness.
The good thing about the IDE is that diamond shops are located both within the complex and in the surrounding areas. It is essential as there are times you cannot access the complex unless accompanied by a member. Also, the camaraderie among merchants here will make your shopping experience smooth and seamless. Even if a store does not stock the diamond you are looking for, they will gladly refer you to other sellers.
Because it is a relatively busy area, you should research a store before visiting it. We mentioned that Jews are known for their strict adherence to ethical commerce practices. This replicates across many diamond jewelers in Tel Aviv. However, do not expect everyone to play by the rules. Unless you do your due diligence, you might fall victim to unscrupulous diamond dealers.
While researching a store, try to establish the kind of diamonds they sell. Israel may be a member of the Kimberley Process. However, the country has been indicted a few times for importing blood diamonds. For surety purposes, ask the retailer to produce some conflict-free guarantee. Also, establish whether the vendor deals in certified diamonds. While you do, ensure that reputable organizations have graded the diamonds. Examples of such organizations include the Gemological Institute of America.
Next, contact the store and inquire about any additional services they offer. You are not looking for things like shipping policy because you will be buying the diamond in person. However, ask about things like their return policy. In case the diamond does not meet your expectations, it is relieving to know that you can return it to the store hassle-free. Some reputable merchants may also offer insurance and diamond trade-in services.
Lastly, verify the price of the diamond you wish to buy beforehand. The Bursa is a bustling complex. Vendors handle thousands of visitors every day. As such, negotiating prices at the stores here can be a little challenging. Therefore, it pays to know the diamond you desire and its cost before heading to the bourse. When you visit the complex, documentation is the only aspect you would be required to look into.
Buying diamonds in Tel Aviv is not only a fun-filled experience but is also a learning one. The city is home to thousands of diamond vendors. Most of these are housed within the Tel Aviv Diamond Exchange complex. If you are based in Israel, the Bursa is a one-stop-shop for all your diamond needs. Similarly, if you are a tourist, a trip around this bourse should be part of your itinerary.