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Artificial gemstone industry losing its sheen

Cheaply available Chinese imports threaten to wipe off once prosperous artificial gem-cutting and polishing industry in Tiruchi-Pudukottai belt.

The industry, tottering for survival now, once employed two to three lakh workers for decades since the pre-Independence era. The decline over the last decade or so has deepened to such levels that even the remaining few hundreds of units could also disappear from the scene in a matter of time, artificial gem manufacturers rue.

“We really wish the boycott of Chinese goods actually materialises, though there are impracticalities involved,” K.P. Annamalai, Secretary of All India Synthetic Diamonds Manufacturers and Dealers Association, said.

The manufacturers here used to import raw materials from China, but could not stand up to Chinese competition since 2000 when Chinese finished products started flooding Indian markets, though the hand-polished gems made in Tiruchi region are of superior quality.

Jewel makers prefer the much-cheaper imported Chinese gem stones made with automated machines unlike in India where the cutting and polishing continues to be manual, Mr. Annamalai said, acknowledging that the industry did not wake up in time to face the challenge.

For survival of the makers of artificial stones in Tirupanjali, Ayyalur and a few other rural parts within the 40-km radius from the city who still cling on to the vocation, 25 manufacturers have now floated the Tiruchi Gemstones Manufacturers' Development Association to form a Common Facility Centre with the support of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Export Council. The CFC would be of help to the industrial units that are not in a position to invest heavily on expensive machinery, Mr. Annamalai also said.

The District Industries Centre (DIC), on its part, has lent its support to the artificial gem stone manufacturers by espousing their cause for a raw material bank.

The facility will be helpful in enabling the manufacturers to face competition, its General Manager S. Kandasamy said.

The Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) has agreed to provide funds, albeit in a small way, with a promise for further funding with progressive results.


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