With more than 100 years in the industry, Monnickendam is one of the oldest and largest sellers of polished diamonds in the UK. Neil Holness, director of the company, talks to us about the company’s offering
hen was the company founded?
We were set up in 1890 by Gary Monnickendam’s great-grandfather in Amsterdam. The company moved to Brighton in 1913, where the cutting factory employed some 40 people. Subsequently, we then moved the cutting factory into the basement of our current set of offices in London. We can cut large pieces of rough from 100-carat and more, all the way down to trimming jobs weighing only a couple of points. We are a start to finish company when it comes to cutting and polishing, some firms will only be able to do certain aspects of cutting from rough but we have the facilities and expertise to do everything.
What technology do you use?
We have invested in modern of equipment, including a Sarine machine, technology which allows us to work from rough or an existing polished stone – one that may be damaged or requires re-polishing work. A Sarine is a very useful piece of kit, which enables us to achieve an awful lot for the client, getting the maximum value out of a stone. Experience counts for a lot, and sometimes an experienced cutter can do the same if not a little better than the machine, however these machines generally give you a lot more freedom and alternatives that you wouldn’t necessarily have thought about beforehand. Where requested this includes working to specific laboratory grading standards, whether the client wants ‘excellent’ cut or ‘very good’, or symmetry as well. We have a very strong relationship with the GIA and we work with them to resolve any issues that may arise. By understanding their standards and grading criteria, we are able to work with the GIA to achieve the best possible result for any given diamond.
You also supply loose polished diamonds?
We have a loose polished operation, which we supply anything from 0.7mm rounds – smaller than a pinhead – all the way through to 5-carat plus with the quality predominantly G-colour and better and SI1 and better. We hold a complete range of all the fancy shaped-diamonds as well. Our 70-pointers and above always come with a GIA dossier, though a proportion of our diamond stock from 0.30ct also have GIA Dossiers, while 1-carat plus stones are accompanied by a GIA Grading Report.
The diamonds are sourced in adherence to the Kimberley Process, how important is that for your customers?
Yes, all the rough we process is in strict adherence of the Kimberley Process. If you’re not in adherence with the Kimberley Process and all of the UN resolutions, it’s an easy way to destroy your business very quickly. It’s not an onerous process at all, it’s very straightforward. The ethics of diamond supply are, and quite rightly so, very important to our clients.
You also offer sales training to jewellery retailers, why is that important for retail staff?
There is more information easily available today and clients are a lot more savvy in the terminology of diamonds. So, when a salesperson is speaking to a client, they have to know and express this knowledge in a comfortable and confident manner, otherwise there is potential for the client will go away thinking ‘they know nothing’. Retailers are knowledgeable about the product they are selling and that’s something we are happy to encourage and assist wherever we can. An educated client will always feel more comfortable purchasing an expensive product when they have confidence and veracity of the information being provided.
How have you found the market over the past 12 months or so?
There are always busier periods within the year and periods that are a little more “relaxed”, but we have yet to have two years follow exactly the same pattern. January and February was exceptional for us, then it was quieter for the next few months, but post-Brexit it has gone absolutely bananas. This is traditionally one of our busy periods anyway, because many large retailers are gearing up for their Christmas orders, but right now it’s extremely busy and our figures are well up on previous years.