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Ayelet Lerner: Building Networks

Updated: Feb 3

Confession time… as journalists, we tend to focus on the big companies that make big announcements. But really, the more interesting and impactful stories come from the underdog. Not that my friend Ayelet Lerner is an underdog. But she tends to do things under the radar – and she tends to make a difference. In fact, it occurred to me during our long overdue catch up how endearingly unassuming she is.

I first met Ayelet back in 2015 when I was looking for interesting people to interview for a profile series we were doing on @Rapaport’s She fit the bill as a key initiator of a small group of diamantaires under 40 who had organized themselves in Antwerp to forge networking opportunities. The project demonstrated that, despite popular perception, there is continuity in the diamond trade and a dynamic next generation driven to engage in the industry.

Ayelet was the spokesperson for the burgeoning Young Diamantaires (YD) group, which at the time was Antwerp focused. It is largely to her credit, along with those other early organizers, that YD has morphed into the global networking group it is today.

Ayelet’s involvement seemed the perfect answer to the argument that the next generation is not coming into the industry. After all, she is a fifth generation Antwerp diamantaire, for heaven’s sake! Her diamond line extends to both sides of her family, stemming back to 1890 and journeying through Poland, Antwerp, Cuba, and New York. Talk about credentials! And she’s super driven and passionate about the industry and the family business she now runs – Lerner Diamonds.

Diamonds were not her intended path mind you. She learned media and social studies at university overseas but was lured back to Antwerp by her father around 2003 to join the business. She initially took a brief diamond course to learn the trade, after which her father told her to “forget everything they taught you, here is where your education in begins.”

And what better mentors than her parents who had built a steady business since the early eighties largely based on relationships – essentially a buying office. American buyers would come to Antwerp and the Lerners would help them navigate the city with all their needs, be it showing them goods, introductions, or buying goods on their behalf.

But, as we know, the industry shifted in 2008 when the financial crisis changed the way the industry operated. Buyers were traveling with lower budgets as retailers kept smaller inventory and activity shifted online. The Lerners did two things to pivot: they widened their network beyond the US, particularly in Europe, and doubled down on strengthening relationships by showing their customers that they’re building something together.

And that has been Ayelet’s focus while running the business over the last few years. Rather than chase the last buck, it’s a slow burn to show added value through the care and knowledge they’ve nurtured over the decades, that her jeweler clients / partners appreciate.

Within the industry, that should hardly be surprising, considering her previous work with YD, having volunteered for the Women’s Jewelers Association, and her current involvement in Women’s Diamond Circle. And all that while being a single mom!

I love that Ayelet is in my network and that she’s a phone call away the next time I’m in Antwerp so that we can catch up in person over a coffee. Meanwhile, everyone should take the opportunity to meet Ayelet.

This article first appeared on LinkedIn in July 2022.

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