If the magic of diamonds means they should have a personal affinity with their wearer, then it’s no wonder that uncut diamonds, left flawed and in their natural state, are among the worst kept secrets among jewellery connoisseurs.
Pippa Small and Solange Azagury-Partridge are two much-feted London designers featuring in the little black books of the world’s film stars, power brokers and collectors who paved their careers with rough diamonds.
“There’s one rough diamond ring I’ve always worn,” explains former Gucci and Chloe designer Small, who counts Mick Jagger and Nicole Kidman among her clients. “There’s a subtlety to it - you know it’s that gem - a diamond - but no one else does. Because it’s water-worn it tells the tale of a journey, the wind and the water that has shaped its beauty. It’s been tumbled in the sand for thousands of years, so the shapes become softened and pebble-like.” Former Boucheron Director Azagury-Partridge launched her career after creating her own engagement ring from a rough diamond, reviving these elemental stones that, when paired with cut gems, create mesmeric flashings and light play.
“Designers are increasingly choosing rough diamonds or slithers of diamonds with interesting inclusions and formations, resulting in more imaginative jewellery,” says Joey Hardy, London-based senior jewellery specialist at Sotheby’s.
Diamonds were worn in the rough for two millennia, starting from 800 BC, by royalty, emperors and maharajahs as highly lauded decorative jewels. The movement famously recaptured public attention when Nicole Kidman wore a self-designed rough cut Bulgari diamond necklace to the 2002 Oscars. The next year, Diamond in the Rough was launched, selling jewellery valued at up to $1 million to individual clients but then, after overwhelming interest from celebrities, socialites and the fashion elite, extended to a wider audience. “Today, people are appreciating a natural aesthetic that is not over-enhanced,” Alisa Moussaieff, whose luxury family jewellers brought Diamonds in the Rough to the UK in late 2008, tells Luxos.
World-leading diamond experts De Beers are among the major trailblazers reviving this trend – nearly a third of the jewellery showcased at their Old Bond Street store incorporates rough gems. Their iconic Talisman trilogy launched in 2007, today embracing the Valley of the Diamonds and Amulets Collections, all folklorically inspired by the myths and superstitions of African spirit guides, Indian mystics and ancient legends. “De Beers combines astounding rough and organic shapes with polished diamonds to create strong, symbolic designs,” says Raphaele Canot, De Beers’ Creative Director. And if polished gems seem synonymous with femininity, then perhaps it’s unsurprising that their first ever men’s collection - Burning Rocks, created by guest designer Stephen Webster - embraces the power and mystique of natural stones.
The reason for diamonds’ coveted legacy is their unbreakable nature (the noun itself comes from the Ancient Greek “adamas”, meaning “invincible”) that saw rough diamonds strewn over the shields of kings. If diamonds have always been symbolic of power, then their majesty comes into its own in untouched forms - from translucent stones that are so shiny, smooth and clear that they draw gasps of incredulity from their admirers to earthy, cloudy gems that find their stride in designs rooted in nature, the earth and Africa - that instruct rather than follow design, creating an otherworldly aesthetic that is as strong and enigmatic as its wearer. Today, when there is no greater hallmark than individuality, they reign supreme once more.
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