“Women of the Diamond Industry” focuses on the issue of gender equality along the entire diamond and jewelry supply chain. The series provides a platform for women in the industry to tell their own stories and describe the particular challenges they have faced in their careers.

The 14th article in the series is authored by Wafa Jaffery, Senior Executive-Precious Stones at the Dubai Multi-Commodities Center (DMCC) in the United Arab Emirates.

Becoming empowered,
along with the Dubai diamond industry

Wafa Jaffery, Senior Executive-Precious Stones at the Dubai Multi-Commodities Center (DMCC) in the United Arab Emirates.

Dubai’s meteoric rise to become the world’s premier rough diamond trading hub is a testament to its remarkable journey over the past two decades. From my perspective, it has been nothing short of a transformative odyssey – a narrative woven with determination, resilience and an unwavering commitment to excellence. It has shaped my story as well.

As a proud native of Dubai, with Pakistani roots, my personal identity is deeply intertwined with the city’s rich tapestry of cultures. It’s a blend of which I profoundly feel part of.

Unlike many of my peers, I did not inherit a legacy in the diamond trade, nor did I hail from a family steeped in the traditions of diamantaires. Instead, my pathway into the heart of the diamond industry began as a quest for personal and professional fulfilment. It became a journey marked by grit, passion, and a relentless pursuit of success.

Entering the hallowed halls of the Commodities Department at the Dubai Multi Commodities Center, or DMCC, in 2013 was a pivotal moment. Coming from the banking sector, I brought with me a wealth of experience and a fresh perspective to the table.

Initially, my role encompassed working with various commodities like coffee, tea, agricultural products, gold and precious stones. However, fate had other plans for me. When a key member of DMCC’s personnel departed, leaving a void in the diamond sector, I was asked to step in as a backup. It would alter the course of my career forever.


Not the diamonds, but the people

The challenges that lay ahead were daunting, especially as a woman striving to make her mark in a traditionally male-dominated field. However, armed with an indomitable spirit and a thirst for knowledge, I eagerly seized the opportunity to delve into the complexities of the diamond sector. 

The author, Wafa Jaffery (right), with two of her industry mentors, Ahmed Bin Sulayem (center), Executive Chairman and CEO of the DMCC, who also is the 2024 Chair of the Kimberley Process, and Martin Leake, DMCC’s Special Advisor Precious Stones. 

I immersed myself in this intricate world, and quickly became captivated by the allure of diamonds — their timeless beauty, profound symbolism, and the fascinating stories they held within.

My members became more than just business associates; they became mentors, confidants, and friends. I spent countless hours listening to their experiences, soaking in their wisdom, and gaining invaluable insights into the nuances of the industry.

These interactions were not just transactions — they were transformative moments that shaped my understanding of the diamond trade and solidified my passion for the industry. I gained a deeper appreciation for the challenges and triumphs that define the lives of those who work tirelessly to bring these precious gems to the world.

In building these relationships, I discovered the true essence of the diamond industry — not just as a marketplace of commodities, but as a community of individuals united by a shared passion and dedication to their craft.

As I reflect on those early days and continuing on my journey, I carry with me the lessons learned from these interactions — the importance of humility, empathy, and the power of human connection in steering the complexities of the diamond industry.

Sending the elevator back down

Navigating the labyrinthine complexities of the diamond trade was no easy feat, but with the unwavering support of Dubai’s diamond industry leaders and the formidable team at DMCC led by Executive Chairman and CEO Ahmed Bin Sulayem, I found the strength to persevere.

Surrounded by trailblazing women such as COO Feryal Ahmadi and Director of Precious Metals and Stones Maryam Al Hashemi, and men like Special Advisor Precious Stones Martin Leake, I was buoyed by our collective commitment to diversity, inclusivity and excellence.

Dubai’s cosmopolitan environment, characterised by its rich tapestry of cultures, instilled in me a deep-seated belief in the transformative power of inclusivity. It was within this nurturing environment that I found the courage to dream big and pursue my ambitions, undeterred by the challenges that lay ahead.

My mother, a pillar of strength and resilience, instilled in me the belief that, with determination and perseverance, anything is possible. Empowered by this ethos, I played a pivotal role in the growth of Dubai’s diamond industry, spearheading initiatives to elevate the profile of the Dubai Diamond Exchange (DDE) and championing the cause of global diamond trade bodies.

My journey culminated in being elected as a Member of the Board of the World Diamond Council in 2022, an achievement that underscored the strides I had made in the industry despite starting from humble beginnings.

Wafa Jaffery (left) pictured with WDC Executive Director Elodie Daguzan in December 2023. Ms. Daguzan was in Dubai to run workshops at the DMCC promoting implementation of the revised System of Warranties.

As I reflect on my journey, I am reminded of the importance of “sending the elevator back down” and empowering the next generation of women leaders. It is my fervent hope that my story serves as a beacon of inspiration to aspiring women in the diamond industry, demonstrating that with passion, perseverance, and a steadfast commitment to excellence, anything is possible.

Together, let us pave the way for a future where stories of female success are not the exception, but the norm.

Wafa Jaffery, Senior Executive-Precious Stones at the Dubai Multi-Commodities Center (DMCC)  at the Dubai Diamond Exchange (DDE).

From the series