De Beers seeks to polish its Moscow image

THE Oppenheimers are in town cutting quite a dash as they try to ensure Russian diamonds stay within the strict boundaries of their diamond-selling monopoly, De Beers. Last night they opened elaborate new offices on Tverskaya Street where all the fashionable Western retailers are vying for space. Parliamentary deputies and businessmen came.

Seven cars whisked the De Beers team around from official offices to the Cultural Foundation where the company donated pounds 750,000 of fine art and Russian treasures, including a long-lost letter from Pushkin, another from Turgenev and still another from Tolstoy to Gandhi found in South Africa by De Beers' former chairman, Harry Oppenheimer.

His son Nicky, who is deputy chairman, explained: 'We have a tradition of extending ourselves into the cultural life of the countries where we do business . . . there's a synergy between the beauty of a diamond and the beauty of the art we see here.'

'Very interesting I must say,' said Harry Oppenheimer as he toured his own generous gifts. He was making his first visit to Russia at the age of 84, although his De Beers company has been dealing with the Soviet Union, often at arm's length during the Cold War, for the last 30 years.

Nicky Oppenheimer admitted that the world diamond market was going through difficult times. Recessions hit jewellery companies first and De Beers more than most because for years they have controlled all but a small percentage of the diamond market. The job of the diamond merchants was to bring back 'confidence', said Mr Oppenheimer. 'Confidence is uniquely important to the diamond trade.'

But confidence in De Beers is also demanded by the diamond producers. Russia digs out 25 per cent of the world's diamonds - after Southern Africa's 50 per cent - and if Moscow decided to go it alone in the market that would seriously upset the controlled price set by De Beers. The price of diamonds could crash.

Since the new Russian government emerged De Beers executives have been flying into Moscow in the company's jet, buttering up politicians here and in the main diamond-producing region of Yakutia in eastern Russia. Some members of the Russian parliament, sniffing capitalist exploitation, are determined that Russia should have more control over the sale of its diamonds than it had under the corrupt Communist government, which the MPs accuse of selling out to De Beers.

The Oppenheimers, and a bevy of a dozen fresh-faced, smartly suited De Beers executives, are equally determind that there should be business as usual.

Yesterday, the Russians replied to the deluge of expensive gifts with something also priceless that costs almost nothing: a brilliant concert by child prodigies. 'It was a small demonstration of our own power,' said Svyatoslav Belza, the Cultural Foundation's compere.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Joinery Shop Foreman

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Joinery Shop Foreman is required to join a p...

Recruitment Genius: Bench Joiner

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Bench Joiner is required to join a privately...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Recruitment and Sales People wanted f...

Recruitment Genius: Multi Skilled Engineer - Electrical / Mechanical / Maintenance

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A multi-skilled engineer with a...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada