Martin Rapaport


Martin Rapaport

Martin Rapaport is an American entrepreneur and founder of the Rapaport Diamond Report. Rapaport is a maverick[1] within the diamond industry, and is often recognized for his signature bow tie. He is a member of the board of Jewelers for Children[2] and an early proponent of the Kimberley Process.

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He also hosts the Rapaport International Diamond Conference,[3] annually in New York, that often serves as an industry forum between NGOs, the jewelry industry, governmental agencies, and diamond industry interests.

Contents

Education and early career

Martin Rapaport began his work in diamonds as a cleaver and rough sorter in Antwerp, Belgium. He began brokering rough and polished diamonds in New York City in 1975.[4] In 1978, he created the Rapaport Prices List,[5] which some say is not reflective of true prices.[6] He has since created many businesses relating to the diamond industry, eponymously bearing his name, including an electronic trading network for traders RapNet and INDEX Online, and diamond-related news in print and web formats.

The price list

He is considered controversial with many within the diamond industry for publishing the Rapaport Diamond Report in the late 1970s, which has become the de facto standard baseline[7] for pricing wholesale polished diamonds. His guide is cited as being the chief reason diamonds cost significantly less than what they used to during the commodities boom of that time.[8]

Activities

Martin Rapaport's impact within the industry is largely controversial because his commercial price guides have made manipulation of prices much more difficult for the diamond industry, and are considered a step toward commoditizing diamonds. This is an affront to all the industry represents, with efforts to sell diamonds as something as unique as a snowflake, and of eternal value, hence the De Beers' sales pitch A Diamond Is Forever. It is no coincidence either, that Rapaport has largely played a maverick role in issues such as conflict diamonds, synthetic diamonds, diamond treatments, and Fair-Trade diamond issues, or has often been an unlikely ally to NGOs.[9]

De Beers / pricing

Diamonds as a commodity

Neil D. Reiff writes that Rapaport is "destroying" the diamond industry with trying to commoditize diamonds, and his price guide no longer reflects the wholesale value of diamonds as they are sold, but influences what those prices are before they go to market. Rapaport counters that diamonds are not unique, as De Beers marketing claims, and are subject to the same laws of supply and demand as anything else.[10]

In fact, Martin Rapaport is openly an advocate of commoditizing diamonds, having tried in 1982 by filing out a contract proposal to the New York Commodities Exchange to create a diamond commodity market. The effort failed, he claimed, because the "diamond industry didn't want price transparency." He is currently writing a new proposal and believes it will only be a matter of time before the idea succeeds, as long as a sufficient criteria of standardization is created. Rapaport says diamonds are "definitely a commodity."

"You buy and sell them for cash. They're a natural resource with limited supply; they're well defined; they're certified; they're analyzed, graded, tradable around the world."[11]

Price manipulation

Dating back to the genesis of his price guide, Rapaport has been an outspoken critic of De Beers, and what he believes is an effort to manipulate diamond prices. He recently made a reference to the negative unintended consequences of the corporation's practice of trying to control supply of diamonds in the market:

"The diamond pipeline is stuffed like a goose and there's some indigestion."[12]

Diamonds as an investment

Rapaport advises against diamonds as an investment due to the nature of the market

"Retail prices aren't investment prices", he says. "You can't buy a diamond as an investment unless you're buying it from an investment house, and that's not yet possible."[13]

European Commission

Martin Rapaport submitted papers in 2002 and in 2005 criticizing the European Commission's handling of investigations of collusion between De Beers and Russia's state owned diamond cartel, ALROSA. He alleged the European body ignored evidence that ALROSA was selling diamonds to De Beers at prices 8 to 20 percent below market value, and was aiding and abetting unethical and illegal business practices.

Synthetics

This view of diamonds also carries over to the discussion of synthetic diamonds. While he does not believe they will be as valuable as diamonds mined from the earth,[14] he believes that synthetics are yet another commodity that jewelers can sell for whatever value the marketplace deems their worth, but that consumers are always going to want full disclosure that a diamond they are buying is coming from a lab, rather than mined from the ground

"The concern in the industry today is what if, just what if there is a way to synthesise diamonds that are non-detectable from natural diamonds? What if technology uses the ability to make this synthetic diamond and no one knows this is synthetic?"[15]

Conflict diamonds

Rapaport has traveled extensively to Sierra Leone, since 2000, long before mainstream media, Hollywood or the diamond industry took an interest in the civil war there, or the role diamonds played in it. NGO Global Witness made Rapaport aware of the situation and invited him to visit. This early trip is featured in the 3 hour Canadian documentary Diamond Road directed by Nisha Pahuja.[16] After returning, he wrote:

Hundreds of millions of dollars of Sierra Leone diamonds are being traded on the world markets without any benefit going to the government or people of Sierra Leone. The real problem facing Sierra Leone is not merely how to share diamond resources among warring factions, but how to stop the illegal diamond industry from stealing the country's resources. But it goes beyond that. The bastards are not just stealing Sierra Leone's diamonds, they are trading them for guns. Guns which are used to kill people to keep the war going... The real challenge facing Sierra Leone and the world diamond trade, is how to stop this horrific murderous cycle of illegal diamond activity.[17]

Kimberley Process Certification Scheme

Martin is a key member of the Kimberley Process Plenary, the cooperative United Nations / diamond industry partnership to self-regulate the end to conflict diamonds.[18]

Martin has been cited as a technical asset to the process by the South African government,[19] and has advocated the need for better price transparency as a means of keeping the industry honest.[20]

Fair Trade Diamonds

He has long since been an advocate of finding an equitable solution to exploitation of West African labor, and has tried to build mining collectives in Sierra Leone and create a place in the market for what he calls "Fair Trade Diamonds" that would be certified as guilt and exploitation-free.[21]

International Diamond Conference

Rapaport annually addresses ethical dilemmas within the industry at the Rapaport International Diamond Conference,[22] where he invites Non-Governmental organizations such as Global Witness and Amnesty International[23] to meet with diamond industry leaders.

Artisanal diggers

Under his plan, diggers in West Africa will register and be invited to bring diamonds to a public auction. Rapaport says he will pay 5% more than the gems' market value. After independent monitors ensure that diggers are paid about a third of the purchase price, a "development diamond" label will be applied before gems are shipped to jewelers.

Rapaport, in cooperation with the U.S. Agency for International Development and Global Witness invested $60,000 of his own money to create four alluvial mining cooperatives in Sierra Leone, but ultimately sees "Fair-Trade" diamonds as the solutions to West Africa's woes.[24]

Critics

African People's Solidarity Committee

Groups such as the African People's Solidarity Committee, who protested at the 2007 Rapaport International Diamond Conference in New York, say that "all diamonds are blood diamonds"[25] and that Rapaport's efforts to help artisanal miners is nothing more than a public relations ploy:

The African People's Solidarity Committee rejects this public relations ploy. They are calling for nothing less than all of Africa's resources under the control of the African working class itself. Africa is the richest continent on earth. Africans don't need charity; they need control over their own land.[26]

Charles Wyndham

Charles Wyndham, owner of PolishedPrices, Rapaport's main competitor in diamond pricing, is often very critical of Martin Rapaport's prices and personality, often referring to him as "Boney", a comparison to Napoleon Bonaparte. Wyndham refers to Martin Rapaport nearly weekly, and criticizes his diamond prices as being too low,[27] having a flawed or arbitrary methodology[28] or too much like Wyndham's own prices.[29] He has also accused Rapaport of having a monopoly on diamond grading with GIA.[30]

Chaim Even-Zohar

Chaim Even-Zohar, an analyst for diamondintelligence.com, a diamond industry news rival to Rapaport's own Rapaport News, is also a frequent critic of Martin Rapaport. Even-Zohar's singled Martin out in his editorial about a corruption scandal within the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), where graders were caught giving a pair of diamond earrings intended for a Saudi royal a higher grade than they warranted.

Even-Zohar, made note of Rapaport's silence in the case, noting the close relationship Rapaport has with the laboratory, and the exclusive access his customers (diamond traders who use Rapaport's INDEX trading platform) enjoy with the lab as a consequence. Chaim Even-Zohar even went as far to say that Martin Rapaport's silence about the case was hypocritical, and undermined the credibility of his trade publications, especially in light of him being an outspoken proponent of transparency.

No other trade publication has ever said about itself that it is a promoter of free, fair, honest, etc. So where is Rapaport now? The answer is obvious. The Rapaport Group is too conflicted—its involvement with the GIA makes it impossible for it to play the self-imposed and self-declared role of "promoting honest and competitive diamond markets." Martin knows very well that, economically, corruption and bribing are patently anti-competitive practices. No decent company can compete with other companies that enjoy the benefit of fraudulent income or advantages.
Martin is genuinely concerned about these issues—in Africa, in Europe. But in New York, he keeps quiet. Not one passionate editorial against the bribers and corruption in New York or at the GIA. As one New York manufacturer wondered, "Is he in bed so much with the GIA that he can't come out with the news about them?� Not one word.[31]

References

  1. ^ New York Times article describing Rapaport as a "maverick" in the diamond industry
  2. ^ Listing of board for Jewelers For Children
  3. ^ New York Observer article about IDC [1]
  4. ^ GIA bio for Martin Rapaport
  5. ^ Diamants-info.com article explaining the Rap Price List
  6. ^ NiceIce.com article critical of Rap Price List accuracy
  7. ^ Mention of Rap Report history in Ian Smillie's (of Amnesty International) essay on Blood Diamonds
  8. ^ Pricescope bio of Rapaport & history of Rap Report
  9. ^ Marketwatch article on diamonds-as-a-commodity
  10. ^ Martin Rapaport One man's destruction of our industry
  11. ^ Diamonds may have a future as a commodity
  12. ^ De Beers sales record likely
  13. ^ When you no longer want 'the rock'
  14. ^ Faux diamonds sparking a gem war
  15. ^ Diamond Labs—transcript
  16. ^ Kensington Communications site for Diamond Road documentary
  17. ^ DIRTY DIAMONDS AND CIVIL SOCIETY
  18. ^ Mitsui Lunch-Time Forum Blood Diamonds and Price Transparency
  19. ^ PRESENTATION BY MINISTER OF MINERALS AND ENERGY, MS PHUMZILE MLAMBO-NGCUKA AT THE KIMBERLEY PROCESS HANDING OVER CEREMONY, Sun City, 31 October 2003
  20. ^ Blood Diamonds and Price Transparency
  21. ^ The Diamond Dilemma
  22. ^ Interview Fair trade stones with a 'spiritual sparkle beyond price'
  23. ^ UK Blood Diamonds - New call on industry to clean up diamond trade
  24. ^ Hope Diamonds
  25. ^ All Diamonds are Blood Diamonds
  26. ^ Diamond Industry Reps Scurry to Defend Profits African People's Solidarity Committee
  27. ^ Use of Rap proving costly by Charles Wyndham see also Boney's seasons greetings! by Charles Wyndham and Good news for Martin in Bedlam by Charles Wyndham
  28. ^ Law of Inverse Proportion by Charles Wyndham
  29. ^ Bumbling Boney by Charles Wyndham
  30. ^ Boney and Vomit by Charles Wyndham
  31. ^ "CERTIFIGATE" NOW THE COVER-UP… By Chaim Even-Zohar

Pricescope should not be mentioned as a references-They are biased

Correction regarding "Reference #7" and our article entitled The Rap Trap [2]. Our article is not "critical" of Martin Rapaport's Diamond Price Report, but rather of the manner in which some retail jewelers use the contents of the report to mislead consumers.

External links


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