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The team that turns sleeping stones into beautiful polished diamonds

21 october 2019

maxim_zemlyakov_xx.pngMaxim Zemlyakov is the Director General of ADMS OOO, a company cutting and polishing natural and synthetic diamonds in Oryol.

He has been the Director General of Oryol-ALROSA since 2007. Before heading it, he worked as a grinder, cutter, instructor, technologist, chief technologist, and the deputy director general.

Unfortunately, in 2017, the competitive enterprise (with successful performance figures, with one of the lowest production costs in with the world and product quality that meets international standards) was declared bankrupt, its employees were laid off, the property was sold out.

Currently, the factory has new owners and co-founders.

Having become one of them, Maxim Zemlyakov, in his new position, revived the business, having assembled the previous team and now he heads it.

Is it about twenty years passed since setting-up the cutting and polishing factory in Oryol?

In 2020, it will be the 20th anniversary of launching the Oryol-ALROSA cutting factory in Oryol. On October 12, 2016, the last polished diamond manufactured left this factory. The company specialized in processing rough diamonds weighing 3, 4-6 gr. The prime cost at that time was US$20.2 per carat, which was confirmed by Bain & Company in its report on AK ALROSA (PAO).

You came after several directors and everything went very well, everyone spoke of you as of the director who copes well. What has happened?

We will not go into details of the reasons, a lot has already been said, I will only quote the words of S. N. Pushkin, the then vice-president of ALROSA: “There are no complaints against you or the personnel, it’s just necessary.”

There were many regrets about this, including the experts’ regrets, even within the company itself. What happened afterwards?

It seems that you can put a full stop and place it in the archives for posterity, but ... After almost a year of searching for a new job, a chance helped me to return to the cutting and polishing business. The Belarusian company Adamas-Invest asked me to make an experimental batch of synthetic polished diamonds. And in September 2017, the first diamonds were manufactured at the enterprise, which can rightfully be called the successor of Oryol-ALROSA. We have laid the foundation. It was difficult, it was done in difficult conditions (a basement of 35 sq. m was rented, where three cutting machines and one roughing machine were placed (which were purchased and restored), and a technologist's place. We, a team of five persons, started working. Nine months later, thanks to the investor and, of course, thanks to our work, we moved back to the Oryol-ALROSA building, gradually increasing the staff. All the former employees of the Oryol-ALROSA factory returned to their ‘home’ ground. We had to explain and talk - not everyone believed, but today there is a team of 20 person that turns sleeping stones into beautiful polished diamonds. We have a number of customers now. We are hard at work to expand our customer base - first of all, proving our professionalism by the quality of the stones manufactured. And the optimal approach to production, developed over the years, makes it possible to maintain a competitive price. 


Please tell us how you came to the cutting sector, to the manufacture of polished diamonds.

In 1999, I graduated from the Oryol Technical University with a degree in engineering and economics, later, I joined one of the divisions of a construction company in Oryol. At the same time, I studied at the ORAGS in Law. In 2000, I joined the parent organization of the construction company I worked in. The same year, I received an invitation from its director to join the newly established company Oryol-ALROSA. I accepted it, and I worked there from February 2000.

It is for almost 20 years. In your opinion, what is attractive in the cutting and polishing business?

It is the opportunity to get all the beauty from an almost plain stone is challenging, and to produce a brilliant final product that will bring joy, many positive emotions to every future owner or, rather, the lady-owner. Sometimes it happens so that you look and don’t see, don’t understand at first glance what you can make of this crystal, then you work on it, dispute over the choice of the cut, go through the technological stages of the operations ... And the result is a raving success compensating for all the difficulties.

So, your former team is with you now. It is well known that it is not so difficult to learn to be a cutter, it is much more difficult to get the experience that is gained for years, if not for decades ...

We have been working together with this team for the last 10-15 years. All of them are professionals, they themselves are brilliant - like diamonds - in their profession. All of them - a technologist, polisher, roughing operator, sawing operator, administrator, supervisor - make up our manufacturing family.

Now the market is not having its best times, and any manufacturing unit has problems or, as they say now, ‘challenges’. What are your prospects?

Our problems are related to the general situation in the market. Nothing has been changed for many years. The price for roughs is high, the final product does not reflect all costs (price for roughs + work) to get even a zero profitability. India with its cash loans, so to speak, has killed the market; unfortunately, we - in the person of ALROSA - have contributed to this and continue to contribute. Domestic processing gets no support. A simple example: we buy rough diamonds in our country from ALROSA and pay a 20% VAT. When we buy abroad, rough diamonds come without a VAT. Customs fees are negligible in comparison to this. And rough diamonds under direct export contracts are also sold without a VAT. In my opinion, all the conclusions can be easily made. 


So, the domestic cutting and polishing sector has gloomy prospects?

I will say this: it is dying. We do not have the opportunity to attract and train new specialists (long term training, no funds available for this). Everything that happens looks more like survival. The launch of the enterprises in Vladivostok and Grozny is a pure fiction - I will not go into details. Whoever is aware of the situation - at least a little bit – would agree with me. We have Smolensk that can easily ‘digest’ these volumes at its facility – you bring investors there, the rest will be done for them there. Logistics is not a problem at all now.

What do you think about the state of the diamond market and its medium- and long-term prospects?

We hope that the respective officials will think not about the rough diamond business in our sphere, but rather about processing and returning the added value to the products manufactured. The high cutting and polishing quality, the concept of the ‘Russian Cutting’ is gradually being forgotten, but so far, there is a chance for our producers to return it. Really, 95% of the diamond cutting and polishing is done in India and China, and everything is being done so that this concept, which was a brand, is not mentioned any more. Yes, we have lost a lot, it will also take a lot of time to recover. But in our country this is possible – Russia still remains the world's largest diamond miner accounting for more than 30% of the world production. I would like those on whom this depends to reconsider the option of shifting to the raw material economy, which, as we see this year, is failing. Nevertheless, in all industrial sectors, including our sphere, there must be competent specialists, and they really exist. It is not necessary to expel them, it is necessary to build and develop what is available based on their experience, professionalism and enthusiasm. You cannot hire a teacher as a doctor, a cobbler as a pastry chef and vice versa: the result will be obvious. I hope that we have bottomed out and will swim out gradually.

Galina Semyonova, Rough&Polished