Most people, Neil Lane suspects, will not recognize that the stones in his 596-carat Maharajah necklace, the $375,000 centerpiece of his new collection for De Beers, are diamonds—263 of them, all polished but essentially rough. "I love the element of surprise when working with rough diamonds," Lane says, noting that he selected stones that exhibit subtle sheens, peculiar inclusions, and hues ranging from orangey brown to greenish yellow.
Dealers and designers used to ignore these types of diamonds in favor of either pure white or deeply saturated, fancy colored specimens. But, Lane says, the faintly colored and imperfect stones present more creative options. "The range of colors allows me to approach design in a painterly way, combining various shades to create big, statement pieces," he explains. "This is a new era for diamond jewelry. It’s fashionable, cool, and very beautiful."
Rough diamonds also embellish De Beers’ Talisman collection and pieces by Diamond in the Rough, a brand that was established about a year ago. "Rough diamonds enable people to wear loads of diamonds in a more discreet way, and that’s a decadent thing," says Sally Morrison, director of the Diamond Information Center, which promotes the diamond jewelry industry.
Rough diamonds might be discreet or decadent or both, but the idea of wearing them is not new. De Beers’ Talisman collection recalls the primitive jewels that date to the gem’s discovery in 800 B.C. in India. Diamonds in their natural state, which are octahedron-shaped, have been worn as talismans for protection in battle, for good fortune, to promote health, and even to enhance sexual prowess. In the 1400s, jewelers began cleaving one of the stone’s two pyramidlike ends to form a smooth top surface and produce what came to be known as a table-top cut. In the 1600s, stonecutters, seeking to increase the gem’s ability to reflect light, devised the still-popular rose cut. Over the ensuing 400 years, craftspeople continued to improve the diamond cutting and polishing processes with the objective of producing precisely shaped and consistently brilliant stones.
While a D-flawless, brilliant-cut stone remains the ideal diamond, designers are introducing an au courant edge to diamond pieces by using rough crystals and wafer-thin slices, or by setting bright faceted stones in smooth, sculpted wood, onyx, or ceramic to present striking textural contrasts. Instead of forming traditional pavé settings, they are blending rough or cut stones of various shapes, sizes, and colors to build irregular mosaics. And by substituting lightweight titanium for conventional precious metals, jewelers can fashion voluminous diamond pieces that are lightweight and comfortable to wear.
For the collection that he conceived for Tiffany & Co., architect Frank Gehry sculpted an airy mesh headdress out of white gold and sprinkled it with diamonds. "In designing this headdress, Frank Gehry wanted to create a fashion accessory that highlighted the open, negative space of a metal grid with the femininity and glamour of diamonds," says Jon King, executive vice president of Tiffany & Co. "The effect is that the diamonds have a dramatic sense of newness." Certainly the gems appear more timely than they would in a tiara.
A. Link, at Neiman Marcus Precious Jewelry, 800.365.7989
Antonini, www.antonini.it, at Leonardo Jewelers, 732.747.7880, or Frasca Jewelers, 760.568.5848
Cartier, 800.227.8437, www.cartier.com
Chanel, 800.550.0005, www.chanel.com
De Beers, 212.906.0001, www.debeers.com
de Grisogono, 212.439.4220, www.degrisogono.com
Diamond in the Rough, www.diamondintheroughjewelry.com, at Bergdorf Goodman, 212.872.2578
Eclat Jewels, www.eclatjewels.com, at select Neiman Marcus stores, 800.944.9888
Frank Gehry for Tiffany & Co., 800.526.0649, www.tiffany.com
Ivanka Trump, 212.756.9912, www.ivankatrumpcollection.com
Judith Ripka, 212.517.8200, www.judithripka.com
Laura Munder, 877.686.3372, www.lauramunder.com
Lorraine Schwartz, 646.274.2008, or at Bergdorf Goodman, 212.872.2578
Neil Lane for De Beers, 212.906.0001, www.debeers.com
Renee Lewis, at Barneys New York, 212.833.2023, www.barneys.com
Roberto Coin, 800.853.5958, www.robertocoin.com
Sharon Khazzam, at Barneys New York, 212.833.2023, www.barneys.com
Tracy Dara Kamenstein, 561.833.4055, www.tracydarakamenstein.com
Yossi Harari, www.yossiharari.com, at Bergdorf Goodman, 212.872.2578