DIAMONDS under the loop

Trends in experiential luxury and coloured diamonds are leading a market segment operating under strict ethical guidelines, says Alexander Borruso, Head of Sales Europe for Sotheby’s Diamonds

To see a diamond under ten times magnification – such as with a standard jeweller’s loop – is to enter a completely new world. Delicate angles are refracted and inclusions invisible to the naked eye come into focus, giving the stone its unique character – and a set of distinguishing marks that experts use to differentiate specific gems. This is luxury 300 million years in the making – with the oldest diamond deposits believed to be more than three billion years old. ‘What you are seeing is the fingerprint of the stone,’ says Alessandro Borruso, Head of Sales, Europe, for Southeby’s Diamonds. It is the information which is included on the stone’s ‘passport,’ a set of documents which set out the stone’s provenance, unique characteristics, and crucially that shows an assured chain of custody which complies with the Kimberley Process, the ethical framework for the diamond trade. Borruso, who conducts diamond masterclasses for Southeby’s around the world, says that ethical sourcing is a frequently asked question by prospective buyers, closely followed queries about the investment potential of the stones. He believes that questions about sourcing are also related to the rise in experiential luxury – a broader trend in the luxury segment often described as ‘being’ rather than ‘owning.' ‘They want to know the story behind the diamond, of course to make sure that it is not unethically sourced, but also because they want to understand the rarity on a geological level and the craftsmanship that goes into taking the raw material and turning into an object of pure beauty,’ says Borruso. ‘They want a unique piece and a unique story to tell.’ Sotheby’s is an SEC-listed company, which regularly conducts enquiries into its supply chain and strongly supports greater assurances that all material used in their jewellery are responsibly sourced in compliance with United Nations resolutions. They operate in partnership with Diacore, which provides rough and polished diamonds from facilities in Botswana, South Africa and Namibia.

COLOUR TRENDS The Southeby's Diamonds business was founded in 2005 by Patti Wong, Chairman of Sotheby’s Asia, and is headquartered in London, where a team of Sotheby’s designers and crafts persons create bespoke jewels for their clients, including a recent collaboration with by London-based, Brazilian-bred jewellery designer, Lily Gabriella Elia. Elia’s collection includes ornate rings and earrings created using naturallyoccurring yellow-coloured diamonds. Her nine one-of-a-kind creations, under the name Ode to Yellow, were unveiled in February at Sotheby’s Diamonds retail space in London, and six of the jewels were recently on display at Sotheby’s New York headquarters as part of a world tour for clients. According to Barruso, not only are coloured diamonds extremely rare, they have seen a massive increase in interest from customers looking for one-of-kind pieces. There are naturally occurring examples with hues of yellow, pink, red and green. A recent study by the Fancy Colour Research Foundation (FCRF), which promotes fair-trade, ethical standards and transparency in the coloured diamond trade, found that sales in yellow diamonds have increased by 81 percent in the past ten years. Rose coloured diamonds increased by 177 percent in the same time frame. ‘At the end of the day, diamonds are an emotional investment,’ says Barruso, who worked with the artist Damien Hurst on his iconic diamond-encrusted skull. ‘When you start to learn about them, you can see that no diamond is alike.’ 

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