Commercial Banks In Belarus Get "Go-Ahead" To Sell Diamonds

Individual commercial banks in Belarus will be allowed to conduct transactions in diamonds before the end of the year, says the National Bank of Belarus (NBB). This decision is in response to formal requests by several banks that the NBB authorize such diamond operations.

The NBB's Gemology Center told Russian news source Interfax of the current plans, which include commercial banks being allowed to sell only NBB-certified diamonds, thus eliminating the need for them to hire their own gemologists. Furthermore, according to Interfax, the diamond prices offered by the local banks won't differ significantly from the retail prices on diamonds sold by the NBB.

An NBB bank official was reported as saying that the NBB also plans to buy back certified diamonds before the end of the year. He added that domestic demand for diamonds is on the rise.

Diamond sales revenues in the first eight months of the year reached an estimated US$217,394.00 (467.1 million Belarusian rubles), a 45 percent increase from the same period in 2006. Interfax reports that as of September 1, 2007, the NBB had sold 1,755 stones weighing a total of 397.66 carats worth an estimated US$531,992.00 (1.1531 billion Belarusian rubles) since diamond sales began in December 2005. As of the beginning of 2007, the NBB had sold 917 stones weighing 166.45 carats worth an estimated US$319,377.00 (686 million Belarusian rubles).

Sources say that while there is great demand in Belarus for diamonds ranging in price from US$500-US$600, which buys a stone weighing 0.3 carats, there is also a growing demand for larger stones weighing 0.8-3 carats, which cost between US$2,500-US$15,000.

NBB's Minsk office started selling these larger stones about a month ago and from the first lot of 25 stones, 10 were sold for US$3,000-US$8,000. Interfax reports that the lot's most expensive stone, 2.02 carats priced at US$15,057 has not yet been sold, nor has the lot's largest stone, 2.52 carats priced at US$8,300.

While NBB obtains the stones at Alrosa auctions, an NBB subsidiary, Belgran (Gomel), does the cutting. The sale price is further determined by an expert commission.

NBB's gemologists are trained at Moscow State University as well as the HRD in Belgium. The NBB's precious stones fund totaled 38,800 carats worth 30.9 million Euro at the beginning of 2007.