LONDON — The Diamond Trading Co., the sales and marketing arm of De Beers Group, has whittled down its list of sightholders by 20 percent, reflecting its reduced share of the diamond market and the demands of the Supplier of Choice program introduced two years ago.

This story first appeared in the January 14, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The current 84 De Beers sightholders — people who cut, polish and distribute diamonds — are based mainly in New York, Antwerp, Tel Aviv, Bombay and Johannesburg.

“DTC is committed to the health of the diamond industry and its future growth,” said Gareth Penny, sales and marketing director of the DTC, in a statement issued Tuesday. “We believe the process of selection we agreed [to] with the EU [European Union] has been rigorously applied and is fair. Supplier of Choice is already bearing fruit as we see a second strong year of growth in consumer demand for diamonds.”

Under the SoC program, the DTC sells rough diamonds to sightholders who are particularly marketing oriented, and who have solid relationships with jewelry manufacturers, retailers and brands. The SoC rules govern ethical standards, as well. The DTC’s stated goal is to feed only sightholders who create demand for diamonds and make the industry, overall, more competitive.

“We are looking forward to working with our sightholders in a way that can transform the diamond jewelry market,” said Gary Ralfe, managing director of the DTC, in the statement.

In January 2002, the European Commission gave De Beers the OK to pursue its SoC distribution strategy, but vowed to keep tabs on the market to ensure that the SoC does not lead to a restriction in the supply of rough diamonds to certain traders.

The DTC’s market share has been gradually reduced over the past few years to the current 55 percent, from about 60 to 65 percent in 2001.