When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, jewelers in Paris quickly stopped selling stones from Russia. Western countries now want to officially ban Russian gems, which meet a third of the world's demand.
It wasn't long after Russian troops invaded Ukraine last year before Russian gems shunned in DiamondCenter Antwerpstarted getting calls from people around the world telling them not to use stones from Russia. Talks about the details have caused the announcement to be pushed back, though.
Big jewelrystores and diamond sellers in Antwerp, like Thierry Tugendhaft, and received calls to stop selling Russian stones. When he was in charge of T. DiamondsBVBA, Tugendhaft used to get half of his diamonds from Russia. He looked to Canada and African countries with only six weeks to find other supplies. Other sellers in Antwerp had problems because European banks wouldn't finance Russian supplies, which stopped their trade in rough stones.
Through the state-owned company Alrosa, Russian diamonds bring in more than $4 billion a year for the Kremlin. Because of restrictions on Russian oil and gas, the West now wants to limit Moscow's gem sales as well.
Now, the West wants to make the boycott permanent by banning Russian stones for good. Thierry Tugendhaft, a diamond dealer, says the ban will only go so far:
Take China, which is a major, major consumer of diamonds, has absolutely no interest in that ban. India, which is also a major consumer of diamonds, they have no interest in that ban. They don't have any interest to know from where the stones are, it's never been the case. And most of Asia, there's no interest in that. So, look, they will buy and continue to buy Russian diamonds because they have no reason not to.
The EU, the US, Canada, and Japan are all looking at different ways to ban Russian gems. Belgium, which is the center of the diamond trade, has been asked to come up with a plan to keep Antwerp as the main hub for rough trade. The hardest part is figuring out where the stones came from since the industry relies on cutting-edge technology and blockchain to make sure they can be tracked.
Jewelry brands in the West, like Tiffany's and Cartier, have been trying to stay away from Russia's rich diamond trade.
But it's hard to figure out where the stones came from when Russian diamonds are banned from Western markets, which buy 70% of the world's diamond jewelry. Tugendhaft says that small businesses will have a hard time:
We can do it because we've been working on traceability for the last two years. You should know that (for) people who have been working with big brands, traceability is not something that comes out of the sky as of now. (flash) All the new players in the industry who have not yet started with traceability are going to lag behind for sure.- Thierry Tugendhaft
Once a diamond is cut, it's almost impossible to find out where it came from. Geological features may be able to be used to identify things with new technology, but it is still being worked on. At first, the ban suggestions are only aimed at rough diamonds that are 1 carat or larger.
Because Antwerp handles so many gems, the ban on Russian diamonds makes things more difficult. The businesswould have to pay a lot for customs and shipping costs. The process of putting a full ban into place could also take up to a year.
Western countries want to officially ban Russian diamonds, but it's hard for the industry to figure out where the stones come from. As the main center for the diamond trade, Antwerp has a big say in how the ban plans are made. The effects of a ban on the costs and logistics of the business are still very important to think about.
Due to technological and logistical difficulties, the suggested ban on Russian diamonds is very hard to put into action, especially at a time when geopolitical tensions are high. The business wants to cut ties with Russian sources, but it's hard to figure out where gems come from. This situation shows how important it is to come up with new ideas and work together to create a diamond trade network that is open and responsible.