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By John Helmer in Moscow

Alrosa has referred to the criminal prosecutors and the Russian courts the investigation of a case of substitution of low-value synthetic stones in a batch of Alrosa rough that was sold to a foreign client. Andrei Polyakov, the company spokesman, told PolishedPrices.com that a case of substitution had been discovered “recently”. He declined to say who is suspected, and how exactly the substitution was pulled off. The evidence will appear in court, Polyakov added, and “it’s up to the law enforcement services to find who is guilty”.

Alrosa has acknowledged, according to Russian press reports, that the switch occurred in a small batch of stones of up to 3 carats in size, and that though the discovery was recent, the switch is believed to have happened between late 2008 and early 2009 during cutting and polishing of the rough. Reference in the reports to the fact that the stones were consigned for manufacturing in a tolling agreement with Alrosa suggests the substitution may have occurred in an Armenian factory. However, the origin of the synthetic stones used for the substitution is likely to have been Russian. Such switches were known to have occurred during the 1990s in the diamond pipeline between Russia and the Armenian cutting plants.

The genuine Alrosa rough appears to have been stolen, and replaced by stones treated by the high pressure, high heat ( HPHT) synthesizing technology at a location outside the direct control of the main company or its diamond polishing affiliate, Alrosa is now saying. The process involves large presses that can weigh hundreds of tonnes to produce a pressure of 5 GPa at 1500 °C. Such technology was in use in the mid-1990s at plants at Alexandrov, near Moscow, and also in western Siberia.

Who discovered the tampering, and why it has taken more than a year to reveal, are not questions Alrosa is prepared to answer for the time being. If the fakes were returned to Alrosa, according to the tolling contract, then the delay in discovery may have been due to last year’s slow demand for diamond sales.

“Such manipulation of its products may damage the reputation of the company and the diamond as such,” Alrosa has said in a statement, “so any attempt to mislead the consumers of precious stones, made of our diamonds, will be stopped in the strongest fashion.”

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