Cambridge firms cut ties with Russia as war on Ukraine escalates

Vanessa Burkitt, owner of Cambridge’s Catherine Jones, said the jewelry retailer would no longer buy shares in Alrosa, the Russian diamond mining company, as Cambridge businesses adjust to the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine.

Vanessa Burkitt, owner of Catherine Jones of Cambridge. Photo: Keith Hepell

The Bridge Street retailer has cleared all stock of stones from Russia and canceled all purchasing contact with the quasi-rogue state. One of the largest diamond suppliers in the world is Alrosa, a diamond mining company with headquarters in Mirny (Sakha Republic) and Moscow. Alrosa is responsible for 90% of Russian diamond production and 28% of global supply.

The Russian government owns 33% of the company and the Sakha Republic owns another 33%.

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

“Alrosa has already been sanctioned by the United States and our own government has sanctioned Sergei Ivanov, personally, who is the general manager of Alrosa.

“Under these conditions, how can we, in good conscience, work with Russian diamonds? We spoke to our diamond suppliers and the manufacturers who create diamond pieces that we stock. We all agree that this is the least we can do to support Ukraine.

The global industry appears to be taking a united stance in withdrawing from Russian-origin products, encouraged perhaps by US President Joe Biden who issued an executive order banning the import of “non-industrial” diamonds from Russia. The pre-invasion rulings were not an outright ban on shipping Russian goods to America.

The measures, announced by the White House on March 11, build on previous US sanctions barring debt and capital transactions with Alrosa and its CEO, Sergey Ivanov. Biden also banned the export of luxury goods from the United States to Russia.

Rough diamonds (55541137)
Rough diamonds (55541137)

On the same day, the American company Signet Jewelers, a contract client of Alrosa which owns H Samuel and Ernest Jones in the UK, announced that it had “suspended its business relations with Russian-owned entities from the beginning of the invasion”. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has stopped receiving Russian product submissions for its Diamond Origin Report service, and has also suspended all transactions with lab submissions from sanctioned entities.

Ms. Burkitt was methodical in removing the offending stock.

“I did an inventory of all our diamonds and jewelry set with diamonds to make sure that no part in stock is set with Russian stones, she specifies. “I also contacted our goldsmiths and jewelry makers as well as our diamond dealers who all confirm that they will ensure that none of the stones I buy are from Alrosa, indeed all the manufacturers we use are also keen to boycott Russian stones. The diamond dealers are also in the game.

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

She added: “We realize that the supply of rough diamonds could be reduced by more than 25%.

“That means the price of diamonds will go up, but we make beautiful jewelry with sapphires, rubies and other stones at more modest prices, so the choice won’t be diminished. It just means we’ll be more creative and inventive.

The global supply of rough diamonds could be reduced by 25% following the decision of the <a class=jewelry industry to stop buying stones from Russia” data-root=”/_media/img/” data-path=”5U10TS9T2ZRA6WJM4WRE.jpg” data-ar=”1.33″/>
The global supply of rough diamonds could be reduced by 25% following the decision of the jewelry industry to stop buying stones from Russia

Meanwhile, Savills suspended its franchise agreement in Russia.

The London Stock Exchange-listed global property services provider has its Cambridge base at Unex House on Hills Road.

A spokesperson for Savills said: “Savills is appalled at the scenes of humanitarian tragedy unfolding across Ukraine, has already made significant donations to aid agencies working in Ukraine and neighboring countries to help to alleviate this suffering, and supports those of its persons personally concerned.

“Savills has a longstanding zero tolerance for dealing with sanctioned parties and does not engage in business with named sanctioned entities or individuals.

“Savills does not own or have an interest in any business in Russia; business in Russia is undertaken by an associate of Savills (a franchisee), with whom Savills has a very long-standing relationship.

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