Andrey Zharkov, the former president of Russian diamond miner Alrosa, has made the move to lab-grown diamonds.
Last year, Zharkov (pictured) started a lab-grown venture, called Ultra C, that will be based in Switzerland with subsidiaries in the United States, Russia, and Singapore. The company will sell loose diamonds, but it also hopes to start a lab-grown diamond jewelry brand, Zharkov tells JCK.
“We hope to work with other market players to work together on standards, pricing, generic marketing, and cooperate with natural diamond producers,” he says.
“We call lab-grown diamonds ‘new age diamonds,’ for people, irrespective of age, who are open-minded, open-hearted, ready for change, people who care about responsible consumption. The next five to ten years will irrevocably change the landscape of diamond jewelry because of grown diamonds.”
Zharkov hopes to get other traditional players on board.
“Most of lab-grown diamond producers in China, Israel, and the U.S. are technological companies, and they are newcomers to the diamond industry,” he says. “But I see a very high interest in lab-grown diamonds from the companies that have been big dealers and processors in natural diamonds.”
The venture is being funded by private investors who are interested in start-ups and disruptive technologies, he says.
Alrosa declined comment on the move. “We can only comment on our business, not others,” says a spokesperson.
The miner’s current head, Sergey Ivanov Jr., has reportedly told Russian news agency Interfax that his company will never venture into lab-grown diamonds, unlike rival De Beers.
While president of Alrosa, Zharkov had warned that the industry needed to “set apart synthetic and natural diamonds” and safeguard “the value of natural stones.”
Now, he says, he’s a believer in the lab business, citing his team’s analysis of “existing natural diamonds resources, lifetime of existing mines, consumer preferences, and investment opportunities.”
Alrosa is the world’s biggest diamond producer by volume and the second biggest by value.
(Image courtesy of Alrosa)