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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Treasure Hunt: Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend

When you think of the great diamond centers of the world, you probably don't immediately think of Smolensk. That's understandable. In the 1960s the Soviet Union decided to set up a plant in Smolensk to facet diamonds from Yakutia, now called Sakha. Since it was under the auspices of the defense industry -- presumably because it was a strategic enterprise, not because Soviet generals had a fondness for 3-caret baubles -- it kept a low profile. But it did produce extraordinarily fine stones for export.

The trick with faceting diamonds is getting them to glitter. We might think of a diamond as an expensive gemstone, but specialists regard it as a light-reflecting prism. Back in 1919, a Russian mathematician figured out the optimal relationship of crown to pavilion (the stem), the number and placement of facets to get the best return of light. This involves a round stone with 57 facets (a "commercial" faceted stone has a paltry 33 facets). This is the faceting done by the 1,000 specialists at the Smolensk Kristall factory. In professional circles, it has come to be known as KR57 (from the word krugly -- "round"), and more commonly "Russian faceting." In nonprofessional circles -- that is, among people like us -- it's known as a blindingly sparkly diamond.

The folks in Smolensk continue to work their wonders on 55 percent of the gem-quality diamonds from Sakha. Most continue to be sold abroad, to jewelers like Tiffany, Chopard and Cartier. But now a small percentage of their stones are available in Russia through the Smolenskiye Brillianty shops. The shops have their own jewelers who set the gems or who will devise a setting based on a client's sketch. They aren't cheap. A luxury-class, 1-caret, Russian-faceted diamond might cost more than $10,000. But they are among the highest quality, most sparkling diamonds in the world -- and they are much less expensive than their counterparts at Tiffany.

For those on a tight diamond-budget, they have much smaller diamonds with the same Russian faceting.

Smolenskiye Brillianty, 26 Ul. Petrovka, bldg. 3, 913-5818; 18/7 Kuznetsky Most, bldg. 1, 742-0530; Crocus City Mall, 727-2500.