The globalist clannishness of Indian diamond merchants, by Steve Sailer - The Unz Review
a commenter pointed out about my review of This Land Is Our Land: An
Immigrant’s Manifesto by Suketu Mehta, the scion of an Indian
diamond merchant clan, diamond merchants are about the last who ought to
lecture white Americans on their failures of inclusion and diversity.
diamond business is globalist yet intensely nepotistic.
I knew an American woman who got a job in the Los Angeles diamond district but
then went to work for an insurance company due to discrimination against women
have recently pushed Orthodox Jewish diamond businessmen largely out of their
stronghold in Antwerp, Belgium, in part by being more clannish than the
secret to the diamond business is arranged marriages and the threat of
ostracism, as dawned on me while having the diamond ring appraised to make sure
the retailer hadn’t cheated me. The appraiser on Wabash spent about 20 minutes
squinting at it through a microscope before telling me about its microscopic
a big transaction cost. It’s much more efficient to be able to trust somebody
you are doing business with when he tells you orally that the diamond is
flawless. But how do you trust him? Because if he gets a reputation for
cheating his relatives, his children will never find spouses.
But today it is the Mehtas and the Shahs rather than the Epsteins and
Finkelszteins who rule Hoveniersstraat. Indians have come to control almost
three-quarters of Antwerp’s diamond industry, a figure that had been associated
with the Jews only a few decades ago.
Three decades on, the Indian community in Antwerp consists of around 400
families, a majority from the single town of Palanpur in Gujarat.
There are three main ingredients to this Indian success story: cheap
labour, large families and a willingness to work harder than the competition. …
“For us, sending rough diamonds to India for processing isn’t
outsourcing as much as “homesourcing,” Santosh Kedia, owner of the jewelry
company Indigems, quipped over lunch.
… Antwerp’s Indian diamantaires are almost without exception Jains
and, given the religious restrictions on their diet, tend to import personal
cooks from India who are familiar with their particular culinary needs.
taboos are an old way to head off fraternity with outsiders, much less
intermarriage. Sharing a meal with somebody tends to lead toward greater
sympathy, but if sharing a meal is impractical due to food taboos …
In China, I’d had the occasion to try to explain to a Chinese host
the details of this diet in preparation for a dinner party where a few Jains
would be in attendance. The Chinese already struggled with Indian pickiness
when it came to food. Indians, especially upper caste/class ones, delineated
their status by increasingly finicky choices: no meat, no garlic, no onions.
Many, including most Jains, wouldn’t even tolerate a non-vegetarian in the
To the average Chinese for whom status was flagged by the ability
to afford as large a variety of food, the meatier the better, such
discriminations were deeply mystifying.
When I informed the Chinese host that his Jain guests were not
only vegetarian but didn’t eat onions or indeed any kind of root vegetable at
all, the gentleman in question gasped as if in the throes of a painful bout of
indigestion. And I hadn’t even got to the part about the prohibition on green
coloured vegetables on certain days of the religious calendar.
Happily tucking into that steaming-hot rajma in Antwerp, I’d
wondered aloud about how difficult it must have been living in Belgium, given
Jain dietary strictures. I could only imagine the apoplectic reaction of the
typical Belgian waiter to a customer demanding a vegetarian meal, but one
without any carrots, potatoes, garlic or onions.
Aditya Jasani, a sharply dressed youngster in his twenties, whose
father had moved to Antwerp in the 1970s, shook his head. It wasn’t that bad,
he’d said in his generic, international-school accent. “Many of us aren’t very
strict anymore. Some people even eat eggs.”
I’d tried to look suitably impressed at this radical declaration.
… What about the other reasons for the Gujarati’s success in Antwerp, I asked,
steering the conversation back to where it had started.
“It’s our joint-families”, Kedia replied. Joint families refer to
the convention of many family members living together in one house. But what
Kedia meant was the propensity amongst Gujarati Jains to have large,
Dilip Mehta, the CEO of Rosy Blue, an Antwerp-headquartered
company that bills itself as the world’s largest diamond manufacturer, agreed,
when I met him at his office on Hoveniersstraat later in the afternoon. “We
always have the possibility of global distribution because a cousin or nephew
who can blindly be trusted can always be sent to any country to set up
operations,” he explained, leaning into a high-backed leather swivel chair.
That the Jews lacked similar extended families was a major
disadvantage for them, in Mehta’s opinion. Given the global nature of the
trade, he argued that it was necessary for successful diamantaires to have a
reach that extended from the African countries where the diamond mines were
located, to Antwerp where stones were traded, to India and increasingly China,
where cutting and polishing was focused, and finally to the jewelry centers of
the world like New York, Hong Kong, and Dubai. …
“We employ over 10,000 people globally, but a member of the Mehta
family heads every operation,” he said, his eyes crinkling above his beak-like
How integrated into broader Belgian society were the Indians, I
asked him. Did his kids go to Belgian school? Was there any inter-marrying? The
Jains were a notoriously conservative community back in India, and I was
curious about how the decades of living in Belgium had impacted their mores.
“I think our challenge is really to learn how to keep some
distance between ourselves and the Belgians on the one hand, and learn from
them on friendly terms, on the other,” opined Mehta. Most Indians lived in
ghettos he’d said, because nothing in their education back home had equipped
them to deal with living amongst Europeans. They avoided contact with locals
because they were nervous about coming across as unmannered and incompetent. …
But what about the second generation who had been born and
schooled in Antwerp? Mehta said most families sent their kids to
English-speaking international schools, so that only a handful of youngsters
had learnt Flemish, the variant of Dutch spoken in northern Belgium.
Inter-marrying was almost unknown.
Aditya Jasani, the youngster I’d met at lunch earlier confirmed
this. “Most of us still live like expats,” he’d said. “We have one foot here,
but another foot in India. Belgium is for business only. It’s not our home.” …
The best-financed cricket club in Belgium, Blommaert revealed, was
called the Antwerp Indians, whose members comprised the prosperous Gujarati
diamond traders. But instead of using their resources to popularize the sport
within the wider community, the Antwerp Indians didn’t permit anyone not of
Indian origin to join their club. Clearly, promoting integration, even of the
innocent sporting kind, was not a priority for them.