David Block was asleep at home in the picturesque central Israeli village of Ben Shemen when Hamas’s October 7 attack began early that Saturday morning. A rocket siren woke the Sarine Technologies CEO. As the day unfolded, more information trickled in about what transpired to be the bloodiest day in the country’s history. Current estimates put the death toll at 1,200.
By the evening, it was clear Israel was in a bitter war. Sarine called a meeting of managers. They decided to keep the offices closed on Sunday, which is usually a workday. But while the company is responding appropriately to the crisis situation, Block tells Rapaport News, this is no time to shut off from the world.
Line of fire
Sarine is the world’s best-known supplier of manufacturing and other equipment to the global diamond industry. While the company is listed on the Singapore Exchange, its headquarters are in Hod Hasharon, about 15 kilometers northeast of Tel Aviv. Israel is home to its global management and operations team as well as much of its research and development (R&D). The company has a service center inside the Israel Diamond Exchange (IDE) in Ramat Gan.
Its widely used Galaxy machines for mapping rough — as well as other devices — are produced at an industrial site in Ramat Dalton, little more than 5 kilometers from the Lebanese border. Most of these end up at manufacturing units in Surat, India, which use them to plan their cutting and polishing.
All offices are now open, and employees are coming in “according to the situation,” a spokesperson said. This, despite Hod Hasharon and Ramat Gan being in the line of Hamas rocket fire from Gaza, and Dalton being near the danger zone for Hezbollah’s projectiles.
Still, a company in Sarine’s position cannot take a break at a time like this. Its technology is increasingly focused on how to track diamond provenance — an issue that has never been so prominent.
“From a development point of view, we’re trying to keep things as normal as possible,” says Block. “A lot of our teams can work from home on the R&D side. Some need to come into the offices for the…hardware side. We’re trying to keep things on track as much as possible.”
With the Group of Seven (G7) discussing ways of restricting trade in Russian diamonds amid the ongoing war in Ukraine, Sarine has been working with different entities to help contribute to a solution.
In a timely move, Sarine announced on October 31 that its Autoscan Plus product — an upgrade to its existing Autoscan technology for enabling diamond traceability — had secured its first client, with Dubai-based tender house Stargems recently taking delivery of a system. The equipment lets users register large volumes of diamonds onto the origin-tracking program at the point of production or rough sale.
It was also noteworthy that the inaugural customer for the system was in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Block says there has been no impact on relations with clients in Arab countries, even amid diplomatic tensions over Israel’s military response to the Hamas attacks.
“I can’t say that there is a huge clientele…in Arab countries,” Block notes. “We work closely with Dubai, of course. We’re actually, I think, the first Israeli diamond company to have operations in Dubai…. We’ve got quite a lot of clients over there. There haven’t been any negative aspects at this point in time.”
Sarine has been flexible with employees who wish to volunteer their services to help the war effort, aside from those officially enlisted for army service, Block says. The company has also organized volunteering, such as packing first-aid kits.
The logistical impact of the war on business has been similar to during the Covid-19 pandemic, Block says. Flights in and out of Israel are limited, with few airlines serving the country, but the company won’t let that stop its activities.
“Getting things out of Israel is challenging with flights, but we’re finding the ways to do so, just like we did in Covid,” the executive says. “We’re trying to keep business as normal as possible. We’ve got clients out there that we need to continue supporting and serving. We have a very robust infrastructure outside of Israel, which we can use — and do use — to help deal with what we’re doing.”
Achieving this is more complicated than usual and takes longer, Block acknowledges. Yet the wider difficulties the diamond industry has seen in recent months are more significant than the effects of the war, he says.
“There are challenges that result from the impact of the events of Saturday morning a month ago,” he asserts. “But I would say that, as of today, they are less of an impact as compared to the industry challenges.”
Main image: A worker at Sarine’s service center in Ramat Gan, Israel. (Sarine Technologies)