In the Diamond Mind: Rebecca Foerster
By Heidi Garnett, Writer And Co-Founder Of Gem X @Heidielizabethgarnett
A conversation with Rebecca Foerster, President of ALROSA USA.
She transforms brown gems into desirable champagne diamonds and speckled stones into cool salt-and-pepper diamonds. Now, she has her sights set on fluorescent diamonds. An unusual background and exciting, innovative plans made my conversation with Rebecca Foerster of ALROSA USA an absolute pleasure. In today’s column, Rebecca shares why passionate individuals should focus on winning wars, rather than battles, what jewelry has learned from skincare, why fluorescence is the next big thing in diamonds and more.
Q: What’s the story of your first diamond?
When I was 12 years old, I like many girls my age wanted pierced ears. I finally convinced my parents to allow it and my father took me to get my ears pierced. We spent the afternoon together, first getting my ears pierced and then finding small, perfect diamond studs. My father said if I was to have pierced ears, then I should have the best earrings he could purchase for me. To this day, I wear those diamond studs every day.
It’s easy to forget what diamonds are truly about for those of us who work in the industry. Yes, measurements like the 4Cs are important. However, at the end of the day, the value of a diamond is in its story.
Q: What excites you most at the moment?
ALROSA becoming more innovative and focused on the consumer. I have been in the diamond mining industry for more than 25 years and it is an industry that has been slower to embrace change. The pandemic brought on a very difficult time in the lives of people around the world, but it also prompted businesses to evolve. I am excited by the plans we have and by how you will see the perception of ALROSA change during the year ahead.
Q: What is your intention for the year ahead?
To continue focusing on our consumer-facing initiatives, which are driving innovation in the diamond industry. A prime example is our new brand Luminous Diamonds, which reimagines and repositions fluorescent diamonds. As you might know, fluorescence is the bluish glow that some natural diamonds emit when exposed to ultraviolet light. The industry has traditionally viewed diamonds with this beautiful, natural phenomenon as the ugly stepsibling of diamonds without fluorescence. Luminous Diamonds changes this with a collection of stunning jewels that play with fluorescent diamonds. Particularly relevant as the world begins to emerge from the difficulties of the pandemic, the brand tagline is: Follow your inner light.
We have seen a very positive response to Luminous Diamonds, and already have 29 distribution points with more coming. It is easy to have blinders on when you have worked in an industry for some time. In previous positions, I similarly helped reposition champagne diamonds and salt-and-pepper diamonds as desirable. We are now taking the blinders off when it comes to fluorescence.
Q: What’s your greatest indulgence?
Golf. It’s a fascinating sport that continues to challenge me. It is all about mindset, which makes it the hardest sport I have ever played. I got into it serious about three years ago and have played tournaments and club events. During the pandemic, it was a God send, because talk about social distancing. I could always get away to play golf by myself.
Q: What diamond destination is at the top of your list?
My favorite diamond destination so far is the Diavik Diamond Mine in Canada. The mine is built in the middle of a lake and the only way to get to it is flying or ice roads. The same ice roads that inspired the TV show Ice Road Truckers and the Netflix film Ice Road featuring Liam Neeson. Diavik is the first mine I ever visited and I was fascinated. The way the mine was developed and operated is incredible. It is all about the environment, sustainability and the community. When we talk about how diamonds do good and give back to communities, Diavik is a prime example. I cannot wait to visit an ALROSA mine in Yakutia, located in the eastern part of Russia, which I know will join Diavik as another favorite.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in jewelry?
I didn’t intentionally pursue a career in jewelry. Actually, I majored in science in college and started out in the cosmetics industry. I loved working in the lab and spent many years developing new skincare and fragrance products, including building their brands. Based on this experience, I was recruited by a large North American manufacturer of wedding bands to bring the marketing discipline I had learned and apply it to the jewelry industry.
When I first started in jewelry it was complete culture shock. I could not believe a luxury industry did not have more advanced marketing practices. There was little storytelling and not much of a consumer value proposition. During those early days, I remember thinking to myself, what am I doing? Then, I realized what an incredible opportunity I had to make a difference. It did not take long for me to fall in love with diamonds, a gift of nature, and jewelry.
Q: What moment still blows your mind?
The opportunity to be president of ALROSA USA and president of Diamonds Do Good. There still aren’t enough women in leadership positions in the world and to be one is a big deal to me. It blows my mind that I have the opportunity to put my name on something, to develop something new and to make a difference. It makes me both excited and reflective.
Q: What life lesson has been the hardest earned, and taught you the most?
I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I tend to have an opinion about things. When I was younger, I felt I had to assert myself and that opinion. I’m a passionate person and when I believe in something I fight for it. Thing is, in the workplace, not everyone agrees with you or appreciates your perspective. I had a boss at the beginning of my career who said to me, “Look, you’re only going to frustrate yourself. When faced with different opinion, remember, lose battles and win wars.” I have kept this philosophy in my mind every single day since.
Q: What advice would you give your younger self?
Be less hard on yourself and lighter. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that many things that used to bother me or that seemed so serious actually don’t matter that much at the end of the day. I’ve also learned the importance of balance and of managing different aspects of life to feel happy and complete.
Q: What’s next for diamonds?
Diamonds will continue to be important parts of peoples’ lives. As the industry continues to evolve, we will continue to become more consumer focused and this will lead to greater success. I think designs with fluorescent diamonds will be the most innovative thing the diamond industry has seen in some time.