Behind every natural diamond is a story going back billions of years. Akh-Ba-Ka, a pharaoh-worthy collar that marks the latest high jewelry creation by Messika, certainly elevates that notion. Over two years in the making, the grand-scale piece incorporates all of the stones cut from a 110 carat rough diamond discovered in Botswana by Lucara. “Actually it’s not about only the diamond, but it’s a family story, as well, ” says the brand’s Founder and Creative Director, Valérie Messika.
In a real family affair, the stone, appropriately christened the Tender Diamond, was purchased by Valérie’s brother, Ilan Messika, for their father Andre’s company just before the 2020 lockdown. “I saw in my brother’s eyes his excitement. What is it going to be? He was so afraid that the biggest stone was not flawless and so he was relieved to see all the magnificent cuts,” Valérie says. Rest assured, the stone boasts perfect stats as it is graded D colorless and flawless (Fl). The stone’s size and crystalline structure decide the final product and after mapping the internal composition, the Tender yielded 15 polished stones.
Upon viewing the finished stones, Valérie decided to acquire all 15 cut diamonds to incorporate into a single piece of high jewelry. The stones also had an important role to play in the design. “I wanted to challenge myself by using the family of 15 diamonds in the same set. This is a real jewelry challenge. Not all the stones had the same cut; some were very original with surprising more intricate shapes. But sometimes the most beautiful creations are born from the unexpected,” Valérie says.
The finished piece centers on a remarkable 33.11 carat D color flawless cushion cut diamond surrounded by 2,550 diamonds totaling nearly 71.5 carats. The necklace is composed of shield, modified pear, half moon, triangle, brilliant and baguette cuts, and took four full time jewelers over 1,000 hours to finish over a six month duration. The bold necklace takes the shape of a winged scarab curving along the collarbone of the wearer. “I am a person who creates in motion—always in motion; I need to move to create.” This was an opportunity to take something classical and strong and bring it into the modern age. Valérie plans to incorporate this Egyptian motif into upcoming fine jewelry collections.
The first time that Valérie saw an image of the stone, she saw an image of a shield in the parcel and knew it could be the head of a scarab, the ancient Egyptian symbol for rebirth. The name of the collection, Akh-Ba-Ka, translates as the transcendence of energy into eternity, a perfect metaphor for the diamond’s infinite existence.
Valérie had been long inspired by ancient Egypt, and she intuitively knew that the combination of this visual history and the epic collection of diamonds would be a match made in the stars. As a child, she was obsessed with Cleopatra—specifically Elizabeth Taylor’s portrayal of the iconic queen. However, Valérie takes enormous pride in her ability to interpret ancient Egyptian references in the codes of the house. “I succeeded in creating a bold necklace that maintains the lightness of Messika. I am also happy that turned out so versatile,” says Valérie, of the ability of the piece’s 33 carat solitaire to detach into a brooch separate from the 800 brilliant cut pave-set diamonds that typically surround it.
The concept of a strong woman inspiring the collection also made sense for Messika as a female-led brand. As the mother of two daughters, Valérie thinks not only of the pieces she will pass down, but also of the world they will inherit. “This may be the first time ever that a single high jewelry set is fully traceable,” she says. “This was an opportunity to follow the journey of the stone, as well as the gold, from the earth, all the way to the final client.” (The gold for the piece happens to come entirely from the same African mine and is certified SMO—Single Mine Origin.)
However, for Valérie, it always comes back to the natural diamonds. “Me? I’m obsessed with the light…the [natural] diamond, is about light and the reflection of light.” In this iconic piece, Akh-Ba-Ka, the diamond is really the story.