Manuella Merckx frowns. The operations manager of the Diamond Office, the inspection office of the import and export of diamonds, based in Antwerp, would have to be notified of our arrival by the guards at the entrance of the building of the 22 Hoveniersstraat. “This is not the procedure,” annoys the Belgian to the firm handshake.
This control board is installed in the floors of the Antwerp World Diamond Center (AWDC), the equivalent of the chamber of commerce and industry of the diamond dealers of Antwerp, in the heart of the Diamond Square Mile, secure neighbourhood of the port city where patrolling soldiers and police, 24 hours on 24.
Of itself, the Diamond Office is meant to symbolize righteousness and the transparency claimed by the diamond merchants of the place. Every day, thousands of stones, raw and cut into and out of this modern apartment building. Under the gaze of officials and the bureau of customs, seventeen experts sworn in by the belgian State to control the contents of the packets sealed to or from abroad, outside the european Union (EU).
The gesture is deft, quick, almost mechanical. A blow of the cutter, the expert slice of plastic bags and zipped that contain pouches of diamonds. Then he pours the contents of each into the metal tray of an electronic scale to verify the weight, expressed in carats (one carat equals 0.2 grams).
Of an eye, it compares the weight advertised on the invoice that appears on the screen of weigh-in. On the other, using his magnifying glass, he is in control of the diamond grading established by the board of control of the AWDC. Objective : to test the value of the lot, which determines the amount of the VAT and its price in dollars. The u.s. dollar remains the official currency of the sector.
In the morning of October, a few seconds will be enough to have this expert sworn…