The following is an article that was printed in the November, 2013 edition of Colorado Serenity magazine.
Welcome to the World of DIAMONDS
By Jo Ann M. Colton
Diamonds represent a multi-faceted business industry like no other and people everywhere are drawn to these exquisite gems. Yet, while most of us know very little about the behind-the-scenes details of the diamond industry, Evergreen’s Danny Alkayam of Daniel Diamonds in Bergen Park has literally grown up in the business.
Alkayam originates from Netanya, Israel, a seacoast town in the northern central district situated on the Sharon coastal plain. The history of Israel’s diamond industry started in 1937 in this town of then 6,000 people and actually parallels the life of Alkayam who was born there in 1941. In fact, his father was the Military Governor of Netanya.
In the early1940s, the mayor of Netanya had come up with an entrepreneurial idea to start a diamond factory in Netanya, which would create employment opportunities and develop the city’s economic growth. His plan worked and Netanya, now synonymous with diamonds, and boasting a current population of about 171,676, became Israel’s “diamond city.”
The De Beers Company in South Africa monopolized the diamond trade and was considered the CSO (Central Selling Organization) for the diamond industry. Diamond factories would get the rough diamonds from the De Beers Company and then cut, polish, and finish them into saleable diamonds.
Through its power, and at its discretion, De Beers held the right to sell diamonds to whomever they wanted. The company would only sell diamonds to “member” factories. So in order to buy from the CSO, factories were required to sign contracts to gain membership as a “sightholder.” The CSO also dictated the quality and price of the product being sold. There was no form of negotiation between the company and its “sightholders”—all transactions were on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.
The CSO would visit individual factories and twice a year they would sell them a box of “rough” based on the factory size (number of employees), the diamond-cutting expertise of the workers, etc. In essence, it would fit the factory’s ability to cut the stones with the amount of rough it would allow them to purchase.
“For example, they used to give the small stones to the factories in India because labor was cheap there. Large stones were given to factories in New York because the labor part was not so important with big stones. “It was a very sophisticated process,” said Alkayam.
Around 1944-45, Alkayam’s uncle, one of the young men who started working in the local factory, soon followed a different path when he, and some of his friends, formed a co-op wherein they used their own money to build their own factory, buy the rough, and then cut and sell it. Everything was going great until one morning his uncle went to his factory and found the safe had been broken into and all the diamonds were gone. Although his uncle, now 90 years old, continued working in the business, he never recovered from the financial and emotional loss. Thereafter, other area factories were also robbed at one time or another so the matter of security became very important. As a result, there was a need to create a place where diamond dealers, diamond cutters, and anyone who was part of the business could be under one roof and conduct their business in a secure environment.
“So in 1961 they built the Shimshon Tower, a 24-story high-rise building in Ramat-Gan, near Tel Aviv— the tallest one in Israel at the time. The Israel Diamond Exchange, the largest in the world, with over 2800 members, now operates from a complex of four buildings,” said Alkayam who makes frequent trips to Israel’s Diamond Exchange District.
“The buildings are connected by bridges creating one complex, which contains the world’s largest diamond trading floor, 1000 office rooms, restaurants, banks, post and package delivery services, laboratories, a customs office, synagogue—and more,” he explained. “It’s like a city within a city. Not only do you not have to go outside to get from one building to another, but members don’t have to go out at all until they go home at night. Also, diamond dealers all over the world, including the United States, seal their diamond deals with a handshake and with the two Hebrew words ‘mazal u’bracha’ (may the deal be with luck & blessings).”
Growing up surrounded by family and friends in the diamond industry, Danny Alkayam developed an acute sense for high quality gemstones. His knowledge of the world diamond market was further increased during his travels abroad as a professional member of the Israeli National Soccer Team. Alkayam went on to say that his cousin’s diamond office is located on the thirteen floor of the second tower, the Maccabee, named for the soccer team that played (as did Danny himself) in the stadium once located where the building now stands.
Alkayam moved to the United States in 1975 to play professional soccer in Los Angeles and he and his team won the U.S. Open. In return for his services they gave him a Scholarship to Pepperdine University (in Malibu) from where he graduated. He met his wife Karen in Houston, Texas where they established Daniel Diamonds in 1981. Originally a diamond importer and manufacturer, Daniel Diamonds earned its impeccable reputation by providing quality goods for over 250 stores in the Southwestern United States. After spending years on the road selling diamonds and jewelry, Danny and Karen fell in love with the beauty and lifestyle of Colorado and opened their “crown jewel” store in Evergreen in 1994. In 2010, Daniel Diamonds moved to its new award winning location in The Diamond Building on Bergen Parkway where it serves customers from all over the United States.
Diamonds come in all shapes (round, princess, radiant, etc.), but the beauty of each is truly based on the buyer’s personal preference. Diamond weight is measured in “carats” and the origin of the word comes from “keration,” the Greek meaning of fruit of the Carob tree, which is native to the Mediterranean region. The seeds of the Carob, usually uniform in size, were used on precision scales as units of weight for small quantities of precious gemstones. The weight of an average carob seed and a metric carat are the same—200 milligrams; therefore, the larger the diamond, the greater its’ carat weight. While carat refers to a diamond’s weight, buyers should also be concerned with the clarity of the stone. Almost all diamonds have some tiny flaws, but those with the least imperfections receive the highest clarity grades. Further, a diamond’s color grade actually refers to the lack of color. In other words, diamonds with little or no color receive higher quality grades than those with visible color. Last, but not least, when it comes to the sparkle that we all associate with diamonds, be aware that it’s the cut that determines its brilliance and the better the cut, the more it will glimmer!
Alkayam comes in personal contact with thousands of diamonds each month. Further, because he buys product directly from his cousin at the Israel Diamond Exchange he can buy high-quality diamonds at prices much lower than Internet sources or those store operations that must bear middle-man costs on top of product costs. As such, these savings are passed on to his customers.
“With my family in the diamond business in Israel [his cousin was also born in Netanya], we have the contacts, so if they see a stone they know I’m looking for, they put it aside. I’m able to get what diamonds my customers want. Also, because of these contacts, we’re able to keep our prices low but the quality high,” said Alkayam.
Danny Alkayam’s tip for people in the market for diamonds is this: “Instead of running around and trying to find the lowest-cost diamond, especially if you don’t know much about diamonds, find someone that you can trust and work with him. He will take care of you.”
Daniel Alkayam believes in relationships and in educating his customers by explaining and showing them everything they need to know. Consequently, when they make a decision to buy a diamond they are making it based on some knowledge and not just because he told them so. A clear-cut, brilliant philosophy indeed! After all, “diamonds are forever” so it is very important to choose them wisely.
Daniel Diamonds is located in The Diamond Building in Bergen Park, 31955 Castle Court, #1N, Evergreen. Karen and Danny’s daughter, Kellie Alkayam, who also “grew up in the business,” joined the company in 2009. She possesses Karen’s creativity and Danny’s impeccable taste to design fresh, unique pieces for the store. Store hours are Monday-Friday: 10:00am-5:30; Saturday: 10:00am-4:00 pm; Sunday: CLOSED. Visit the web site at www.danieldiamonds.com for a complete list of products and services. Contact Danny, Karen or Kellie Alkayam at 303-674-6673.