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A Diamond Giant Plays Up Its Russian Ties to Appeal to Americans


Alrosa is not a household name, but it is a dominant force in mining and wants to increase its sales in the United States.

Diamonds are evaluated under special lighting at Alrosa’s sorting center in Mirny, Russia. CreditMaxim Babenko for The New York Times

MIRNY, Russia — Shoppers want to know where their coffee is grown, where their clothes are made and where their iPhones are assembled. The world’s biggest diamond miner is now betting that they will also care where the jewels on their engagement rings are dug up.

Alrosa, the mining company, is mounting a campaign to tell the tale of its stones’ journeys from mines deep beneath the ground on to the fingers of betrothed couples around the world. Its one barrier? The diamonds come from Russia.

The company is not a household name. In fact, most people who buy a diamond ring at a jewelry store have probably never heard of it.

Alrosa is not a household name, but it is a dominant force in mining and wants to increase its sales in the United States.Published On

Alrosa is a dominant force in the mining industry, and now wants to increase sales in the United States, the world’s biggest market for the jewels. But with Moscow and Washington often at loggerheads, it is unclear whether the Russian state-controlled company’s efforts will bear fruit with American customers.

Tensions between the countries have worsened considerably in recent years. The two are on opposite sides of wars in Ukraine and Syria. A special prosecutor is investigating Russian election meddling in support of President Trump. The United States has imposed sanctions on Russian oil, metals and banking companies. (Russian diamonds have so far gone unscathed.)

In underground corridors, miners methodically chisel out rock. Hulking trucks each carry dozens of tons of ore hiding a few precious diamonds.CreditMaxim Babenko for The New York Times
Workers in Nakym take a helicopter to the Nyurbinsky open pit mine.CreditMaxim Babenko for The New York Times
Alrosa diamonds come from the sparsely populated Yakutia region of northeastern Russia, an area five times the size of France but with a population of just one million.CreditMaxim Babenko for The New York Times
A display of Alrosa’s diamonds. The company wants to increase sales in the United States, but tensions between Washington and Moscow have worsened in recent years.CreditMaxim Babenko for The New York Times
A view of diamonds through a microscope. Last year Alrosa earned $1.3 billion in profits on $4.6 billion of sales.CreditMaxim Babenko for The New York Times
Alrosa’s mines sink into the Siberian wilderness amid birches and snow, sparkling and pristine. The company hopes the setting could enhance sales.CreditMaxim Babenko for The New York Times

Andrew Kramer is a reporter based in the Moscow bureau. He was part of the team that won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting for “Russia’s Dark Arts,” a series on Russia’s covert projection of power. @AndrewKramerNYT



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