History of Russian diamond production

Because Russia is such a cold country, for many years it wasn’t really cost effective for Russian miners to go to the trouble of extracting diamonds from the cold Russian tundra. It is only in the last half a century that Russia has been mining and producing Russian diamonds, although the diamonds have, of course, been under Russian soil for much longer.

The impetus for the decision to mine diamonds – the ultimate symbol of luxury –was ironically that they were needed to boost the industrial output of the communist Soviet Union. As well as being sparkly, diamonds are important for use in industry – they make extremely hard and long lasting drill tips. They also have military uses, which made them extremely attractive to Soviet planners.

So, in the 1950s massive mines were started (the largest was the Mirny mine, an open cast mine that is over a kilometer wide and almost a kilometer deep and which has been made famous on the internet by people who circulate amazing pictures). The Soviet Union never did things to a small scale.

Diamond production in the Soviet Union was mainly aimed at industrial production, but it was quickly realized that many of the diamonds being mined were good enough quality to be sold as gemstones for jewelery. A top secret deal was agreed with De Beers to sell them outside of Russia, and the Soviet Union very quickly found it had another major source of income that it could use to support its ambitions.

Today, diamond mining continues in Russia – still on a grand scale. This year, in fact, it was reported that Russia is the world’s largest producer of diamonds – it produces almost one in every four diamonds in the world today, an amount which is worth well over $1billion dollars annually to the Russian economy.

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