A conversation with Raphaele Canot, De Beers Diamond Jewellers' Creative Director Featured

Fire, life, brilliance, and other secrets in buying the most coveted gems. 

by 06 October 2009

De Beers lays claim to so many 'firsts' - please tell me about them. 
When we opened our flagship stores in 2001 they were the very first 'diamonds only' shopping destinations, and we still retain that position today. We are the ultimate experts: all our brand ambassadors are certified gemologists, and we offer the widest selection of diamonds in the world. The De Beers Group even coined the term 'A Diamond is Forever', in 1949.

De Beers also pioneered the global industry assessment model of the 4C. Can you explain what the considerations are in selecting a diamond?
The 4C are carat, cut, clarity and colour. The carat is the weight and size of the diamond. The cut accentuates its proportions and reflects the light to create the maximum brilliance. Colour can range anywhere from colourless stones through to extremely rare violets. Clarity means that there should be no flaws or rivulets in the stone.

You have gone beyond this, though, with an additional classification system that's exclusive to De Beers. We are intrigued...
De Beers invented the 4C in 1939 - it's the scientific way of measuring a stone, but we've gone beyond that with our own specification: Fire, Life and Brilliance. These really connect with the emotional sense of the diamond - Fire is the magnificent rainbow effect from the refraction of light; the Life is the flash and the sparkle produced by the movement of the diamond and Brilliance is the reflection of white light when the diamond is at rest. All of these can be measured by our exclusive Beauty Scanner, which projects these qualities of the diamond you select onto a screen.

What about some of the myths and fallacies surrounding diamonds?
Contrary to popular belief, excessive weight reduces aesthetic appeal: one common mistake is in selecting a diamond with too thick a girdle - yes, this enhances the weight, but it also significantly diminishes the brilliance, and the beauty, of the stone.
The optimal number of facets a round brilliant should have is 57 - increasing this actually reduces the brilliance and ability of the diamond to reflect light.
Other obvious flaws to watch out for include clouding, crystallisation, nodes and naturals in the stones. All of these inclusions detract from the diamond's clarity.

One of De Beers' famous phrases is 'The Diamond Chooses You' - how can that be? 
When I first joined De Beers in 2004 I thought, 'Wonderful expression, but what exactly does it mean?' And then it happened to me! I fell in love with one. I can't explain why, because diamonds aren't rational - just as each stone is unique, so is each person's perception, and I found a diamond that chose me.

Why are diamonds so synonymous with romance?
De Beers Group played a major role in developing the idea of diamonds as a love story. Purity, eternity, uniqueness, mystery: even the chronology of the noun, which derives from 'invincible': the symbolism surrounding love and diamonds is totally symbiotic.

On that subject, The Talisman Collection has been a major story in diamond innovation, please tell me more.

The Talisman Collection was our first to incorporate rough stones - because alongside the romance of diamonds is another, more ancient meaning that connects with the magic, the dream and the symbolism. Rough diamonds really connect with the original myth dating back thousands of years, when they were celebrated as talismans and treasures of nature, rooted in the earth.
There is something about a rough diamond that is magical beyond definition: it's strange, because when people wear rough diamonds they constantly touch them, they are incredibly tactile stones. They have healing properties, an organic feeling of being a gift of nature, totally untouched by man. They are textured by the water, without being treated or modified, accentuating this very special feeling of connecting with an antique treasure.

And what are some of the other different approaches you take with diamonds?
I think this really falls into two categories. There are design pieces, such as the current major trend for micro pavé settings, where hundreds of the smallest possible stones are woven together in the most delicate setting. Then there are exceptional stones that dictate the design. Take the 'Secret Kiss of the Rose' ring (pictured) or the Princess Lea Collection, where I designed the jewellery around the stones. Before joining De Beers I worked at Cartier for 11 years, where I was Creative Director, so I can say first hand that nearly all of the major brands and maisons are driven to incorporate diamonds into designs that reflect their historic house style. At De Beers we think differently. Our clients are both extremely well-educated and extremely demanding. For us, the diamond always comes first: you could say that it chooses us.

For a list of De Beers boutiques, click here.

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