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Cambridge companies cut Russia ties as war against Ukraine worsens

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Vanessa Burkitt, owner of Catherine Jones of Cambridge, says that the jewellery retailer will no longer purchase stock from Alrosa, the Russian diamond mining company, as Cambridge businesses adapt to the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine.

Vanessa Burkitt, owner of Catherine Jones of Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
Vanessa Burkitt, owner of Catherine Jones of Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

The Bridge Street retailer has rendering all stock free of stones from Russia, and cancelled any purchases contact with the quasi-rogue state. One of the world’s biggest suppliers of diamonds is Alrosa, a diamond mining company headquartered in Mirny (Sakha Republic) and Moscow. Alrosa is responsible for 90 per cent of Russia’s diamond production and 28 per cent of global supply.

The Russian government owns 33 per cent of the company and the Sakha Republic owns a further 33 per cent.

“As Russian tanks roll towards Kyiv, the impact of the war strikes us very close to home, at Catherine Jones of Cambridge,” Ms Burkitt told the Cambridge Independent.

“Alrosa has already been sanctioned by the US and our own government has sanctioned Sergei Ivanov, personally, who is the chief executive of the Alrosa.

“Given that, how can we, in all conscience, work with Russian diamonds? We have talked to our diamond suppliers and to the manufacturers who create diamond pieces that we stock. We all agree that it is the least we can do to support Ukraine.”

The global industry appears to be taking a united stand in withdrawing from Russia-sourced products, encouraged perhaps by US President Joe Biden who has issued an executive order prohibiting the import of “nonindustrial” diamonds originating in Russia. Pre-invasion rulings did not constitute an outright ban on shipping Russian goods into America.

The measures, which the White House announced on March 11, build on earlier US sanctions outlawing debt and equity transactions with Alrosa and its CEO, Sergey Ivanov. Biden has also prohibited the export of luxury goods from the US to Russia.

Raw diamonds (55541137)
Raw diamonds (55541137)

On the same day, US-based Signet Jewelers, an Alrosa contract client which owns H Samuel and Ernest Jones in the UK, announced it had “suspended business interaction with Russian-owned entities since the beginning of the invasion”. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has stopped taking submissions of Russian products for its Diamond Origin Report service, and has also paused all transactions with laboratory submissions from sanctioned entities.

Ms Burkitt has been methodical about expunging the offending stock.

“I have done an inventory check on all our diamonds and diamond-set jewellery to reassure myself no piece in stock is set with Russian stones, she says. “I have also contacted our goldsmiths and jewellery manufacturers as well as our diamond dealers who all confirm they will ensure that none of the stones I buy will come from Alrosa. Indeed all the manufacturers we use are keen to boycott Russian stones, too. The diamond dealers are also on side.

“It’s an opportunity to buy more stones from Botswana or Canada.”

She added: “We realise that the supply of rough diamonds may be cut by over 25 per cent.

“It means that diamonds will go up in price but we make beautiful jewellery with sapphires, rubies and other more modestly priced stones so the choice will not be diminished. It simply means we will be more creative and inventive.”

Global supply of rough diamonds may be cut by 25 per cent following the jewellery industry’s decision to cease buying stones from Russia
Global supply of rough diamonds may be cut by 25 per cent following the jewellery industry’s decision to cease buying stones from Russia

Meanwhile Savills has suspended its franchise agreement in Russia.

The global real estate services provider, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange, has its Cambridge base at Unex House on Hills Road.

A spokesman for Savills said: “Savills is appalled by the scenes of humanitarian tragedy which are unfolding across Ukraine, has already made significant donations to humanitarian relief agencies working in the Ukraine and neighbouring countries to help alleviate this suffering, and is supporting those of its people who are personally affected.

“Savills has a long-standing zero tolerance for dealing with sanctioned parties and does not engage in business with designated sanctioned entities or persons.

“Savills does not own nor have a shareholding in a business in Russia; business in Russia is undertaken by a Savills associate (a franchisee), with which Savills has a very long-standing relationship.”

The Russia section of Savills’ website, which sold properties in the Cambridge region to the Russian market, has now been removed.

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