Alrosa Leaves the Responsible Jewellery Council

Rough diamonds Alrosa

Russian miner Alrosa has suspended its membership in the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), both organizations announced last week.

The development came just over a month after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The RJC board of directors voted to accept Alrosa’s decision, the standards groups said Friday.

Alrosa exited the RJC board in early March, but remained a member of the organization. RJC received criticism for not removing the company: Last week, luxury group Richemont and jeweler Pandora both stood down from the organization in protest, while RJC executive director Iris Van der Veken resigned over the issue.

The organization defended itself, noting that it was waiting for the outcome of a legal review.

“Beginning on March 3, the [RJC] board immediately began a comprehensive, third-party legal review to ensure it had the appropriate authority, within its constitutional documents, to take action,” the RJC statement continued. “The law firm selected — having concluded its own standard conflict of interest assessment — commenced their review of RJC’s governance, the board’s authorities, training modules and many other documents and processes.”

Sanctions by the US and UK governments during February and March complicated the situation and delayed completion of the review, the RJC explained. The board received the final document in the middle of last week.

“Taking any action prior to the delivery of the legal opinion would have exposed the RJC to significant legal risk,” it argued.

Alrosa — in which the Russian government owns a 33% stake — confirmed its suspension, saying it cared for the industry “as much as it cares for its mining communities.”

The company “believes in the diamond industry and the people who work to make it great all over the globe,” the statement continued. “We are one of the major contributors to the sustainable development of this industry. We will continue to uphold our highest standards of responsible business conduct and business ethics that are an integral part of our culture and principles.”


Alrosa Profit Soars as Focus Turns to Sanctions

Rough sorting at Alrosa’s Mirny mine. 

Alrosa has highlighted concerns about the impact of the US’s punitive measures after reporting its strongest annual earnings in five years.

Revenue jumped 51% to RUB 326.97 billion ($2.99 billion) in 2021 as the diamond market recovered from the previous year’s downturn, the Russian miner reported Wednesday. This drove net profit to RUB 91.32 billion ($834 million), almost triple 2020’s figure of RUB 32.25 billion ($297.3 million).

However, the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has become the most pressing issue for the company, with the US imposing sanctions on Alrosa and its CEO, Sergey Ivanov. This blocks American firms from extending credit to the miner. An alliance of Western governments has also excluded several Russian banks from the Swift international payment system.

“These sanctions are preventing the group from obtaining financing from persons and entities connected to US and from effecting payments through sanctioned banks,” Alrosa said in its results statement.

Management said it was continuing to run the business as usual and “service its obligations,” but noted that the impact of the actions was unpredictable.

In the fourth quarter of last year, revenue fell 28% year on year to RUB 70.73 billion ($642.7 million), reflecting an unfavorable comparison with the sharp market rebound a year earlier as well as scarcities of goods for the company to sell. Profit slid 43% to RUB 12.14 billion ($111.1 million).

With rough in short supply globally, Alrosa made a slight increase to its 2022 production plan, forecasting output of 34.3 million carats, compared with earlier guidance of 33 million to 34 million carats.


US Places Sanctions on Russian Miner Alrosa

Rough diamonds Alrosa

The US has imposed sanctions on Alrosa and its CEO, Sergey S. Ivanov, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The diamond miner is one of 11 entities the Department of the Treasury has identified as being owned by or connected to the Russian government, according to a Thursday statement. The measures restrict American companies’ ability to engage in debt and equity transactions with Alrosa after Russia launched military action in Ukraine last week.

“Effectively, this action bans US businesses and persons from entering into debt transactions longer than 14 days with Alrosa but does not impose the harsher sanctions of an asset freeze and outright prohibition of all business,” the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC), a source of legal guidance for the industry, said in an alert to members. “For the jewelry industry, any open memo agreements previously entered into with terms longer than 14 days should immediately be amended to shorten the terms, and/or closed.”

US companies should also evaluate any current transactions with Alrosa or its stateside affiliate, Alrosa USA, to ensure they do not violate the sanctions, the JVC added. The executive order does not apply to goods acquired from Alrosa or Alrosa USA before February 24, the organization pointed out.

Alrosa, a third of which is owned by the Russian state, is responsible for 90% of Russia’s diamond-mining capacity, the Treasury noted. The sanctions include Ivanov because the US counts him among the “leaders, officials, senior executive officers, or members of the board of directors” of the Russian government, and because he is the son of sanctioned official Sergei B. Ivanov, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the statement continued.

“Treasury is taking serious and unprecedented action to deliver swift and severe consequences to the Kremlin and significantly impair their ability to use the Russian economy and financial system to further their malign activity,” said US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. “Our actions, taken in coordination with partners and allies, will degrade Russia’s ability to project power and threaten the peace and stability of Europe.”

Alrosa said its interactions with international partners would continue and that it was working to avoid any impact.

“Alrosa is carefully studying new working conditions in connection with the imposed sanctions,” a spokesperson for the miner told Rapaport News Sunday. “We intend to offer all our stakeholders the best possible service. We do our best to fulfil our obligations so that their businesses would continue to operate as usual.”


Alrosa halts diamond mining at two assets


Russia’s Alrosa, the world’s top diamond producer by output, is temporarily suspending production at two assets as demand and sales for diamonds continues to drop.

Major consumers, including China and the United States, are struggling with economic headwinds caused by the global covid-19 pandemic. Extended lockdowns affecting key players in the supply chain, including polishers and top retailers, has only made things worse.

The Russian state-controlled miner said the dire state of the market would force it to halt its Aikhal underground mine and Zarya open pit from May 15 to September 30 and to December 30, respectively.

The two assets account for roughly 7% of the company’s diamond output in carat terms. They produced 2.6 million carats of rough diamonds last year.

Personnel of suspended operations and auxiliary services will be partially laid-off, Alrosa said. The remaining employees will be transferred to other assets or stay to keep up maintenance work at the idled operations.

The diamond giant said in March it may revise down its output guidance for 2020, which currently sits at 34.2 million carats. In 2019, it produced 38.5 million carats.


Alrosa implements guidance to avoid conflict diamonds


Russia’s Alrosa, the world’s top diamond miner by volume, announced that it will start implementing the OECD due diligence guidance for responsible supply chains of minerals from conflict-affected and high-risk areas.

In a press release, the company said that to improve the efficiency of this work and guarantee compliance, it has launched an internal diamond supply chain management system. The mechanism is based on the Regulations on Responsible Diamond Supply Chain Management recently approved by its executive committee.

According to Alrosa, the internal diamond tracking and traceability system applies to all the segments of the diamond supply chain. It allows the firm to provide its clients with the information not only on the country of origin but the region of origin of its rough and polished diamond production.

The system also guarantees that rough diamonds produced by Alrosa in different regions are not mixed in the process of sorting, valuation, cutting and polishing, and trading.

“As part of Alrosa obligations as a certified RJC member, we are very proud to launch our tailored diamond supply chain due diligence system,” Peter Karakchiev, head of international relations, said in the media brief.

“It marks the start of a process which we believe will positively contribute to ensuring that all Alrosa diamonds are produced in compliance with the high standards of responsible business conduct.”


Alrosa steps up efforts to brighten fluorescent diamond sales

fluorescent diamond strong blue

Russia’s Alrosa the world’s top diamond miner by volume, is betting on a new strategy to boost its sales amid an industry-wide slowdown that has hit small companies the hardest.

The state-owned company is now selling naturally occurring fluorescent diamonds mixed with others. At the same time, it’s holding talks with global jewellery retailers about jointly marketing its ‘Luminous Diamonds’ brand, which uses the glowing stones.

Fluorescence, a bluish glow produced by ultraviolet rays (UV), is a characteristic of 25% to 35% of diamonds, according to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

Fluorescence, a bluish glow produced by ultraviolet rays (UV), is a characteristic of 25% to 35% of diamonds, according to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

The feature has traditionally been seen as a negative attribute as it can make a diamond appear “milky” or “oily” in direct sun or UV light. Alrosa’s marketing efforts are centred on changing those perceptions.

Glowing diamonds are most common in Russia and Canada due to their proximity to the Arctic, where they are usually found.

GfK market research agency recently conducted a study involving over 4,000 jewellery consumers to determine how they perceived fluorescent diamonds.

The survey revealed that 74% of the respondents in the US didn’t know what they were or were poorly informed about them. When educated, however, over 82% of respondents said they would consider buying a diamond with such a feature. And almost 60% of customers, mostly millennials, expressed their willingness to pay as much as 15% more to obtain a fluorescent diamond.

About half of all diamonds produced globally have some fluorescence, but those in which the feature is “strong”  —  the focus of Alrosa’s campaign —  represent as much as 5-10% of global supply.

Global demand for all types of diamonds fell between 2018 and 2019, affecting small stones producers the most, due to an oversupply in that segment that dragged prices down.

Increasing demand for synthetic diamonds also weighed on prices. Man-made stones require less investment than mined ones and can offer more attractive margins.

Big companies have not been immune to the downward trend. De Beers, the world’s No. 1 diamond miner, reported in February its worst set of earnings since Anglo American acquired it in 2012.


Alrosa Collaborates on WeChat Blockchain

Alrosa Polished diamonds

Alrosa will help launch a blockchain-based provenance program offering Chinese consumers greater transparency when buying jewelry via WeChat.

The e-commerce program, a partnership with blockchain platform Everledger and Chinese Internet giant Tencent Holdings, will be available to nearly a billion WeChat users, the companies said Monday.

WeChat, which is owned by Tencent, is a multipurpose messaging, social-media and mobile-payment app. The traceability platform will be applied to a “mini program,” a sub-application within the WeChat system that enables advanced features such as e-commerce and task management.

During the pilot phase, the product will feature diamonds mined in Russia by Alrosa, and will contain information on the stone’s provenance and full certificate details. The groups will offer the program to jewelry manufacturers and retailers in China as a white-label API, which enables them to create their own platform and offer it under their own name.

“This exciting development…brings provenance and authenticity of diamonds to a new level of transparency in China,” said Everledger chief operating officer Chris Taylor. “Making this information available to consumers’ fingertips via WeChat enables them to be sure about the source and the credentials of each item being purchased.”

The program will also help Alrosa expand its client base in the Chinese market, the miner explained. 

“[The venture] reinforces our pursuit for guaranteeing the origin of our products,” explained Pavel Vinikhin, head of diamonds for Alrosa’s polishing division. “We believe that this collaboration with the most popular social-media platform in China will help us to further strengthen our sales there.”


Alrosa Board Approves Kristall Takeover

Alrosa Kristall polished diamonds

Alrosa is set to finalize its acquisition of diamond manufacturer Kristall in a $29 million deal in October, following approval from its supervisory board.

Alrosa expects the RUB 1.89 billion sale-and-purchase agreement to be signed by the end of the month, with a concrete plan for the manufacturer’s integration into the company to be in place by the end of the year, it noted.

Kristall is the leading polished-diamond manufacturer in Russia and Europe, processing more than 200,000 carats of rough annually. While Alrosa already runs a manufacturing unit, the acquisition of Kristall is set to expand its share of the polished-production market from 20% to 70%.

“Despite the fact that Alrosa is currently a key supplier of rough diamonds to Kristall, it accounts for as little as 0.5% of Alrosa’s sales of rough diamonds,” Alexey Philippovskiy, Alrosa’s deputy CEO, said Wednesday. “The deal value is less than 1% of Alrosa’s net assets and, according to our estimates, the purchase price will not exceed Kristall’s net assets at the date of the transaction.”

Last year Kristall produced 105,700 carats of polished diamonds, with sales of 111,700 carats. It reported revenue of RUB 12.8 billion ($199.1 million) and profit of RUB 40.7 million ($633,040). The company also operates a jewelry entity and a business that produces tooling and equipment for the diamond industry.