It is our third day in Moscow and we are exploring the old heart of Moscow, getting lost in the maze of atmospheric alleyways and small streets behind the Bolshoi Theatre, an area known for its luxury boutiques, high-end brand stores and trendy coffee salons. We stop for tea on Stoleshnikov periylok, the perfect place to enjoy a sunny afternoon in Moscow. As we watch business execs and shoppers go by, Anouk turns to me. “So what does Russia stand for in your view?”
I take a moment to think and then respond: “To me it is contradictory and fascinatingly attractive at the same time. It is so huge – just imagine that you can spend seven days travelling non-stop by train from Moscow to Vladivostok. And over this huge area there is an unimaginable wealth of natural resources: oil, gas, coal, timber, tin, tungsten, gold, silver, diamonds…”
“Wow!” says Anouk. “I had no idea that Russia produced diamonds! Can we go and visit the mines and see the diamond cutters at work? That would be amazing!”
I smile at her. “Well, it’s not impossible, but Russia’s diamonds are mined about 5,000 kilometres from Moscow, so I don’t think we’ll manage to squeeze it in before dinner…”
Anouk laughs. “Yes, that might be a bit hard – but where is this region where they produce diamonds?”
“Yakutia,” I tell her, “Russia’s largest federal republic in eastern Siberia – the place is larger than Argentina, but has less than a million inhabitants. It’s very rich in natural resources, producing 97 percent of Russian diamonds and over 25 percent of all diamonds mined worldwide.”
“I have an idea though,” I tell her. “We won’t be able to visit the mines, but the EPL Diamond Company, the largest manufacturer of Yakutian diamonds, has a boutique just a few minutes walk from here. Do you want to go check it out?”
“Great, let’s go!” says Anouk. “Diamonds are a girl’s best friends!”
A range of exquisite designs is on display at the boutique, every piece more delicate than the next. Slowly, we are drawn to a stand in the middle of the space that showcases unique designs, including a set that can be worn as a single piece or taken apart to become an earring, ring and charm bracelet. “These are really incredible,” says Anouk as we bend over yet another unusual design.
“I’m glad you think so!” says a voice behind us. The company’s marketing manager, Anastasiya, who was passing by the boutique by chance, introduces herself. We explain that we are on a journey of discovery through the world of Russian brands. “And EPL Diamonds caught our eye – your designs are really beautiful,” says Anouk.
“Thanks!” says Anastasiya with a smile. “We have been mining and cutting diamonds since 1994 and over the years we have become one of the country’s key jewellery manufacturing companies. Since then we have helped move Russia to the number one position in global diamond production. We are the third-largest exporter of Russian diamonds.”
“What an incredible story!” Anouk says enthusiastically. “We’d really love to learn more about the brand’s history and your vision for the future – both of the company and of Russian diamond production.”
“We’d be happy to welcome you!” says Anastasiya. “I’ll set up a meeting with Petr Stepanovich, EPL Diamonds’ owner. He’s the man with the story!”
“Sounds great,” says Anouk. “We love stories!”
Tags: Katerina Rogova, Ekaterina Rogova, CoolBrands NextWorld Storytelling, NextWorld, CoolBrands Storytelling, CoolBrands, curator Russia, coolbrands curator Russia, CBNWS, #ATW80B, MIG812, Brand Psychologist. HowISeeRussia, Anouk Pappers, Maarten Schafer, EPL Diamonds Moscow