Rough diamonds are exerting a strong pull on investors and creative jewellers
But many designers and even some brides are choosing diamonds in their natural state, seeking out the inherent organic shapes of gemstones from nature.
Rio Tinto unveiled one of the largest diamonds ever found in Canada in late 2015, the exceptional 187.7ct Diavik Foxfire diamond. The gem-quality rough appeared at a private preview in Kensington Palace, but it was discovered a world away in the remote Northwest Territories of Canada, 220km south of the Arctic Circle.
The find is now with Excellent Facets – a New York-based company that was the successful bidder at Rio Tinto’s Specials Tender – and will likely yield at least one very large polished diamond, destined to be set in an heirloom piece of jewellery. But many jewellery designers and even some brides are choosing diamonds in their natural state, seeking out the inherent organic shapes of gemstones from nature.
The investment potential of roughs is stoked by the difficulty of sourcing. Only around 20 per cent of rough diamonds will be part of diamond jewellery, and new rough is seldom available.
After months of anticipation in advance of the offer by Sotheby’s London of a rare gem-quality rough diamond of incredible scale; no rough diamond of importance had ever before been offered at public auction; and no diamond – polished or rough – has ever been estimated at its price level, the bidding for the 1,109ct Lesedi la Rona reached US$61 million on June 29, but the stone failed to reach its reserve price.
Meanwhile, in Paris last week, at the opening of the 28th Biennale des Antiquaires, jewellery company de Grisogono announced it had acquired the rights to The Constellation, the world’s most expensive rough diamond. The Constellation was found a day after Canadian company Lucara revealed it had discovered the Lesedi la Rona. The purchase represents a huge moment for the company in its bid to become a leading high jewellery and watch brand.
Measuring more than 6cm wide, The Constellation weighs 813ct and was also discovered by Lucara at its Karowe mine in Botswana in November 2015. The gem was purchased for US$63 million this year, following a bidding process.
It is expected that the cutting process, due to be completed by the middle of 2017, may unveil one of the world’s largest certified flawless diamonds.
Jewellery professionals attest to the patterns that can be created with rough diamonds and their striking combination with polished diamonds of different carat size, hues and cuts.
Fawaz Gruosi, founder of de Grisogono, says: “I am thrilled to have the chance to work with such an incredible and important diamond as The Constellation. I cannot wait to realise my vision for it.”
Colorado-based jewellery designer Todd Reed enjoys rough diamonds’ surfaces and textures, and how they ensure no two pieces of jewellery are alike. Their untouched allure has had a lasting impression on New York-based Daniel Eskapa, founder of one of the most successful jewellery houses working with rough diamonds today, Diamond in the Rough (DITR).
“I encountered rough diamonds at the age of 10 [travelling with my father through Africa in the late 1980s] and a passion was ignited. I questioned why something with such a natural magnificence, something truly born beautiful, would ever be tampered with.”
DITR never cuts, polishes, or alters a diamond; Eskapa and his team use each individual rough diamond as their muse. “The character of the source material is never denied, or obsessively polished to the point of being sterile. Its asymmetry and random edges remind us that despite all the skilled craft, it is still an object of the earth.”
While you can order a polished diamond in a certain carat weight, colour, clarity and cut, the same does not hold true for rough diamonds. Patience is required to find the best rough in addition to delicate handling as rough diamonds are more fragile than traditional diamonds.
The fact that each rough tells its own story explains why bridal collections featuring rough are resonating so well with couples. DITR’s diamonds are conflict free and there is a raft of emerging international design talent following the same ethos.
The desire for rough diamonds reflects an increasing appreciation of natural beauty in jewellery expressions.
■ Additional reporting by Pin Lee