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MONTE CARLO, Monaco — British jewelry firm Graff on Thursday unveiled what it’s billing as one of the most important diamond necklaces ever assembled.
The Lesotho Promise, a 223.35-carat necklace, is made up of 26 white D-flawless diamonds, the most valuable on the grading system. All 26 were extracted from the 15th largest rough diamond ever found, a 603-carat stone discovered in a mine in Lesotho, South Africa, last year.
This story first appeared in the August 5, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Graff displayed the Lesotho Promise at the palatial Salle d’Empire at the Hôtel de Paris here, which was filled with other rare gems, including The Flame, a 100-carat pear-shaped D-flawless diamond, along with an array of Graff’s multicolored diamonds and emeralds.
The Promise is the culmination of 18 months of painstaking work in the company’s diamond-cutting facility in Antwerp, Belgium, a process Graff is retelling in a documentary and a book.
While the 26 stones forming the necklace had an estimated value of $50 million, executives wouldn’t disclose the asking price for the finished piece, revealing only that several buyers had already been turned down before it was officially unveiled. “We’re still waiting,” said Laurence Graff, Graff’s chairman and founder. One client’s offer was too low, while another had proposed buying half. “We’ll never split the stones,” Graff insisted.
It’s unlikely the company will have to wait too long. The necklace elicited gasps and wows at a cocktail event for clients, who included local socialites and Russian billionaires. And, as the world’s economy weakens, that class of superrich increasingly counts diamonds as a hedge against inflation.
“We’re dealing with a clientele that manipulates so much wealth, and knows it’s important to have a certain percentage of that wealth in jewelry,” said Henri Barguirdjian, chief executive officer and president of Graff USA.
“In bad times, the diamond jewelry business is very successful,” added managing director François Graff. “It’s another class of investment, increasingly recognized by new economies like Russia and China. They consider it to be treasure, something safe to pass on for generations.”
“I’ve never seen stones like this,” said iconic British singer Shirley Bassey, a Monaco resident. “I had to come because of my song — ‘Diamonds Are Forever,’” she joked.