Surat has been one of the global diamond industry's nerve centres for than a century, producing 90 percent of the world's natural diamonds. Rough stones are converted into beautiful polished diamonds, which are subsequently sculpted into cutting-edge jewellery designs.
The first sound you hear when you enter any diamond cutting and polishing plant in Surat is a low synchronised hum of diamond-cutting wheels. Skilled karigars sit in rows, using advanced instruments to cut and polish diamonds to perfection. This is simply another day at the office for these craftspeople. Despite this, their profession is unlike any other—years of training and practise have refined their abilities to precision, and every day, hundreds of uncut gemstones are converted into sparkling, valuable diamonds beneath their talented fingertips.
Journey Of A Diamond & Surat
Rough diamonds from Europe, Africa, and other parts of the world come in Surat, where they are cut, polished, and treated by local karigars. Following that, these rare jewels take pride of position in jewellery companies and ateliers all over the world. The globe becomes extremely local in this coastal city.
Africa, Russia, and Canada produce the vast majority of the world's diamonds. A mined diamond begins its journey in the streets of Antwerp, Belgium, and continues on to Surat, where it is transformed into a sparkling polished stone.
The existence of a substantial Gujarati diaspora in this Belgian city, as well as their leadership in the diamond export sector, paved the way for a direct connection between Antwerp and Surat. "Back in the day, travelling to Antwerp was a great accomplishment." However, members of the Gujarati community assisted one another in establishing themselves there. Today, Gujarati may be heard above English or other European languages in Belgium's diamond centres," says Dilipkumar Shah, Managing Director of Surat-based jewellery business BR Designs Pvt. Ltd. This, in turn, has resulted in a parallel expansion of the firm in Surat.
Diamond Capital of the World
Surat's performance as a diamond processing centre is impressive given its short history of less than a century. The British and Portuguese had already established this port city as an important commercial route. The region's abundance of jewels, beads, and pierced stones sparked interest in diamonds as well. Surat's growth has also been aided by government backing, low competition, and the availability of cheap and semi-skilled labour from neighbouring states. Its humble beginnings may be traced back to the early 1900s, when two ambitious brothers from Gujarat's Patidar clan, Gandabhai Kuberdas Mavjivanwala and Shri Rangeeldas Kuberdas Mavjivanwala, founded a small-scale enterprise.
The business grew throughout time owing to the efforts of various diamond merchants and exporters who established units and teams that progressively achieved tremendous competence in producing high-value diamonds. Surat is now at the centre of a vibrant sector with a $24 billion yearly turnover. And a big part of this city's spectacular growth narrative is due to the hard labour and artistry of over 7,00,000 polishing unit workers. They process almost 95% of the world's diamonds together. Surat's astounding success may be attributed to its karigars, entrepreneurs, and jewellers, as well as their unwavering commitment to extracting the maximum value from each diamond.
Traditions & Technology
The Gujarati mentality is based on hard work and family, and this serves as the foundation for industries throughout the state. Surat's diamond industry is no exception. Many industrial plants employ personnel from three generations as well as their extended families, and they frequently operate as one giant family.
In fact, the entire company strategy is based on this relationship and long-term trust. To this day, local courier men known as angadias convey shipments containing diamonds valued millions of dollars. Chittis, or an informal system of promissory notes, continue to be used to indicate transactions and are treasured for generations. On-time delivery and fast payments are essential components of the chain.
Another key to Surat's success is its seamless integration of history, craftsmanship, and technology. Aside from upskilling personnel and improving precise cutting and polishing equipment, there has been a steady shift toward dealing with superior stones. Entrepreneurs like as Sevantibhai Shah, the creator of Venus Jewel, played a significant part in the process. His enterprise was the first to cut and polish huge natural diamonds on a massive scale, opening the way for India to become the world's largest diamond cutting and polishing centre. He transformed the diamond processing business in India, from teaching his karigars to strategic planning and risk management throughout production.
Surat's karigars were equally influential in creating the industry. "We worked closely with our craftsmen and teams and dug in-depth into numerous elements to rethink and remodel the most essential processes of diamond cutting, hence attaining more efficiency, precision, and the finest quality of finishing," says Ramniklal Shah, co-founder of Venus Jewels.
Other business titans, such as Govind Dholakia, Founder and Chairman of SRK Exports, have also led the charge toward empowering the staff through regular training programmes, implementing correct safety standards, and incentivizing success with cash benefits. As a consequence of all of these precautions, Surat's diamond karigars are today recognised around the globe for their ability in working with high-quality and large-sized natural diamonds.
Although diamonds from all over the world came to Surat to be polished, they eventually found their way to other centres in India and beyond to be sold to various purchasers. "All polished diamonds have been sold to vendors in Mumbai's Panchratna neighbourhood since the 1970s." Initially, I travelled to Mumbai three days a week. We used to sell to Indians as well as clients from China, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and the United States. "The formation of the Bharat Diamond Bourse in Mumbai aided in formalising the process," says Dilipkumar Shah.
The Gujarati entrepreneur's foresight that has transformed this city into a future diamond processing centre has also provided encouragement to both domestic and international jewellery makers. Surat has become a manufacturing centre for many global merchants because to its remarkable quality, elegance, exquisite craftsmanship, similar price, and quick supply of best grade diamonds. Today, this city is home to numerous well-known Indian jewellery makers that specialise in natural diamond decorations.
Surat is a place where diamonds are given new life. Nature has crafted these rocks over billions of years, and in the hands of local karigars, they are moulded into beautiful stones and cherished jewellery. This city becomes a melting pot for diamonds from throughout the world. Borders melt into a diamond's facets. Surat is the destination for a world-class diamond.