My Week: Vashi Dominguez of Diamond Manufacturers

Diamond entrepreneur Vashi Dominguez on keeping a low profile, breaking into a closed industry, and why investors should never touch diamonds.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

First thing to know when you are selling diamonds: you have to keep a low profile. When I started out in the trade, I would be carrying up to £10m worth of stones in my briefcase. I learned not to draw attention to myself. Even though I knew the diamonds were insured, I could never sleep in my hotel room.

Now, we sell direct to consumers instead. It's a much better business model: in wholesale, you have to sell on credit terms which is a nightmare for cashflow. But with consumers, they pay up front. And it means I'm never carrying that kind of load any more.

I'm still careful, though. We keep no stones at our official headquarters and I never reveal our real trading address. I also make sure that I avoid fancy suits. We moved offices a little while ago, and just a week after we'd packed up, the place was raided. A Japanese firm had moved in and the office was full of expensive Mac computers. The thieves didn't touch them, they were only after the stones. Luckily for us, we were long gone.

The danger sounds thrilling, but the real reason I got into this business is that I love diamonds. Every week, sometimes every day, we get sent consignments to look at, and as I pour out the stones, I get such a buzz. I'm also completely addicted to growing the business. At the moment, we're doubling our product range from 100 lines to 200, plus we're working on an incredible mobile-optimised website. When I saw the 3D, 360 degree imaging technology, I was just gobsmacked.

It wasn't easy to establish myself in this industry. My background is in electronics and I had a thriving chain of shops in Tenerife, where I was born. But it was too hard to make a profit. Even when you played the volumes game to get a discount on goods, by the time they were shipped out, they had already lost value, and the margin you'd haggled was all but wiped out. So I decided to try diamonds.

I launched the wholesale business in Spain and travelled to the diamond centres - mainly Antwerp in Belgium - to find suppliers. No one would see me. I was thrown out of maybe 200 offices. It's a closed world and we had no heritage, no way in. They would be swearing at us and telling to 'Go back to school'. But we did finally get a break and, five years ago, Diamond Manufacturers was born.

There's been a lot of change in this industry since we've been trading. Good changes and bad. The film Blood Diamond was very interesting for the industry. It really put things into perspective for the end consumer, although to be honest, the reality is far worse than the film. We get our diamonds from conflict-free sources - the same wth our metals. And it's good for business to be able to prove your certification.

The price of diamonds is still going up. Not that it's a business, like gold, that investors can really get involved in. Unless you're in the inner circle, you'll never be able to buy at the right price. And, in diamonds, there are so many quality variables to consider. You've heard of the four C's? Well, that's four out of 100 things you have to look out for in stones. In diamonds, you make money during the buying, not the selling. And I'm an expert at buying at the right price.

Find out more about Diamond Manufacturers

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