China’s growing economic muscle is also being felt in the diamond industry. According to the chief executive of the Antwerp World Diamond Center, the Asian giant will supplant the United States as the top importer of Belgian precious gems by 2016, the China Daily reported.
In 2011,China imported 9.28 million carats of polished and uncut diamonds from Antwerp, which is regarded as the hub of Belgium’s diamond industry. Last year’s imports were valued at $5.09 billion, according to the China Daily report.
Ari Epstein, the CEO of the Antwerp World Diamond Center, said the forecast could be attributed to the growing demand for diamonds as well as the business potential of trading diamonds in China, a nation that has seen a burgeoning middle class flaunt its newfound purchasing power.
With the onset of the global economic crisis, China briefly overtook the U.S. as the world’s top diamonds importer in 2008, but it dropped back into second place when the crisis eased. Last year, the U.S. remained well ahead of China and India as the top consumer of polished diamonds, accounting for 36 percent of total world demand. China’s share stood at 12% while India’s was at 11%.