When a certain Paris-based magazine stunned the fashion world with an Italian edition devoted to black models the image that sprang to mind was Alek Wek, the Sudanese model and entrepreneur who has helped redefine the fashion world's idea of beauty. As an 18-year-old in 1995, she was discovered at a London market and was soon gracing the front of Elle magazine - a cover that changed the fashion world's perspective on beauty. Since then Wek has worked for Issey Miyake, Moschino, Victoria's Secret, John Galliano, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein and made an excursion into the movies (The Four Feathers with Heath Ledger). She also helped redefine what counts as a fashionable shade of beauty when she appeared in Herb Ritts' 1999 Pirelli calendar as the only woman of colour. The iconic photo featured Wek naked and gleaming in full body paint done by Joanne Gair. Named Model of the Year in 1997 and then Model of the Decade, Wek's appearance in 1999 on People magazine's list of the 50 Most Beautiful People enhanced her image. Her prominence helped open the eyes of the fashion world and create opportunities for models from Asia and Africa to break into an industry where the boundaries of beauty had previously been confined to white skin and blonde hair. Of course, Wek is not the only or even the first black supermodel. But the power of her distinctive face and powerful frame goes beyond the glow of her perfect skin or the seemingly endless span of her legs and arms. Wek is also a true creative, with her own line of handbags and belts called Wek 1933, named for her late father's birth year. And now she has another project, designing diamond jewellery for the DeBeers ForeverMark Diamond line in pursuit of another redefinition of feminine beauty. And, as one might expect, Wek's designs are about being bold. She uses jewellery to emphasise the strength and sensuality of feminine beauty - two qualities she possesses in abundance. Cosily wedged in a basement corner of Blake's Hotel in Chelsea, London, Wek's broad, bedazzling smile spreads over a cherubic face. A waft of Prada Iris catches the air as Wek discusses her new project. 'I like to educate myself about anything I get involved in - that is the only way you can work wholeheartedly,' she says, her accent an exotic mix of British, American and Sudanese. 'They took me through a kind of seminar which was really the first time I got to learn about diamonds and their history,' she says of the intense introduction to ForeverMark diamonds she received at the brand's headquarters. 'All the elements that they symbolised from years and years up until today, it hasn't really changed. Diamonds have always been forever.' ForeverMark sells diamonds of ultra-high quality and fewer than 1 per cent of the diamonds mined today qualify for the microscopic inscription of the brand's trademark that is a unique feature of their products. Working with ForeverMark's Diamantaires - the highest level diamond craftsmen - left Wek astounded. Having worn the world's most beautiful and exclusive fashion she is not easy to surprise but Wek admits: 'I never would have thought I would be involved with such incredible diamonds.' Born in Sudan as a member of the Dinka tribe, Wek left for Britain in 1991 to escape the civil war in her homeland that claimed her father's life. Her exact birth date is unknown: her mother chose the date that's on her birth certificate from a day in the rainy season when Wek, one of nine children, was born. Now based in New York, where she shares a studio with her accidental cat Simonetta, Wek resisted the urge to take a huge bag of rocks back to her place. 'I wouldn't want to be responsible for all those diamonds!' she laughs. 'I went back to my studio and sketched my design and then faxed it over ... the amount of hours that went into this piece was amazing.' The adopted Simonetta is her muse, and even though the half Siamese half Persian has a huge personality - 'with blue eyes, and dark hair, and she walked into the house - meow!', Wek laughs that she won't be spoiling her with a diamond collar. 'That cat is not going to wear diamonds! She'll have to be happy with her tag.' Wek's Rose Waterfall is one of nine designs commissioned by ForeverMark from nine designers. The project also includes nine authors, among them Alexander McCall Smith, Chang Man Chuan and Paul Theroux, who have contributed 'Precious Stories'. The question of how much Wek's piece costs is never answered, only that it is 'priceless'. The only African in the group, Wek looked to nature for the piece's concept. 'It is roses and waterfalls and I am just blown away by how the diamond cutters brought it to life without changing it,' she says. 'It is a really flexible look, so it is not just for me.' Wek says she thought very carefully about how diamonds work with a woman's skin tones and drew on her experience with representing cosmetic brands where shade, tone and shadow mean everything. Wek has done campaigns for Clinique, NARS and MAC cosmetics and in each case she says she learnt something new about shape and colour. For Wek, jewellery, like cosmetics, is a personal thing. 'They are not like clothes, they really become a part of you. I watched my mother wear her makeup and jewellery so elegantly - they were a part of her as a woman,' she says, 'I work in a business where I wear a lot of things - after you take them off, you put your own things back on.' Jewellery, then, is like a second skin, a decoration that means something to you. Wek has put passion into Rose Waterfalls, but these elements are no stranger to a woman who is grounded and calm yet emanates an eager, unsullied energy. This extends to more than fashion, however. Her autobiography Alek was published in 2007. She is a member of the US Committee for Refugees' Advisory Council, which raises awareness of the situation in her homeland. She speaks at forums about race, famine and education and has worked with charities that focus on Aids, children and breast cancer. And Wek's appearances on American TV programmes such as The Tyra Banks Show, have given hope to many. When she appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show the talk-show queen said that Wek has helped redefine what the world sees as beauty. 'If you'd been on the cover of a magazine when I was growing up, I would have had a different concept of who I was,' Winfrey told Wek. Despite family tragedy and narrowly escaping civil war herself, Wek continues to see the world with fresh eyes. The separate pieces of Rose Waterfall - all 169 carats of it - can be worn in a multitude of ways, a variation on typical jewellery design where the designer has the last word. Wek was not intimidated by the stones and is truly pleased with the result of her design for Rose Waterfalls. 'In life, if you see it, you don't even think about the price. It is a gorgeous piece,' she says. But wouldn't Wek like to keep her first ForeverMark diamond creation? She laughs, 'We're going to talk ...'