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Eternal values in Malaya Bronnaya Street

05 june 2017

nikolay_vasilenko_xxe2.jpgboris_borisov_xxe2.jpgThe assay supervision in Russia is 317 years old. Much younger is the Moscow Gemological Certification Centre (MGCC) established under the Assay Chamber and located in the same ancient respectable mansion at 18, Malaya Bronnaya Street. The MGCC employees’ mission is to assess the value of eternal precious gems – diamonds and emeralds - and make conclusions about their quality and peculiar features.

We discussed this and other topics with the MGCC top executives: Professor Nikolay Vasilenko, Head of the Centre, the 1st class Counselor of State of the RF, Honoured Economist of the RF, and Boris Borisov, his deputy. 

When and why was the Gemological Centre set up under the Assay Chamber of Russia?

Nikolay Vasilenko: From olden times, jewellery attracted all types of criminals and swindlers, and lately, it has become more difficult to ensure a fair deal: the techniques of gems treatment have been developed (annealing, impregnation, radiation…), the methods of precious stone synthesis have been developed and used in their production. It is quite possible to get a synthetic or treated gem from a swindler passed off as a more expensive natural one.

That is why the expert gemologists are required who are independent from the manufacturers, traders and customers and they should use both the classical and up-to-date physical approaches to test and diagnose the gems.

Boris Borisov: The Certification Centre as a branch of the Assay Chamber was established in 2001 to carry out voluntary certification and expert evaluation of polished diamonds and – since the middle of the last year – of emeralds. Our experts verify the origin of the gems and evaluate their qualitative and quantitative characteristics.


Who are your experts? Who are they to make evaluations?

NV: We have got six experts including the senior expert – all of them have higher mineralogical education and graduated from the ANO DPO (autonomous non-commercial organization of supplementary vocational education) Gemological Institute and qualified according to the regulations of the System of voluntary certification of cut precious stones. They have a command of the main methods of gemological and instrumental diagnostics and were practically trained at PO Kristall, Almazyuvelireksport, Brillianty ALROSA company and other organizations.

BB: The Moscow Gemological Certification Centre, a branch of the Russian State Assay Chamber under the Ministry of the RF, is a state body on the certification in the System of voluntary certification of cut precious stones and is accredited for the technical competence and independence by the Analitika Association, a member of the ILAC (International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation). The Centre has been operating for 16 years and it is worth noting that the consumers apply to the MGCC for the confirmation of compliance, expert evaluation or identification on the voluntary basis except for the cases when the certificate is required by law, when selling cut polished diamonds and emeralds to physical persons in retail chains.

It is known that there exists a national standard GOST on the polished diamonds made of natural non-treated rough diamonds to provide the polished diamond customers in Russia with quality goods and protect the customers’ interests. What is this standard?

NB: National standard GOST R 52913 – 2008 specifies the polished diamond classification, standardizes its characteristics, specifies technical requirements regarding the polished diamonds cut and is supported by a set of polished diamonds samples regarding their colours, this set is approved at the state level. The introduction of the national standard nationwide will ensure the conditions for the use of uniform terminology and classification, today it is a critical task. The MGCC introduced the above national standard into the documents of the Certification System and purchased the required sets of reference samples.

BB: Besides, the MGCC uses the Standard of the Assay Chamber of Russia for polished diamonds technical requirements and classification that is based on the international system. The Centre has completed all the work required for the certification of the polished diamonds according to the international standards, and the fact that the Ministry of Finance approved the tariffs for this certification means the official approval for carrying out this work at the MGCC.

What is the procedure of the polished diamonds testing and certification?

NB: To obtain reliable results, the tests at the MGCC are performed separately by two independent experts. The third authorized expert compares the results of these parallel tests and makes his final decision on which the Compliance Certificate is based on. When necessary, additional studies of the gems are carried out.

What equipment is used for this?

BB: The Centre uses both the classical gemological and up-to-date equipment as well as the spectral measurement instruments (infrared and Raman spectrometers). In order to ensure the required equipment accuracy and its compliance with the technical requirements, all the measurement instruments are checked every year at the Federal Budgetary Organization State Regional Centre for Standardization, Metrology and Testing (FBO Rostest-Moskva).

To certify the quality characteristics of a polished diamond (colour and fluorescence), the working standards for colour and fluorescence made of natural diamonds are used, and for the certification of emeralds, the emerald working standards are used. Our Centre also provides a precise description of the unique fancy colour polished diamonds.

To ensuring the uniformity of measurements, the Centre compares the reference samples of the cut gems as for their colour with the sets of other organizations having the sets of original provenance. So, last year, the comparison of the MGCC reference samples of polished diamonds (colour) was made with those of the Brillianty ALROSA company that purchased them from the Gemological Institute of America, GIA. Also, the emerald samples were compared as for their colour (Russian Technical Specifications) with the samples of the Gohran of Russia.

After testing, the certified cut precious stone is placed into a plastic box, the print of the System Conformance Mark is made in the corners of the box when it is sealed. When opening the box, its integrity is violated. Blister packs popular in the West are also used. The customers choose the type of packing and the Centre takes no payment for it, unlike the commercial laboratories.

The Moscow Gemological Certification Centre uses the Compliance Certificate forms printed on the watermark paper having a ‘V’ protection level.

In addition to the Compliance Certificate for a polished diamond or a parcel of gems, the Centre can provide an expert’s report. Exactly what kind of an expert’s report?

NV: An Expert Report, including the Gemological Report, can be obtained for loose and studded cut polished diamonds. It can contain both a full range of characteristics and separate parameters& characteristics upon a customer’s request. It is provided the same day when it was applied for, if possible.

The Ministry of Finance of the RF approved the amount to be charged in 2017 for the services provided by the Assay Chamber of Russia and its branch on the state certification of polished diamonds and emeralds. The size of duty for the expert evaluation and gemological evaluation of cut precious stones (polished diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires and alexandrites) are approved by the Governmental Regulation of the RF and all the sums, payments and duties are transferred to the federal budget of the Russian Federation.

For the first time, the new tariffs specify an additional payment for the polished diamonds certification according to the international classification system in an amount of 35% to the existing tariffs for the certification according to the national classification system. An additional payment for the polished diamonds certification according to these two classification systems (international and national) is set in an amount of 50% to the existing tariffs for the certification according to the national classification system.

Generally, our prices are on the average 2 – 3 times less than those in the similar commercial gemological laboratories.

Has the Centre enough orders for the certification of gems? Who are your clients?

NV: On the whole, the Centre doesn’t have any special problems with the orders. Sometimes, there happens some shortage, especially in the beginning of a year, during public holidays and vacations, but the situation improves soon.

Such large-scale companies like AK ALROSA and its subsidiary Brillianty ALROSA are among our clients. For example, last year  at the International Economic Forum in the Far East the Company sold rough and polished diamonds for US$3.5 mln, including above 200 polished diamonds certified by the MGCC’s experts – and these were sold out in no time. This year, we certified 170 gems manufactured by Brillianty ALROSA. We also have orders from large jewelers like OOO Brillianty Yakutii, Kaliningradsky Yantarny Kombinat located in the settlement of Malyshevka, Sverdlovsk Region, where emeralds are produced, as well as Lazurit D, jewellery house Kristall Mechty, etc.

Well, recently the Centre has started the certification of emeralds. Please tell us about this.

BB: It is a new line of our Centre activities – it was launched in mid-2016 and is very promising. A growing number of emerald-stud jewellery appears on the Russian jewellery market and the orders for their certification are constantly mounting at the Centre. In H2 last year, we certified above 300 such gems. They are mainly large stones from 1 to 5 carats that look eye-catchingly in jewellery.

What plans has the Centre for the future?

NV: We are rather optimistic about the Centre’s prospects. The Centre has gone through all the stages of setting up and development. We faced some difficulties but now they are behind. We have highly qualified personnel, and as for the equipment, we need to buy two - three supplements to our basic instruments which will allow us wider possibilities in testing the studs and make the determination of their quality and characteristics more reliable – taking into consideration the wider use of diamond synthesis technologies and treatment.  We hope it will result in higher number of orders.

This year, the Ministry of Finance approved their new regulation on the FSI Assay Chamber of Russia according to which our Centre was approved as a branch of the Assay Chamber alongside with other branches – assay supervision inspections.

All the employees of the Centre are governed in their activities by the regulations of the Moscow Gemological Certification Centre’s Code of Honour approved by the Centre. We as the representatives of the state organization whose tariffs are not connected with the results of tests and expert evaluations, see our mission to protect the consumers, and in our work we ensure the reliability, accuracy and credibility.

Galina Semyonova for Rough&Polished


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