Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Illustrious Antwerp Gem Trader Seeks U.S. Bankruptcy Protection

  • Exelco has liabilities of up to $100 million, filing shows
  • Standard Chartered and KBC Bank are among company’s creditors

Diamond trader Exelco NV, one of the industry’s most storied names, has filed for bankruptcy protection in the U.S.

The Antwerp, Belgium-based company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware, listing up to $100 million in liabilities, according to court filings. U.K. bank Standard Chartered Plc and Belgium’s KBC Group NV are among its biggest creditors, according to a separate filing in Belgium.

Exelco declined to comment.

The firm’s financial troubles are another blow to an industry that’s struggling with thin manufacturing margins and the withdrawal of trade finance. Standard Chartered, one of the two leading lenders, last year said that it was exiting the diamond-financing business, while KBC’s Antwerp Diamond Bank, which accounted for about 10 percent of the financing market at its peak, is being wound down.

Read more: How Standard Chartered lost $400 million on risky diamond debt

Exelco lost its status earlier this year as one of De Beers’s 80 or so handpicked customers, known as sightholders, as it had been buying fewer gems from the top producer in recent years. It’s also a supplier to Signet Jewelers Ltd., which has seen sales slump in recent years.

The company owes $35 million to Standard Chartered and $15 million to KBC, according to the filing in Belgium. The firm has between 50 and 99 creditors in total and between $10 million and $50 million in assets, the U.S. filing shows.

Exelco was founded by Leon and Lior Kunstler and Jean Paul Tolkowsky in 1993. Tolkowsky is a scion of one of the industry’s most famous families who made their name cutting the biggest and most expensive gems. Family members include Marcel Tolkowsky, who is seen as the father of the round brilliant diamond cut, and Gabi Tolkowsky, who was chosen by De Beers to cut the 546-carat Golden Jubilee diamond, the largest faceted stone in the world.

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