NEW YORK — The diamond world is in the middle of a significant shift, industry executives said at the Plumb Club Forum here.

This story first appeared in the March 24, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Panelists covered a range of topics on March 3 — under the heading “It’s a Rough World” — relating to the current trends and changes. They focused on how the industry is evolving from a monopoly to a multichannel and producer industry, predominantly driven by U.S. demand.

“Because there is much more awareness of building demand and catering to demand rather than just producing diamonds and then selling them into the market, it can be summed up that the diamond industry is changing from a supply-driven model to a demand-driven model,” said Jeffrey Fischer, president of the International Diamond Manufacturers Association. He added that control in the industry is becoming decentralized, with countries like Russia and Canada taking charge of their own distributions.

In addition to Fischer, moderator Chiam Even-Zohar, founder of Tacy Ltd., a Tel Aviv-based consulting firm, was joined by panelists Jean-Marc Lieberherr, general manager of Rio Tinto Diamonds, and Richard Lennox, executive vice president and U.S. marketing director of Diamond Promotion Service.

The two-day industry conference hosted by the Plumb Club featured 46 U.S. jewelry and diamond manufacturers.

“We are moving into a historical time for diamonds,” Even-Zohar said. “We are seeing the end of 350 years of uninterrupted London control of [diamond] distribution.”

Consumer demand is still underperforming compared with competing luxury markets, said Even-Zohar, who has worked with diamonds for three decades.

Even-Zohar said African nations are assuming greater control over the distribution of their diamonds, noting that a new diamond-sorting center has been built in Botswana, in partnership with De Beers.

“The African countries are moving to cut and polish the merchandise in their own countries,” Fischer said. “If they find it successful, then they will build their own models and they will start to cut more goods in their own countries. If not, they will have to reevaluate.”