diamonds are forever?
July 28, 2017 12:53 PM   Subscribe

The Nearly Mile-Wide Diamond Mine That Helped Build the Soviet Union. The Mirny Mine [previously] is so large it creates its own microclimate, and Mirny is/was pretty much a company town.

Pictures of Mirny.
The Mystery Of Russia's Dangling Carats
And an excerpt from(?) Edward Jay Epstein's Have You Ever Tried To Sell A Diamond: The Russians Are Coming

The De Beers arrangement with the Soviet Union was only for uncut diamonds. The Russians had always reserved a small percentage of its production from Siberia for its own Jewelry manufacturing. In the late 1960s, these Russian-cut jewels began to appear in ever-increasing number in the grading halls of Antwerp. Cut and polished in Russian factories in Moscow, Kiev and Sverdlovsk, the diamonds were called "silver bears," and had some extraordinary features. To begin with, most silver bears were almost exactly the same size in girth, and weighed approximately two-tenths of a carat each. Moreover, each of them had the same octahedron shape, and they were nearly identically faceted and polished. It was almost as if, as one Belgian trader observed, the silver bears had all been cut from the same pattern.
posted by the man of twists and turns (12 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Where did that penguin come from? Given that they are southern-hemisphere birds, one wouldn't expect to find one in Siberia.
posted by acb at 1:13 PM on July 28 [3 favorites]

I suspect that's just a picture of Antarctica that was mislabeled.
posted by leotrotsky at 1:23 PM on July 28

You underestimate penguins at your own peril.
posted by Sphinx at 1:39 PM on July 28 [9 favorites]

I'm wading through all the links and they all seem to be circling around that point but never getting to it - it was strongly suspected that the diamonds that DeBeers was comitted to buy were artificially produced (lab grown) and presented as coming from the mine
posted by Dmenet at 2:34 PM on July 28 [6 favorites]

Reminds me of the ecological disaster I see every morning outside my window.
posted by msbutah at 3:07 PM on July 28 [3 favorites]

I assume that domed city mentioned in the "microclimate" link is never going to happen, but if it does I want to visit it.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 3:46 PM on July 28

I assume that domed city mentioned in the "microclimate" link is never going to happen, but if it does I want to visit it.

It'll probably happen either shortly before or shortly after the proposed rail tunnel from Siberia to Alaska. Which will be convenient for getting there.
posted by acb at 3:54 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]

Are they trying to hint that the diamonds produced from the mine were fake some how ? (like produced in a lab, not in the pit ?)
posted by k5.user at 6:37 PM on July 28

Are they trying to hint that the diamonds produced from the mine were fake some how ? (like produced in a lab, not in the pit ?)

Either that, or UFOs. Take your pick.

Seriously, for me things like that are inspiration, because I'm writing a far-future setting, after multiple civilizations have risen and fallen. So can you imagine people finding this pit thousands of years from now? With no idea of why it was created? And maybe after someone tried putting a city in it? Hell, maybe three or four cities on top of each other.
posted by happyroach at 9:12 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]

Gotta say, if DeBeers can't tell if the diamonds are dug out the ground or lab-made, what does it matter?
posted by Dysk at 3:24 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]

I read Have You Ever Tried To Sell A Diamond some years ago but for some reason this didn't get retained in my memory. Perhaps the small pic at the top didn't adequately convey the scale of the operation. Interesting that apparently DeBeers was a big source of income for the Soviet Union. I wondered where all the dirt went, but that was addressed in the comments section of the Gizmodo story. I also wondered how long the spiral road to the bottom is, but didn't see that information anywhere.

The helicopter ban is intriguing; I wonder if other large open pits have similar restrictions. Atlas Obscura suggests it may be apocryphal.
posted by TedW at 7:50 PM on July 29

It appears that the mine has made headlines this weekend. Apparently it flooded, trapping ~150 workers. According to the latest on NPR, they have rescued most but 9 are still missing. Hope they get them out safely.
posted by TedW at 4:21 AM on August 5

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