HISTORY OF THE INDUSTRY

DIAMOND INDUSTRY OF THE USSR INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT

For more than 200 years single diamonds have been found in Russia in the Northern Urals and Siberia.  On July 5, 1829 during the washing of gold fourteener serf Pavel Popov found the first diamond weighing 1.5 carats near the village of Promysla. Now there is a memorial near the spring called the Diamond Key. For a remarkable find Pavel Popov got freedom. Further systematic searches for diamonds over 150 years gave no results. There were only single small diamonds. 

In the late 1920s and early 30s the USSR faced the problem of providing the national economy with domestic diamonds. Until 1939 the USSR was the largest buyer of diamonds from De Beers. The volume of their imports was more than 2 million rubles, and this provided only 50% of the needs of mechanical engineering. 

The problem of dependence of the USSR on diamond mining was of an acute political nature. In the early 40s the USSR received from De Beers only 23 thousand carats of diamonds a year. The United States received such quantity already in 1926. Special expeditions of the Central Geological Research Institute for Nonferrous and Precious Metals (TsNIGRI) (A. Burov), All-Russian Scientific-Research Institute of Mineral Resources (VIMS) (A. Volin, M. Bogoslovsky) and the Ural Humanitarian Institute (UGI) (K. Matveev) did not give positive results.

There was neither unified theory of the origin of diamonds nor knowledge of signs of diamond content. Now when pyrope theory (pyrope - diamonds’ satellite) and mathematical models of processes in kimberlite pipes have become self-evident, it is difficult to appreciate the selfless and heroic work of discoverers armed with only a magnifying glass and a washing tray. But geologists-heroes of past years have managed to prove that impossible is nothing, their experience and intuition are admirable. Alexander Burov (1898-1967) explored gold-platinum placers of the Northern Urals and Siberia since 1930. Only in 1937 a fragment of 0.5 mm was found. By the use of an X-ray machine only. Later limited placers of diamonds were discovered there. But that was not enough.

The situation with precise and high-speed treatment of hard metals in mechanical engineering became an emergency. The USSR was down for the count in metalworking. The lagging in the engine building for aviation behind Germany and the United States grew exponentially.

At the beginning of 1938 the Economic Board of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR took a decision to step up the search for diamonds. The Diamond Bureau was established under the Committee for Geology.  A special group was found in VSEGEI (All-Russian Geological Institute) to search diamonds throughout the country.  A. Burov was appointed the head of the group for the search of diamonds in the Urals. 

All materials for prospecting and mining diamonds were classified as "secret". From that time until 1956 there was no information in public media on the work in this area.

In the prewar years (1938-1939) prospecting works were concentrated mainly in the places of incidental findings of diamonds - the Urals, the Kola Peninsula, the Eastern Sayans, the Yenisei Taiga. Deposits and diamond-bearing areas were discovered in the valley of the rivers Koiva, Vizhaya. New methods for enriching diamond-bearing sands and extracting diamonds from concentrates using X-ray equipment were developed. The first group of diamond enrichment specialists was created at the VIMS Institute, special equipment was developed and two processing plants were built. On January 5-13, 1940 the first All-Union Conference was held in Leningrad (on the basis of VSEGEI).

On August 8, 1940 the united Ural diamond expedition (UAE) was organized on the basis of special search groups VIMS and TsNIGRI. A. Burov was appointed the chief geologist. In 1941 UAE mastered the method of reserves estimation, the enrichment scheme, built six temporary processing plants and mined several hundred carats of diamonds. In 1941-1942 the UAE together with the MEHANOBR Institute (State Scientific-Research and Design Institute for Beneficiation) put into operation the first stationary diamond mining factory in the Tyrym area. In 1941 the trust "Uralzoloto" started mining diamonds on six placers of the Teplogorsky mine.

1942 can be considered the year of the domestic diamond industry production start.

In future the geography of diamond prospecting was expanded beyond the old findings in the Urals, new methods were proposed, and on August 21, 1954 the geologist Larisa Popugaeva (Grintsevich) discovered the first primary diamond deposit the Zarnitsa tube in Western Yakutia. In 1955-1958 the richest primary deposits of Yakutia diamonds were discovered in the Udachnaya, Mir and Internatsionalnaya tubes. It became obvious that the USSR possesses the largest reserves of diamonds in the world. The country received a reliable source of raw diamonds necessary for the industry. The Soviet Union ranked number two in the world for diamond mining after South Africa. In 1959 the first trade contract was signed with De Beers. Since then, the close cooperation of the two largest world diamond producers has begun.

In the early 60's the production of diamonds exceeded the needs of the engineering industries (primarily the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Medium Machinery of the USSR). 
It became necessary to make mass purchases of imported machine tools and rolling equipment, to get new technologies for the production of aluminum sheet. The Government of the USSR adopted the regulation on the use of raw diamonds and cut diamonds in consumer goods and their export in order to increase foreign exchange earnings. It was also decided to establish its own cutting production and jewelry industry.

Alexei Kosygin (1904-1980) was the leader of economic transformations in the USSR and the development of the diamond-mining and diamond-processing industry.

For 16 years as Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, Kosygin significantly contributed to the economic reforms in the USSR. As a shrewd politician, outstanding manager and experienced executive, he appreciated the strategic role of industrial diamonds for the use in various industries, primarily the defense.


It was impossible to develop many branches of engineering, to produce high-precision bearings, rolling shafts, turbines, to develop Atommash without a diamond tool and powders.

Kosygin personally supervised the solution of the main issues of development of the diamond mining complex - financing and construction of basic facilities, social sphere, involving ministries and departments to solve many specific issues. 

Kosygin suggested creating a system of multichannel exports of rough diamonds and cutting diamonds, thereby laying one of the first concepts for the development of the domestic diamond industry.

The Government of the USSR decided to export some part of the mined diamonds to the diamond monopolist De Beers, and to process the other part independently into cut diamonds and to supply them to the world diamond trade centers. The task was to develop a network of cutting enterprises within 5-9 years and to sell the cut diamonds and jewelry in the domestic and foreign markets, thereby increasing the gold and currency reserves of the country. 

Thanks to Kosygin’s "diamond program" the USSR began to increase the deep processing of rough diamonds, gradually reducing the export of rough diamonds from the country. 

The following history of the USSR diamond complex development is a gradual implementation of the program adopted by the Government of the USSR.

Seven large cutting plants and several workshops were set up in the cities of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia and Uzbekistan. 

The first-born of the USSR diamond industry was the cutting plant in Smolensk. In June 1961 the USSR Council of Ministers decided to build a plant in Smolensk, and in 1963 the plant was launched. The own school of the cutting art was created, the technologies, machines and accessories were provided, systematic training of personnel started. Then the enterprises in Kiev, Moscow, Vinnitsa, Gomel, Barnaul, Yerevan (city of Nor Achin), Shahrisabz (Uzbekistan) were rapidly built.

The skills of the Smolensk and Moscow diamond cutters were famous all over the world. The term "Russian cut" has appeared in the world diamond business - as a symbol of the highest quality cut diamonds. This was an unprecedented success of a new industry for the country. 

In 1978 two integrated plants were created: Moscow and Smolensk.  The Moscow plant "Kristall", as the main enterprise, integrated with the Kiev, the Vinnitsa and the Barnaul plants, and in 1982 the cutting enterprise in the Uzbek city of Shakhrisabz joined it. A new branch of the economy was formed in the USSR, and the USSR itself became one of the leaders of the world diamond industry.

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