“In the jewellery art, we express our feelings, emotions and share them with others”

Over 30 years, the MOISEIKIN company based in the Ural area has become a famous jewellery brand. The jewellery and souvenirs of this jewellery house made of precious and semi- precious stones and metals are displayed at museums and in private collections...

20 march 2023

Automatic double upgrade of diamonds is not only a questionable practice but could be systemic fraud – Meeus

HRD Antwerp is under investigation by Belgian authorities following allegations that for every Gemological Institute of America (GIA) stone, which entered their lab for certification an automatic upgrade would be given two colours up and one...

13 march 2023

"At House of Ashish Vijay, diamonds and coloured gemstones will only ever mean stones that carry a storied legacy"

Ashish Vijay, a Dubai-based investor, philanthropist, entrepreneur and businessman with decades of experience in the precious gemstone and luxury jewellery industry, finance and investments sectors, set up his business in Dubai in the year 2013. As the...

06 march 2023

KP should remodel its enforcement, accountability mechanisms if it wants to remain relevant - Fula-Ngenge

The African Diamond Council (ADC) is calling on the Kimberley Process (KP) to remodel its enforcement and accountability mechanisms if it wants to remain relevant and effective. ADC chairperson M’zée Fula-Ngenge told Rough&Polished’s...

27 february 2023

Why ODC is taking longer to sell the polished Okavango blue diamond?

Okavango Diamond Company (ODC), a rough diamond marketing company that is wholly owned by the Botswana government, took an extraordinary decision to polish the 20.46-carat Okavango blue diamond recovered at Debswana’s Orapa Mine in 2018. It was...

20 february 2023

“Programme 7” and polished diamond generic marketing

13 march 2023

According to the Belgian Ministry of Economy, in January 2023, Belgium imported €132 million worth of Russian rough diamonds, which was higher than the €97 million in January 20221. But it was in January 2023 that Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told the world that “Russian diamonds are blood diamonds”. Perhaps, such an original combination of trading practices and political declarations indicates De Croo’s intention to run for the presidency of Romania and move the European diamond hub to the residence of the legendary vampire Count Dracula where “blood diamonds” would naturally blend in. But joking aside, we are once again dealing with the cynicism that has always been characteristic of the global market for natural rough and polished diamonds. In the 1920s, the Bolsheviks flooded the market with polished diamonds confiscated from the Russian population; the number of stones was comparable to the annual rough diamond production at that time, and they were sold at discounts of tens of percent from their market prices. It was an open trade in stolen goods, and not a single world-famous diamond dealer resisted the temptation to join in the super-profitable trade. So, ethically pure ‘as child’s tears’, De Croo did not demonstrate anything new - he simply continued the established tradition.

The imbalance between the desire to make a profit and the ethical ways to achieve the goal exists to some extent in any business. But this problem is most relevant for the natural rough diamond business. The point is in the nature of the product because natural rough diamonds are used mainly for the manufacture of polished diamonds (the share of natural industrial diamonds is under 4% of the market value) and they are not required to meet vital needs. Let’s consider a typical example of the logic of diamond market players today: “The veiled assertions that the lack of use-value can devalue rough diamonds at any moment are nothing more than just assumptions. Rough and polished diamonds have a use-value that satisfies, of course, the most real - although not material - needs that can be very strong. It is the desire for goods that forms the demand for diamond goods2. At first glance, the thesis is impeccable: a human person is a hierarchy of needs, including non-vital ones such as the need for recognition, for example. But who said that these needs should be met by natural polished diamonds only? Some 150 years ago when the rough and polished diamond market in the modern sense did not exist at all, these needs of mankind were successfully met, weren’t they? And what made it possible for polished diamonds to take their rightful place among the goods that satisfy non-vital needs? Do polished diamonds have an inherent ability to satisfy a need, say, to demonstrate a social status? Or was this ability the result of constructing an appropriate image and introducing it into the consumers’ mind? Obviously, the latter. The most impressive illustration is the development of the Japanese polished diamond market, which simply did not exist in the 1950s, and it was comparable to the US polished diamond market by the end of the 1970s. An entire nation with practically no concept of a “polished diamond” in its culture and the nation that satisfied its non-vital needs by other goods, was given a corresponding marketing “vaccination” that resulted in developing the second global polished diamond market that existed for some time. But as the use-value of a polished diamond is man-made, it is reversible because what is created by a man can be destroyed by a man.

The necessary and sufficient conditions for a counter-marketing campaign aimed at destroying the existing information “shell” (image) of a natural polished diamond or, in other words, giving it a negative use-value are as follows:

- The presence of a beneficiary who is ready to replace the volume of goods knocked out of the market with analogue goods suitable in quality and price;

- Availability of content required (in terms of volume and quality) to create appropriate counter-marketing models;

- Favorable geopolitical situation.              

The beneficiaries are the manufacturers of synthetic diamond jewellery, which, if successful, can count on cannibalizing 30%-40% of the natural rough diamond market. We owe the favourable geopolitical situation to the genius of De Croo who declared in a stroke a third of the world’s natural rough diamonds as “blood” ones. The related content will be considered in this and subsequent publications. It’s also worth mentioning that there is no need to specify the technology for using this content, since solving problems of covering is a well-established and standardized procedure.

One of the main areas where the marketing models of natural and synthetic rough and polished diamonds come into collision today is the environmental impact made by these competitors. The advantages of synthetic diamonds are obvious because anyone who has seen at least the photographs of giant craters of spent kimberlite pipes and damaged rivers where diamond dredges were used has no doubts about the irreparable environmental damage. The mining companies’ PR efforts to reassure their consumers with reports of “restoration of mining lands” on diamond deposits may be more or less successful depending on the funding and the professionalism of those who restores the contaminated sites, but in reality, this is an easily refuted bluff. It is technically impossible and economically pointless to “restore” a quarry several hundred metres deep and filled with poisonous brines; we have to admit that the diamond mining industry has destroyed forever (and continues to destroy) significant areas of our planet for the sake of ... Well, for the sake of what? For the sake of goods that have nothing to do with vital needs and can be easily replaced today by similar synthetic stones featuring identical characteristics.

Of course, this is a good argument that should be repeated in a counter-marketing campaign. But the creation of an image, as well as its destruction, cannot be based on formal logic only, especially considering that a significant part of visitors to jewellery boutiques have IQ ranging from that of an aquarium fish to lower primates. Emotions are needed.

When consumers go to a fur salon, they understand a priori that the furs from which their favourite fur coats are made were the skin of minks, ferrets, sables, etc. as there is no other source. But at the verbal level, anti-marketing has little effect, especially on fur coat lovers. And good shoes are made of natural leather, and people like to have a delicious steak for lunch - C’est La Vie, this is part of being human. But if you show (and repeatedly) the eyes of the unfortunate animal a second before it is murdered as well as the terrible details of skinning it, the consumers pass by the fur salons and buy a down jacket or a jacket made of fleece and polyester batting instead of a fur coat. In the 1980s, the cannibalization of the natural fur coat market with the help of a counter-marketing campaign was about 30%. This has been proven by practice.

The modern consumer of natural diamonds is, of course, aware that mining irreversibly destroys the natural environment. But what can people do, how can humanity exist without oil, non-ferrous metals, potash fertilizers... – C’est La Vie, this is part of civilization. There’s no point in appealing to the logic of a visitor to a jewellery boutique. We need an emotion, at the subconscious level. The eyes of a dying animal. Such an emotion exists and is called “Programme 7”.

In November 1949, speaking at the UN Assembly, A. Ya. Vyshinsky (his well-deserved reputation is the Stalin’s chief legal killer) casually mentioned that the USSR intends to use atomic energy “to demolish mountains, change the course of rivers, irrigate deserts, lay new ways in those parts never before imprinted by the foot of man”. The zeal of the Stalinist official was fully justified - a programme was under development by the state machine that later was coded as AN-19 - “Using the Underground Nuclear Explosions in the National Economy and for the Production of Fissionable Transuranium Elements”. One of its sections had a very vague and ambiguous title - “The Development of Using External Explosion Methods in Mining and Construction Aimed at Reducing the Cost of Excavation work, Reducing the Time for Field Development and Construction of Facilities”, later the title became shorter - “State Programme No. 7. Using Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy”, or even shorter - “Programme No.7”.

From 1965 to 1988, 124 nuclear explosions were carried out in the framework of “Programme 7”, and 135 nuclear charges were detonated. The main customer (53% of explosions) was the USSR Ministry of Geology. The explosions made in the diamond provinces are as follows:

- 12 nuclear explosions in Yakutia. Power from 1.7 kt (“Kristall”, 1974) to 22 kt (“Kraton-3”, 1978);

- 4 nuclear explosions in the Arkhangelsk Region. Power from 2.3 kt (“Globus”, 1971) to 37.6 kt (“Pyrite”, 1981);

- 8 nuclear explosions in the Perm Region. Power from 3.2 kt (“Helium”, 1981) to 45 kt (“Taiga”, 1971).

All these nuclear explosions were made in the interests of the diamond mining industry, which either directly acted as a customer (for example, the “Kimberlite” explosion, 1979), or used the results for seismic exploration. In Yakutia, seismic survey tasks were carried out by the Irelyakh Geophysical Expedition that was part of “Yakutalmaz”. As a result of work under “Programme 7”, “The Markhin diamond field was discovered in Yakutia having a rich content of this valuable mineral. Thus, the use of nuclear explosive technologies for industrial purposes made it possible to obtain unique scientific data for the subsequent increase in the country’s mineral resource potential”3. In addition, the “Kristall” nuclear explosion was carried out to create a tailings dam for the Yakutalmaz’s Udachny MPP (Mining and Processing Plant) located 2.5 km from the town of Udachny.

After the collapse of the USSR, a significant part of the documents on “Programme 7” (including the information about accidental nuclear explosions) was declassified, and a hot discussion began between supporters of nuclear technology and the “greens”. These discussions are still continuing and contain a lot of materials, which - with proper selection and presentation - can cause radiophobia among existing and potential consumers of natural rough diamonds. By radiophobia we mean here a very common irrational fear and aversion of the population of developed countries to nuclear technologies that arose after the Chernobyl disaster and was significantly aggravated due to the Fukushima one. This is a very strong emotion that can seriously affect the markets - just look at the situation with nuclear energy in Germany. This is exactly what is needed for an anti-marketing model.

Of course, we do not say that diamonds mined in the provinces where “Programme 7” was implemented have the traces of radiation contamination. But the fact is that nuclear technologies were used to search for and extract these rough diamonds. Consequently, a huge amount of rough diamonds (and polished diamonds made from them) mined from 1965 to 1988 are ethically responsible for the irreparable damage already caused to the vast area of the planet, as well as for the potential damage, since no one can predict the consequences of a possible emergency reactivation of the “Programme 7” objects today.

Would you like to wear a polished diamond made from a rough diamond mined in the Yakut “Aikhal” kimberlite pipe, 50 kilometres away from which the accidental nuclear explosion “Kraton-3” occurred in 1978? Would you like to wear your mother’s family polished diamonds made from the rough diamonds mined in the Ural placers near the town of Krasnovishersk where a series of nuclear explosions took place (20 kilometres from this town) in 1981 through 1987 during the “Helium” operation? Or maybe, your daughter would like to purchase a ring with the Arkhangelsk diamonds mined in the Mezen District (“Agat” nuclear explosion, 1985, 150 km west of the town of Mezen)?

Or do you want to read anything about the “terrible carbon footprint” that synthetic polished diamonds leave?

Sergey Goryainov, Rough&Polished

1 Love is blind for Europeans buying Russian diamonds. https://www.politico.eu/article/european-lovers-still-love-russian-diamonds/
2 Nikolashchenko A.V. World diamond market. М., 2019. P. 363.
3 Nuclear tests of the USSR. Peaceful nuclear explosions. М., 2001. P. 45.