Diamonds / Industry

Belgium Ready to Restrict Russian Rough, Says Report


A new sanctions package proposed by the European Commission would prohibit Russia from importing rough and polished diamonds into Belgium and other EU countries after January 2024, according to a report in Reuters.

A European Commission spokesperson confirmed that its 12th package of sanctions “aims to cut the remaining revenues that Russia draws from the export of diamonds to Europe and its partners.” But the spokesperson declined comment on any specifics in the proposal, which still has to be approved by the European Council.

The proposed ban would apply to nonindustrial natural and synthetic diamonds, as well as diamond jewelry, according to a second Reuters report.

Whether or not the ban passes, an Antwerp source predicts it won’t have much impact, as direct imports of Russian rough into the Belgian port city have all but dried up—although it’s possible that some Russian goods are entering as part of “mixed origin” parcels.

The European Union, together with the G7, has pledged to take a series of actions to halt sales of Russian gems. For most of the year, G7 officials have been working on a plan that would prevent Russian-mined polished from entering the United States or other G7 markets. Currently, diamonds mined in Russia and polished elsewhere are allowed into the United States under the doctrine of “substantial transformation.”

Given that most gems are cut in India, banning Russian-mined polished will likely mean new traceability requirements. Politico reported this week that the G7 still has “more technical work to do to set up the traceability mechanism.” The EU hopes to begin implementation of its polished ban by March, Reuters said.

The yearlong deliberations have led different industry groups to develop proposals detailing how a possible traceability regime might work. Industry commentator Martin Rapaport recently put forward his own U.S. Diamond Protocol, which would require diamond importers to ship goods with a U.S. blockchain identification number that includes information on the diamonds’ origin. Rapaport’s plan gives responsibility for auditing the goods’ provenance to U.S. Customs and the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Rapaport tells JCK that the World Diamond Council’s proposal, which requires jewelers to keep track of their warranties, puts unfair burdens on U.S. jewelers. “There’s no reason any jeweler in the United States should have to do anything,” he says.

At a press conference at the Natural Diamond Summit, held this week in Gaborone, Botswana, the country’s minister of mines Lefoko Moagi criticized a Belgium-backed proposal to route most diamonds through an Antwerp “node.”

“Who is bearing all these costs and the time constraints [diamond producers would] have to go through?” Moagi said. “We ought to have been involved [in formulating these proposals]. Let’s set around the table and talk about this.”

Top: European Commission headquarters in Brussels (photo: Christophe Licoppe/courtesy of the European Commission)

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By: Rob Bates

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