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Gem Labs in Russia a Mixed Bag

Feb 12, 1999 11:35 AM   By Vladimir Teslenko
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By Vladimir Teslenko

During the Soviet era, all gem factories, wholesalers and jewelry shops were state-owned and had to abide by the state's trade standards. Diamond color and clarity were classified on a scale of one to nine, a system which is still in place today.

Several universities, for example Moscow Geological & Exploration Institute, and St. Petersburg Mining Institute, turned out highly trained gemologists. Starting from 1975, when Soviet gemological courses first appeared, about 800 persons received state-accredited degrees in gemology. They went on to work in the diamond industry, jewelry manufacturing and trading.

With the death of the Soviet economy, this centralized gemological grading and training system died too. In general, gemology in Russia is now mixed bag of methods and services.

Still Under the State

One sector that is still under state control is a service, established by a 1992 federal law, that governs certification of customs goods. The law designated a special government body named Gosstandart to develop and control certification systems. As of now, the only system that has been developed is named the "Certification of Polished Diamonds," which was created by the federal Assay Office in 1996. Only one lab — the Smolensk Gemmological Certification Center (SGSC) — has received a state license to provide this service. This center was created within the state-owned Smolensk Kristall processing factory, located in Babushkina 4, 214020 Smolensk (tel. 095-539-6364).

SGSC specializes in certifying polished diamonds for retail sale. The certificate uses the parameters for polished established under the old Soviet system. Thus, the report isn't understandable to foreign customers. The grading service costs anywhere from 2 to 10 percent of the price of the stone. In the past one-and-a-half years, the SGSC has graded about 1,000 polished stones ranging from 0.33 to 4 carats, in line with domestic demand.

Independent Labs

On the free market, gemological services respond to various market needs. Demand has given rise to several private and corporate centers of gemological expertise around Russia, from Vladivostok in the East to Kallningrad in the West. These serve manufacturing factories like Moscow Ruis, jewelry works like Yuveliry Urala, and trading firms like Amazyuvelirexport, which uses staff gemologists for inside purposes. There are a few dozen locations, but 90 percent of the market for gemological services is in Moscow.

The Gemmological Center of Moscow University (A-429, MGU, Vorobievy Gory. 119899 Moscow, (tel. 095-939-4973) is Russia's most prestigious lab. While it is technically a division of the geology faculty, the lab's driving force is a team of gemologists headed by Professor Arnold Marfunin. The center specializes in research of treated gems and assessing mounted gems. The lab is equipped with the usual gemological equipment and several specialized instruments, for example Raman, IR and Visible Spectrometers, EPR (electron paramagnetic resonance) and other high-tech tools.

It is responsible for the development of the 1350 Expert Resume — a document like the Diamond Grading Report of Gemological Institute of America (GIA). The service costs about 1.5 percent of the price of a piece.

The Center offers a three-level educational program:

• A five-year course of basic higher education that earns a degree in gemology;

• Doctoral and post-doctoral programs;

• A three-to-six-week commercial course for specific business purposes, concentrating in either classical gemology, polished diamonds, sorting of rough diamonds or evaluation of jewelry pieces.

Russia's second largest gemological institute is the Moscow Geological and Exploration Academy. Here students can specialize in the gemological aspects of gem prospecting, the gem processing industry and trade. There are three separate divisions. One offers a five-year course of studies.

GIA Russia

The second division is the non-profit Gemmological Institute, the sole Russian branch of the Gemological Institute of America. There, students can take a one- or three-month GIA program in rough sorting, polished diamond expertise and jewelry evaluation. This branch opened in July, 1997.

The third division is Gemexim Ltd., a firm established by top professionals to serve the free market. It offers grading of polished gems, including mounted stones, on its Diagnostic Report. The service costs 0.5 to 1 percent of the price of the piece. Gemexim is under the direction of the well-known Russian expert, Professor July Solodova. It is located in Miklukho-Maklai St., 23, 117873 Moscow (tel. 095-433-5566).

Worthy of note are the "second-tier" labs which also fulfill a function on the market. They include: Siberian Gemmological Center in Novosibirsk (specializing in synthetic diamonds). Uralgemsert in Ekaterinburg (specializing in color gems of the Urals), VNII Yuvelirprom in St. Peterburg (specializing in jewelry), and theYakutian National Centers of Diamonds and Gold (specializing in natural diamonds).
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Tags: Economy, GIA, Government, Jewelry, Labs, Manufacturing, Russia
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