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Diamonds in Siberia, Russia


Russia Stockpiles Diamonds, Awaiting the Return of Demand

It is a picture there of a diamond mining pit in the town of Mirny in Siberia. In the Soviet era, the country had an agreement with De Beers to sell Siberian diamonds in a way that would not undercut the market.

The global recession sapped demand for all kinds of commodities — like steel and grain — yet small burlap bags are still arriving by the planeload at Russia’s state-owned diamond company.

Each day, the contents of the bags spill into the stainless steel hoppers of the receiving room. The diamonds are washed and sorted by size, clarity, shape and quality; then, rather than being sent to be sold around the world, they are wrapped in paper and whisked away to a vault — about three million carats worth of gems every month.

“Each one of them is so unusual,” said Irina V. Tkachuk, one of the few hundred people, mostly women, employed to sort the diamonds, who sees thousands of them every day.

“I’m not a robot. I sometimes think to myself ‘wow, what a pretty diamond. I would like that one.’ They are all so beautiful.”

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