High jewelry houses are increasingly going straight to the source to acquire rough diamonds that they will turn into their beautiful creations, writes Ming Liu in a feature for CNN. Typically, the larger category of rough diamonds are obtained by specialist diamond cutters and polishers who analyze each stone to determine the ideal cut in which to shape them, and only after this process are the polished gems usually presented to high jewelry houses. Recently, however, luxury jewelers - such as Graff Diamonds, which bought the 1,109-ct Lesedi La Rona, the largest diamond unearthed in the last 100 years, from Canada's Lucara Diamond Corp which mined it in Botswana - are undertaking the entire process from mine to jewel on their own. Vartkess Knadjian, CEO of the 228-year-old diamond company Backes & Strauss, says, "That provenance", of acquiring the stone at the source and keeping it through the entire journey, "will have tremendous interest for the consumer."
Ming Liu writes, "Buying rough stones directly from reputable dealers and mines can also give jewelers greater peace of mind. When you know the source of your stones, you can seek out the appropriate assurances that they were mined and sold under fair conditions. This has been a draw for Caroline Scheufele, co-president and artistic director of Chopard, who launched a campaign to bring more eco-friendly practices to jewelry-making in 2013. This passion for sustainability led her to the discovery of a 342-carat, D-color, flawless rough from Botswana's Karowe mine [from Lucara Diamond, which is], one of the world's first diamond mines to achieve a Fairmined certification, which denotes responsible mining practices. The rough was christened the Queen of Kalahari and produced 23 diamonds (five of which are over 20 carats), which were set into a suite of six outstanding jewels." "People increasingly want to know the whole supply chain," Scheufele said. That diamond was cut in Antwerp: Computer modelling suggested the possibility of cutting 23 diamonds in various shapes and sizes, all of which were D-color and Flawless. Experts in Antwerp spent months cutting them with a result of five diamonds being above 20 carats: a 50-carat round brilliant, a 26-carat heart shape, a 25-carat pear, a 21-carat emerald cut and a 20-carat cushion. [pictured above]. The process of creating the Gardens of Kalahari took over 3,200 hours.