SOLAR POWER: “It will never leave the house again,” said Fred chief executive officer Charles Leung as he unveiled Soleil d’Or, a 101.57-carat vivid intense yellow diamond that was entering the jeweler’s heritage collection, 44 years to the day after it was last shown by the house.
In 1977, Henri Samuel, son of house founder Fred Samuel, bought and sold the diamond in the space of a few weeks, keeping it just long enough for three things: to make it the centerpiece of a brief exhibition at its Parisian flagship; have it immortalized held in the fingers of Margaux Hemingway; and to give it its name, because its bright happy hue reminded him of the light on the Riviera that the family patriarch so loved.
Its return felt like destiny for Leung and Henri Samuel’s daughter Valérie, now vice president and artistic director of the LVMH-owned jeweler. The diamond’s original certificate from the Gemological Institute of America they found in the archives was in such poor condition that they contacted the organization to request a copy.
To their surprise, they learned the gem itself was being put on the market. Once again, the house became its owner in the space of a few months, acquiring it in the spring of 2021 for an undisclosed sum.
As one of the rarest colors, yellow diamonds can command high prices, especially at auction. A 110-carat fancy vivid yellow Sun Drop pear diamond was sold by Sotheby’s in 2011 for over $12.3 million, while the Tiffany Diamond and its 128.54 carats are estimated to be worth around $30 million.
Originally a 105.54-carat cushion cut, Fred’s diamond had been recut by one of its owners into an emerald shape, and changed its qualification to fancy intense yellow. “If anything, that’s given it an even more modern character,” said Valérie Samuel.
“Soleil d’Or is the epitome of the art of jewelry of this house: sourcing for a client but also thinking of a crazy marketing event. In 1977, to purchase over fax or having a star [endorse a piece] would be the equivalent of doing high jewelry on TikTok today — an incredible avant-garde gesture in its time,” said Leung.
Welcoming a stone this important back into the house felt like a weighty responsibility for Leung, and one that had nothing to do with the price tag. “I asked myself what an object at once so big and so small could inspire [us] to do — not that you get to handle that many 100-carat diamonds in a career,” he admitted.
First up: an exhibition. The diamond will be one of the highlights of the house’s first retrospective, slated to take place next September at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. While Samuel wouldn’t be drawn into revealing if the stone would become part of a design, she did concede that it could influence the house’s next high jewelry collection, currently in development.
“It will be an opportunity to highlight many ideas that underpin our identity — the Force 10 bracelet, the notion that jewelry is unisex, the encounters that shaped us but also the way [her father and grandfather] were tongue-in-cheek, with amusing advertising,” she noted.
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