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Company Q&A – Monnickendam Diamonds with director Neil Holness

What is the history of Monnickendam Diamonds?
We’re a family run company that’s been around since 1890. We’re on our fourth generation and fifth due to join in the future. We have been diamond polishers since the beginning and we are one of the few left in the country, it’s a bit of a dying art unfortunately, but in order to remain at the forefront we’ve had quite an investment in modern technology. Diamond polishing is getting more precise due to the requirements of the diamond grading laboratories; as they become more precise we have to raise our game to match their standards. So two sides – the cutting factory and the laboratories are almost in a cold war with each other with raising the standards. But that has a positive, being the product is a lot better for the final consumer, but it does mean we are forever having to keep up.

What changes have you made to keep up with the industry?

The changes are in many forms, ensuring that the actual product is up to the current requirement of the customer. It’s a two way street now; before we were almost in isolation. These days, there is movement with the consumer, with responsible sourcing and things like that. In recognition of that, we have recently become members of the RJC and started to root through the certification process to become certified members. It’s going to present us with a few problems – purely documentation-wise, not the principles.

What is your secret to staying in the business for so long?
I can only answer for the last few years, not the previous hundred or so! Staying alert to the requirements of our customers – what they need and require, be that quality of stone, the way its cut, shapes. Different shapes drift in and drift out of fashion so we have to be reactionary. We can be proactive by ensuring our goods are at the forefront of what current technology can provide.

Do you think you are advantaged to be one of the few polishers left?
It is a constant nag in the back of our minds that we are one of the last, we wish not to be the last. It’s nice to have competition. Set and cutting centers have risen to the forefront but we are specialists in the area. That’s what allows us to maintain our foothold in the UK. That’s not being elitist, it means we can provide more services. We have the ability to cut, polish, trim, prepare goods for the various labs around the world that provide grading services. That’s an aspect of a lot of our competition who are purely diamond merchants are unable to fulfil.

What is Monnickendam’s reputation and how do you uphold it?
What I think our reputation is and what it actually is are two different things. You’d have to ask our clients. I’d cheekily say our clients obviously like us otherwise they wouldn’t be our clients, so we must be doing something right.

You have been featured on TV and in some films this year, how did that come about?
We’ve been quite active this year, we had a film crew in from Japanese national television for a gameshow. Wasn’t quite what we were expecting but it was amusing. We got quite a lot of coverage there through our major Japanese clients. They played an active role throughout the whole process and the film crew were great fun. From what I understand of the Japanese having seen the program and not actually fully understanding it… very funny! Having said that, there were some unique features, one of which, they darkened the complete room and fired a green laser into a polished diamond in the centre of the room and rotated it. The reflections – all I can say is phenomenal. Something I wouldn’t have thought of but in a darkened room you get to see it in a precise fashion.

What does the future hold for Monnickendam?
The One Show came in a couple of weeks back, that piece will be shown shortly but we don’t have a transmission date on that yet. We’ve also been working with Joanna Hardy who was in at the beginning of the week filming. For the future, we hope to be doing exactly what we’re doing currently, only better! At the same time, the trade as a whole never stands still so we have to be aware of trends, ideas and innovations and see how that impacts us or how we can assist in the trade. Being fully alert to what’s going on around us rather than sitting in our little ivory tower.

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