Diamond-Surplus Weblog

September 10, 2008

Famous Diamonds #1: The Centenary

There are a few famous diamonds I would like to talk about but I shall not overwhelm you with its ‘sparkling’ history. Thus I shall dedicate each post to these magnificent gems. De Beers, the frontrunner in the diamond producing industry celebrated their Centenary with style. What better way than to show the world what they dug out of their backyard (pun intended, lol)

For thousands of years diamonds have been valued for their beauty and rarity, entrancing us with their fire and brilliance. Symbols of financial wealth, power and inspiration, diamonds are also a token of love and personal expression of our hopes for the future and an emblem of eternity.

So what makes a diamond famous?  Rarity is often the most important factor.  This may mean size, but extraordinary variety or intensity of colour can also make a diamond famous.  Large flawless diamonds – those with the best colour and clarity grades – are among the rarest materials on earth.

Other factors are more closely linked to the history of the individual stone. Diamonds are often named after their owner, their country or mine of origin, their colour, their shape, a special occasion or the sentiments they evoke with their unique beauty.

The Centenary

The Centenary celebrations of De Beers took place in 1988 in Kimberley, in front of a captive audience of four hundred people. These included government representatives of producer countries and other important dignitaries from the diamond industry.  Julian Ogilvie Thompson, the then Chairman, revealed that a diamond of 599 carats had been recovered from the Premier mine.

Over time, the Premier mine had produced approximately 300 stones of more than 100 carats, and nearly 25% of all the world’s diamonds over 400 carats.  These included important stones such as the Cullinan, the Niarchos, the Taylor-Burton, and the Premier Rose.

When found in 1986, only a few people knew about its discovery, and were sworn to secrecy.  The rough stone presented many difficulties in polishing it.  One of the most accomplished cutters in the world, Gabi Tolkowsky, was chosen to study and appraise the great stone.

We have recovered at the Premier mine a diamond of 599 carats which is perfect in colour – indeed, it is one of the largest top colour diamonds ever found.  Naturally it will be called the Centenary diamond.

Julian Ogilvie Thomson

He said of its top colour – “Usually you have to look into a diamond to appreciate its colour, but this just expressed itself from the surface.  That is very rare.”

Generally, however, the rough shape of the diamond meant it would be difficult to cut, and with a number of alternative routes, including cutting the diamond into several smaller stones.

In the end Tolkowsky said the diamond was to be made into one large modern-cut stone.

Tolkowsky and two other cutters, Geoff Woollett and Jim Nash, worked with hand-picked engineers in a specially constructed room in the De Beers Diamond Research Laboratory in Johannesburg.  The construction of the room itself took a year.

Meanwhile Tolkowsky studied the diamond.  He said, “From the moment I knew I was going to cut it, I became another man, a strange man.  I was looking at the stone in the day, and the stone was looking at me at night.

Kerfing by hand, Tolkowsky took 154 days to remove 50 carats, to reveal a rounded stone weighing approximately 520 carats.  After many sketches, thirteen shapes were presented to the De Beers Board, and a modified heart shape was decided upon.

After nearly a year of work, the Centenary weighed 273.85 carats.  It also had an unprecedented number of facets, with 164 on the stone and 83 on the girdle.  Two flawless pear shapes were also cut.

The Centenary is the largest modern-cut diamond in the world, and is the ultimate expression of both “fire” and “brilliance”.

Nicky Oppenheimer remarked, “Who can put a price on such a stone?”

There you go, the first of the many famous diamonds…just look at the colors bouncing off the diamond! Magnificent! 🙂

Source: De Beers


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