The Lesotho Legend and Van Cleef & Arpels’ Diamond Legacy

An astonishing natural diamond story in a long history of Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery mastery.

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“There is no better way to represent the stars at night. There is no better way to match the darker colors of sapphires or black onyx. I cannot imagine that we create jewellery without diamonds,” says Van Cleef & Arpels President Nicolas Bos. There are few companies bold enough to create a single collection of jewellery cut from one 910 carat stone. The Van Cleef & Arpels collection produced from the Lesotho Legend is a stunning testimony to both daring and unique craftsmanship.

van cleef & arpels lesotho legend rough diamond
Rough natural diamond known as the Lesotho Legend.
van cleef & arpels lesotho  legend rough diamond
Cleavage of the Lesotho Legend.

The Lesotho Legend, a singular D color, type 2A rough diamond, is an example of the highest quality characteristics possible. The stone is 910 carats, the fifth largest gem quality diamond discovered, and was purchased by Van Cleef & Arpels in 2018. The Maison worked with Taché, their long-time diamond dealer and Diamcad, a leading Antwerp-based diamond cutter to map out a plan. The result was 67 stones cut from the single rough diamond to the Maison’s exacting specifications that honor the traditions of the house’s design.

“There are almost an infinity of possibilities with a rough of that size and that quality.” However, for Van Cleef & Arpels, there are traditions that prevail and help form any plan. “There are certain rules, and I would say even obligations, to try to maximize the use of the stone that will produce the most important sizes out of the rough. This is usually the view of the diamond dealer. But in our world of jewellery, what matters is the shape and size of the diamonds,” explains Mr. Bos. This is done through 3-D mapping, a technology united with heritage that yields 67 stones while limiting any loss of the precious diamond. Each stone is of exceptional quality and ideal proportions to inspire the Maison’s designers. “Going too big for a diamond that is going to be set on a necklace does not necessarily mean something to us.” The house typically prefers sophisticated emerald or elegant oval shapes as center stones and uses them to maximum effect in this collection. 

van cleer & arpels loose diaomnds
Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels

The cuts of the diamonds are crucial for the Maison’s design team as they create pieces that develop the visual codes of the house and employ centuries old savoir faire. Mystery Setting is a hallmark of the lineage of Van Cleef & Arpels, a technique that allows for gems to be set without visible prongs. Stones are fitted to the metal of the Mystery Setting, using a groove dug into the base of each gem. The process is so difficult that only a handful of experts are privy to the secrets. 

vam cleef and arpels necklace
Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels
van cleef & arpels rubies
Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels
van cleef and arpels bow
Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels

The collection is comprised of 25 Mystery Set Jewels, which each showcase the artistry and possibility of the technique. The Collerete Mystérieuse is the perfect example of this technical virtuosity. “It’s a piece that is a very good combination in that collection of the strength and the power of the white diamonds combined with the ruby of the mystery setting. But also, an element of delicacy, of softness brought by the design, very inspired by couture.” 

The Collerete Mystérieuse . Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels

The necklace features a 51.18 carat emerald cut diamond, surrounded by alternating rows of diamonds and rubies, edged with pink sapphires and square-cut diamonds, meant to evoke lace. The necklace fastens at the nape with an elegant bow, inspired by another French tradition of Haute Couture fashion. The center emerald cut diamond is an example of Van Cleef & Arpels’ passion for proportion in a cut sometimes referred to as the “tennis court.”  This cut features a wide rectangular table (the flat surface of a stone) surrounded by rows of beveled facets on the sides and around the pavilion to achieve ultimate luminosity. This extraordinary stone can be detached to adorn a ring of similarly romantic and fashionable sensibility.

Models are wearing pieces with diamonds cut from the 910-carat Lesotho Legend.

The chapters of the Legend of Lesotho took four years to write. However, Van Cleef & Arpels has been writing these legends from the very beginning. The marriage of Estelle Arpels, the daughter of a gemstone merchant, and Alfred Van Cleef, the son of a lapidary (or stonecutter), began a great romantic narrative where the stone is always at the heart. The latest legend written by Nicolas Bos and the remarkable team at Van Cleef & Arpels inspires in both its scope and its fidelity to the history that makes the Maison exceptional.