The Jewelry District, Episode 65: Diamonds and the Russian Invasion of Ukraine


In This Episode
You’ll hear JCK editor-in-chief Victoria Gomelsky and news director Rob Bates talk about the industry-related effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and some news from the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA). Note: This episode was recorded a few days before President Biden announced the U.S. ban on imports of Russian diamonds.

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Show Notes
00:00 Victoria and Rob send well wishes to the people of Ukraine affected by the Russian invasion.
04:34 Rob discusses the partly Russian government–owned Alrosa.
09:51 Victoria predicts the demand of Russian diamonds in years to come.
12:40 Much like diamonds, the question of gold sourcing remains as important as ever.
19:00 Rob reports on AGTA and Doug Hucker’s departure.

Episode Credits
Hosts: Rob Bates and Victoria Gomelsky
Producer and engineer: Natalie Chomet
Plugs: jckonline.com@jckmagazine

Show Recap

Wishing Well to Ukraine
In light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Rob and Victoria wish the best for the people of Ukraine. Victoria mentions that she was born in St. Petersburg (Leningrad at the time) and emigrated as part of the Jewish exodus from the Soviet Union in the late ’70s. She fears for the repercussions of the sanctions of the Russian people for years to come, but her heart goes out first and foremost to the people of Ukraine.

Alrosa and Russian Control
The conversation pivots to discussion of Alrosa, the biggest diamond producer by volume, responsible for 30% of the world’s diamonds. It’s one-third owned by the Russian government, one-third owned by the local Siberian province, and one-third publicly traded. By most standards, Alrosa takes social responsibility and social benefit seriously, meeting all of the current standards in the industry. The fact that Alrosa is directly tied to the Russian government poses a problem for it. Russian diamonds are going to be impacted greatly, Rob predicts. At the end of the day, who ultimately owns and benefits from a company is extremely important.

Russian Diamond Demand
Victoria brings up a statement made by Martin Rapaport on Russian diamond prices, in which he was clear that he didn’t believe prices would suffer because of the invasion, but because of the resulting inflation of things like gas, which influences consumer demand. Rob and Victoria both believe that the perception of Russian diamonds will be affected for years to come, as people will choose diamonds from other countries over diamonds from Russia.

Russian Gold and Lab-Grown Diamonds
Victoria wonders about Russian gold—and if Russia will be using gold to fund their regime, a thorny question that is yet to be answered. Who jewelers get their gold from is another question for jewelers to consider as sourcing, vendors, and who owns those vendors remains as important as ever. Rob predicts a bill will be enacted banning the purchase of Russian gold. Victoria predicts a lift in American-mined and -sourced gold because of this. Rob also brings up lab-grown diamonds. Victoria mentions a company in Barcelona, Spain, that markets itself as “mining-free diamonds.” Rob thinks this label is a bit disingenuous since you need mined products to create lab-grown ones.

AGTA and Doug Hucker
At the end of the podcast, Victoria pivots to some non-Russian news. Rob wrote a story about Doug Hucker, CEO of the American Gem Trade Association who left his role after 24 years. Rob thinks the bigger issue is what the role an organization like AGTA has. In the colored gemstone community, there isn’t the same worry of sourcing as there is in diamonds. As a major player in the industry, Rob says this isn’t the last we’ll see of Doug Hucker. At the end the podcast, Victoria notes the AGTA pavilion will be back at JCK Las Vegas this year.

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