The Indian port city of Surat was already a thriving metropolis for commerce reaching back to the early 17th century – at least. Legendary French explorer and gem merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier wrote extensively of this locale, describing Surat vividly as the crucial entry point for European traders. Business was ongoing for India’s coveted spices, cotton, silk, gold, silver, copper threads, and not the least, diamonds. At this time, India was the sole source for all diamond mining.
City of Commerce – An Ancient Surat
Then in the early 18th century, India was propelled to become known as a global diamond trading center, thanks to the Portuguese who were colonial masters for the newer diamond mining efforts in Brazil and the Indian port of Goa.
The Foundational Setting for Diamonds
Surat’s diamond story really took off in 1900 when two entrepreneurial brothers began diamond cutting and polishing in Surat following their return from South Africa. But It took another half century for the brother’s vision to be realized as becoming a large scale industry.
Prior to 1940, large scale diamond cutting, and polishing was done in Yangon, Myanmar (Rangoon, Burma). When the Japanese invaded Burma, those diamond artisans fled back to their hometown of Surat-Navsari, Gujarat, India. This caused a seismic shift of merchant’s sending rough diamonds to Surat rather than to Rangoon.
The Situation Now
Today the global diamond industry has come to rely on Surat, the 2nd largest city in India’s Gujarat province, as the place for polishing crystals in great volume. Nicknamed The Diamond City, it’s one of the cleanest places in all of India.
In the 21st century, Surat is celebrated for being at the core of more diamond manufacturing than any other place in the world. If you have had a diamond polished in the last several decades, chances are it passed through Surat on its journey to the manufacturer or retailer. It is claimed that over 90% of all diamond cutting and polishing anywhere on earth occurs in Surat. To make that happen, there are over 5,000 diamond factories (some estimate the number to be more like 8,000) of all sizes from the smallest family run efforts to the largest factories that call this port-city home.
Lab Goods on the Rise
While it’s not the only business taking place there, diamonds are what drives the wealth of the region. But with younger consumers favoring lab grown products over the past few years, these goods are flooding into Surat for polishing too. By summer of 2022, 25 – 30% of Surat’s diamond polishing units were servicing lab-grown diamonds. About 15% of its polishing units are solely operating for lab-grown goods.
Global forecaster Oxford Economics projects Surat to be one of the Top 10 Fastest Growing cities by GDP in the next 2 decades. And they predict, the world’s fastest economic growth will be seen right there in Surat – The Diamond City.