Sunday, November 17

Israel Gets Pink

she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones1 Kings 10:2

On November 13, 2013, Sotheby's Jewellery Division in Europe and the Middle East auctioned the Pink Star Diamond in an event named the Magnificent Jewels Auction in Geneva. Isaac Wolf, a Hasidic Jew, bought it for $83.2 million transforming it into the most expensive gem sold until then. He re-baptized it the "Pink Dream," even in Hebrew it sounds obscene.
The Pink Star is not a blood diamond.* It was mined by De Beers in 1999, apparently in South Africa. De Beers ambiguity on the issue is worrying. Uncut, it weighed 132.5 carats,**and was defined as Vivid Pink. It took the Steinmetz Group almost two years to cut the stone to its actual shape, a Mixed Oval Brilliant.

Worldwide Spider
Isaac Wolf
Isaac Wolf has the Pink Dream
Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels
Almost worldwide leading the polished diamonds industry Israel has never been rosier or wealthier. Israel is one of the three major centers for polished diamonds, alongside Belgium and India. The two first are closely related, being run by Hasidic+ Ultra-Orthodox Jews. Expectedly, the familiar character of the trade led it to be centered in two enclaves.
In Belgium, it is centered in Antwerp, and in Israel in Ramat Gan's Diamond Exchange District, showed in the large image below.
Antwerp's community is closely related to the one in Amsterdam. Many of them having escaped Spain and Portugal, Amsterdam's Jews had trading contacts with colonial Portugal, thing that gave them access to Indian diamonds. Until the 19thCentury, the unregulated diamond industry was one of the few industries open for Jews. After purchasing them, they transferred the stones to Antwerp to be polished.
Trading Diamonds
Trading Diamonds at the Diamond Exchange District
Thus, this industry is tightly controlled by Hasidic Jews.++ New York is also home to a large Hasidic community and had become a major outlet for polished diamonds. This is how the abovementioned Isaac Wolf joins the history.
After the foundation of Israel, Hasidic communities moved to Ramat Gan and created the local polishing industry, with adjacent Bnei Brak becoming their main residential zone.
Over the years, Israel had become mainly a management center. The number of cutters and polishers working there dropped from 20,000 in the '80s to roughly 2,000 in 2013. In 2011, While Israel imported $4.4 billion in rough diamonds and exported $7.2 billion in polished stones. However, only $1.5 billion of the stones were cut and polished locally, most of them were sent to China and India where labor is cheaper.
An embarrassing issue that must be mentioned is that they are infamous in Israel for smuggling diamonds in their heavy clothes. European customs don't dare checking them. Can you imagine the headlines?
Ramat Gan Diamond Exchange District from Azrieli
Ramat Gan's Diamond Exchange District from the Azrieli Towers in Tel Aviv
The rectangular second tower from right, framed in white, is the Diamond Tower

The Auction
Set on a ring, the expensive, but small (2.69cm by 2.06cm), crystallized-carbon stone was sold for 68m Swiss francs ($83,187,381 on that day) after a close race between two buyers. Neither of them felt safe enough to appear personally in Geneva. Professional evaluations put the price of the diamond at $60 million; thus, the race was very profitable for Sotheby and the secret former owner of the Pink Star.
Auction of the Pink Star
David Bennett, Chairman of auctioneers Sotheby's Jewellery Division in Europe and the Middle East, conducting the auction of the Pink Star on November 13, 2013, in Geneva
Patty Wong, chair of Sotheby's in Asia, spoke in Mandarin by phone from the auction room with the buyer who lost the bid. His last bid was 67m Swiss francs. The second buyer, later disclosed to be Isaac Wolf speaking from New York, was represented by a Hasidic Jew in the auction's room. His winning offer is said to have been delayed; troubles with loose change, Mr Wolf? The entire event took about five minutes.
There are many points of interests in the event. The most striking one is towards secular Jewish Israelis, who are a diminishing majority in the country. Outsiders call them the Zionists. They like to portray Ultra-Orthodox Jews (both Haredim and Hasidim) as parasites. In an interview published in May at Holy Cows, Ultra-Orthodox farmer Joseph Duvdevany complained of being systemically called "parasite" by the Zionist establishment, which discriminates him and his peers against. I reported of their being called "insects" by the Zionist media, especially due to the new Conscription Law.
This week, one of these Zionists' Parasitical Insects bought a little stone worth more than many large Zionist buildings in Tel Aviv while spending five minutes of his apparently very valuable time. It was an expensive reminder to Zion that the Ultra-Orthodox are essential to the State's existence.+++
To the rest of the world, it was a sad reminder of an old oligopoly related to a particular ethnic-religious group and also to blood diamonds, one of the ugliest manifestations of the Business of War. The Pink Dream has deep blood reflections, a Pink Star from Hell reminding us of the price of vanity.

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