Diamonds (illustration)
Diamonds (illustration)Nati Shohat/Flash 90

Diamond exports from Israel rose slightly in 2014, despite a general slowdown in the global trade of precious stones, an Israeli official said Tuesday.

Israel exported some $9.32 billion of polished and rough diamonds in 2014, up from $9.16 billion a year earlier, according to data from the economy ministry.

Based on the overall Israeli export figures for 2013, which totaled $56.8 billion, diamonds account for just over 16% of all exports.

Imports of both polished and rough diamonds were approximately $8.5 billion in 2014, with traders reporting "very small profitability
margins," or even losses, the statement said.

Israel is one of the top four diamond trading nations in the world.

Shmuel Mordechai, diamond controller at the ministry, said the slow growth in figures might have some connection to the Hamas terror war over the summer, but primarily is due to the downwards global trend in the industry.

Mordechai said 2014 was "one of the most difficult" for the industry due to the decline in the luxury market as a result of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the downward trend in the Chinese economy, among other factors.

Israel does not mine its own stones, importing them primarily from Africa, as well as from Australia and Canada, trader Jon Hadi said.

Nearly two-thirds of polished diamonds from Israel were exported to the United States and Hong Kong - 38% and 30% respectively - with other major importers including Belgium at 8.5%, Switzerland at 6.5% and the UK at 3.7%.

In the 1960s and 1970s Israel had a vibrant diamond-cutting industry, but that died out as the industry migrated to the Far East, with most of the 22,000 Israelis employed in the field as traders.

Mordechai said there were plans to revive the cutting industry in Israel by training 500-600 new tradesmen.

AFP contributed to this report.