PARIS — Cardinal Jules Mazarin, the 17th-century clergyman and politician who was mentor to the future Louis XIV, isn’t the kind of muse one would expect for a luxury label.
But for new diamond brand Maison Mazerea, which is set to make its debut during Paris’ high jewelry presentations in July, this unlikely namesake was the ideal fit. Not only was the cardinal an astute statesman but he also was a major force behind the emergence of France as a hub for luxury, especially when it comes to jewelry.
His now-legendary collection included the 19-carat pale pink Grand Mazarin, a stone he bequeathed under the condition that it bear his name in perpetuity and which has since adorned the French crown for more over a century.
“Not many people know about his passion for diamonds, [or that] he established diamond cutting in France or invented a cut that bears his name. [At the time, they] were not in engagement rings or anything as mundane as that, they were worn by royalty,” explained Maison Mazerea founder Peter J. Ravenscroft, a veteran of the diamond and mining industry.
Behind the brand is two-year-old Burgundy Diamond Mines Ltd., a publicly traded company headquartered in Australia that started as a way to consolidate a portfolio of mining projects in Canada, Botswana and Australia.
The focus on fancy color diamonds emerged through the nascent company’s desire to be an agent of change to return gemstones to their proper position as the ultimate luxury good, said the founder.
“Diamonds have become a commodity rather than something spectacular. White [ones] in jewelry stores all look the same and now you have people making [them] in laboratories. Diamonds used to be about passion, romance. There used to be something exotic [about them] and that you really had a relationship with,” he continued.
At a moment where “everybody is starting to seek guarantees of provenance on everything [they] buy,” especially as younger consumers demand proof of ethical and sustainable practices, Ravenscroft felt the diamond industry’s efforts to clean up its supply chains were laudable but remained insufficient.
“The fundamental problem is that the value chain in diamonds is segmented between producing rough diamonds, cutting, polishing and then selling them, [creating] this gap [where] there’s no safe way of guaranteeing provenance,” said the executive.
While Maison Mazerea plans to address this using blockchain and other tracing technologies, he believes that the only way to ensure full traceability is going from mining to market. “That’s how it was done in the old days and that’s what we want to return to,” he said.
Working with jewelers is a key step to maximize the natural beauty of the stone, by tapping into their expertise to find a cut that will best bring out the gemstone’s hue, which is not always served by shapes like round or brilliant cuts made to optimize carat weight, according to Ravenscroft.
Hence the term of “haute diamanterie” used to describe the brand. “We are related to haute horlogerie or couture [as] this is all about authentic craftsmanship, high-quality components and expertise,” he said, hoping others in the industry would eventually aspire to use the moniker.
A step further in this direction is the “Appellation Mazerea,” a certification modeled after France’s “appellation d’origine contrôlée” (or controlled origin label) and whose criteria exceeds the Gemological Institute of America’s requirements in terms of guaranteed quality, cut, provenance and ESG in diamond sourcing and crafting, matching the company’s belief that “a certificate should guarantee everything about a diamond.”
Declining to share any sales projections, Ravenscroft put the emphasis on the market for sizable fancy-colored diamonds as “a very small niche” that they do not intend to flood with “millions and millions of carats,” preferring to focus on “very small quantities of diamonds of exquisite quality” and keeping Maison Mazerea as “a very intimate kind of brand.”
Diamonds that do not fit the brand’s criteria will be sold commercially outside of the Maison Mazerea label.
Asked if lab-grown diamonds could pose a challenge for the brand, Ravenscroft is of the opinion that there will always be a market for natural ones. Not only because of the “mystery, mystique and incredible story of how it came to the surface after lying in wait for millions of years [in the Earth’s crust],” but also because of the impact curtailing the diamond supply chain would have on the communities where mines are located.
To ensure a positive impact to the whole value chain, an independent Fondation Mazerea has been established to funnel a percentage of the final retail value of any finished jewelry that contains one of the brand’s stones into environmental or social projects in diamond-producing areas.
“I believe there was something missing because some of the most disadvantaged communities in the world are producing the most valuable commodity on the planet, bought by its wealthiest people — and there never was a connection,” said Ravenscroft.
From there came the idea of connecting with the Princess Grace Foundation, which supports emerging artists in the performing arts — a passion shared by Maison Mazerea’s historic figure, a lifelong patron of the arts who brought opera to Paris.
That’s why the first stone to be showcased by the house is the blushing Grace Diamond. A 1.79-carat fancy vivid purplish-pink stone formerly known as the Argyle Stella, it is one of the last five hailing from the now-exhausted Australian mine famed for its vibrant pink and blue diamonds.
For its debut appearance, the stone has been put in the hands of Paris-based jeweler Lorenz Bäumer, whose “La Vie En Rose” design will be unveiled in his Place Vendôme flagship.
But Bäumer’s design and its Place Vendôme debut are only the beginning of the story, said Ravenscroft. The executive outlined plans to work with jewelers outside of Paris, with North America, Australia and the U.K. already on the cards for coming years.
As for the Grace Diamond, it will move on from one designer to the next over time, each tasked with designing a new setting — a way to “refresh, preserve and build more history into the stone,” said Ravenscroft.