In 1954, after the Diamond Manufacturers and Importers Association of America had just passed its 20th birthday, Aaron Koenig wrote of the group: “It is common and accepted knowledge that as individuals there is practically nothing one can do about industry wide problems. As a member of a well-organized and live organization, much can be accomplished. Our Association has been recognized as the official spokesman for the diamond importers and manufacturers in the United States. [It] is one powerful voice speaking for and on behalf of each of its members.”

These words were reprinted in the booklet for the Diamond Manufacturers and Importers Association of America’s 50th anniversary celebration.

It is now 61 years later. And those words ring more true than ever.

From the beginning, the DMIA has been a unique kind of association. Other groups may have luxurious offices and paid employees, but the DMIA has no full-timers on its payroll and only recently established its first office in 580 Fifth Avenue. For more than 80 years, almost all the group’s work has been done by volunteers – including everything, from Washington lobbying trips to the representing the DMIA in the international realm. Those volunteers are among the most-respected and biggest names in the industry – but they are also people who care about their industry and want to make a difference.

The DMIA has a rich legacy: It helped stop Congress from banning South African diamonds during the apartheid era. Years later, it managed another political controversy, handling fall-out from the “conflict diamond” issue. It has been a continuous and consistent voice for consumer protection, on such issues as mandatory disclosure of fracture-filling, laser drilling, HPHT and other treatments of natural diamonds, and, of course, the nomenclature and disclosure of synthetic diamonds.

The United Diamond Manufacturers Association (UDMA) was created in the height of the Depression, before World War II, before De Beers ever used the slogan “A Diamond is Forever,” and in the same year as another American trade institution, the Diamond Dealers Club. As the industry expanded, and the New York trade diversified, the UDMA changed its name to the Diamond Manufacturers and Importers Association of America. Yet, its mandate never changed: representing the interests of the American diamond trade before the industry, the U.S. government, and the world.

Much of its work has been on matters that are seemingly mundane but have had a big impact, including work with Customs Department, banks, and the GIA. As former general counsel Louis Frankel wrote in 1951, “A trade association’s true record is not only its notable accomplishments, but also the total of many seemingly ‘little things’ undertaken in the course of week-to-week and month-to-month activities.”

“We have a lot of behind the scenes discussions with important players who may not be familiar with our industry,” notes Jeffrey Fischer, a former DMIA president and a Honorary President of IDMA. “When people want to talk to knowledgeable professionals, we play an important role.”

Yet on the big issues, the DMIA has been there too. In the 1980s, there was talk that Congress was considering banning South African diamonds. DMIA officials ventured up to Capitol Hill to give Congressmen their heartfelt version of what such a ban would mean to their industry.

“We weren’t professional lobbyists, but we just went there and told them to the truth,” said Alan Kleinberg, a trip participant and a former DMIA president. “And they actually listened to us.”

When the Federal Trade Commission was rewriting its Guides for the jewelry Industry, it was with major input from the DMIA. Unlike other industries which fight government regulation, the DMIA insured that major consumer protection provisions were included in the Guides, including disclosure of fracture filling. For many years, the DMIA disagreed with including laser drilling in the Guides, feeling it was part of the polishing process. Later, officials agreed that disclosure of drilling was part of best trade practice.

In 1997, the DMIA played a key role in a now-famous IDMA resolution at the World Diamond Congress in Singapore, which declared: “Single-channel marketing has failed.” It was a brave thing to do, as many DMIA officials were sightholders, and signing that resolution put their livelihood in jeopardy. Yet today it’s looked at as one of the milestones that led De Beers to reconsider the “single channel” concept.

As the 20th century drew to a close, the “conflict diamond” issue erupted. As the world’s leading consumer market, America was a key battleground between the industry and the NGOs. The DMIA stepped to the plate. It played a key role in the formation of the World Diamond Council (WDC), and worked -and continues to work – with NGOs and other industry groups to insure America’s compliance with the Kimberley Process and minimize any damage to the industry’s reputation. Under immediate past president Ronny Friedman, the intensity of the DMIA’s exchanges with Washington’s Capitol Hill increased and ongoing discussion with the federal government on chain of custody and other diamond-industry related issues have proven to be very fruitful and effective.

Under the stewardship of incumbent DMIA president Ronnie VanderLinden, the DMIA continues to represent the interests of America’s diamond industry and trade, both nationally as well as internationally. Ronnie is Secretary General of the International Diamond Manufacturers Association since 2010 and in May 2014 was re-elected to the board of the World Diamond Council. He is currently an active discussion partner in the Precious Stones Multi-Stakeholder Working Group (PSMSWG) that was established in 2013 under the auspices of the United Nations and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Of course, the DMIA isn’t just a business organization – it’s a social one. It’s always had a reputation as an informal, friendly, and open group, and many cherish it as a forum to meet other industry members, and, occasionally, enjoy a fun social event. Paul Bialo, a former DMIA president, was known to have said that while social events have never been a big priority of the group, “We’ve had some real doozies.”


Click here to view the booklet of the DMIA’s 50th anniversary

Click here to view the booklet of the DMIA’s Yearbook of 1958

Click here to view the booklet of the DMIA’s 75th anniversary

Click here to watch the DMIA movie made on occasion of DMIA’s 75h Anniversary – and in honor of Jack Roisen en William Goldberg

Click here to watch “A program for the Diamond Industry – Legal issues relating to memos, consignments, secured transactions, UC and bankruptcy.”