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Diamond imports sparkle

China's imports of diamonds rose to a record high in the first half of the year despite gloomy overseas markets as sparkling demand from Chinese newlyweds gave a boost, the Shanghai Diamond Exchange said yesterday.

The import value of polished diamonds gained 12.7 percent in the first six months to top US$300 million from a year ago, said the exchange which is the country's sole bourse for diamond trading.

It attributed the strong growth in imports to China's recovering economy, robust retail sales and newlyweds' passion for diamonds.

China's economy grew 7.1 percent in the first half, and the second quarter expanded by a stronger 7.9 percent. Retail sales rose 15 percent in the first half.

While traditional diamond trading centers such as Belgium, India and Israel have seen sluggish trading in the first six months of the year, Shanghai sparkled with its strong growth, the bourse said. China is the world's third-biggest diamond market.

China cut the value-added tax on imported polished diamonds from 17 percent to 4 percent from July 1, 2006, while VAT is not imposed on imported rough diamonds. Since 2002, customs duty have been waived on rough and polished stones traded on the exchange.


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