What is it about natural diamonds that have made them an object of desire? Poets, scholars and, perhaps most famously, Marilyn Monroe have addressed the subject in their own ways over the years.
Beauty and intrinsic value are a part of almost every answer. History also plays a significant role in what makes natural diamonds so alluring. Kings and queens, celebrities and lovers have all been characters in the amazing true stories about natural diamonds in the past.
The legacy of natural diamonds continues to this day in many extraordinary ways including the gems that have shattered world record prices at auction, the glamorous jewels worn by celebrities on red carpets and in the engagement rings that symbolize a couple’s union.
The most high-profile place to see the love for natural diamonds meet the reality of what people are willing to pay for them is at auction. The first diamond to cross the million-dollar threshold in the auction market was a 69.42-carat pear-shape that was acquired by Cartier in 1969.
According to The New York Times, “Men and women leaped out of their chairs as the bids climbed, turned to watch Mr. Kenmore [from Cartier] in a back row, and cheered and applauded at the point of sale.” The underbidder for the diamond was Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s lawyer who was given a ceiling price of one-million dollars. A day after the auction, Cartier sold the stone to the famous couple and it became known as the Taylor-Burton Diamond.
In recent years, the seven figures paid for the Taylor-Burton Diamond has been overshadowed with natural diamond jewels that have sold at auction for ten, twenty, thirty million dollars and more.
In 2016, The Oppenheimer Blue, a 14.62-carat Fancy Vivid Blue rectangular-cut diamond set in a diamond and platinum ring sold at Christie’s for an astonishing $57,973,000. “What it took on Mother Nature’s behalf to make that stone—the odds are unbelievable,” explains Daphne Lignon, senior vice-president, head of jewelry Americas at Christie’s. “It is truly a masterpiece from nature.”
On the red carpet
Natural diamond jewelry has always been part of what makes a red-carpet movie premiere or awards show glamourous. At the 2019 Oscars, Lady Gaga wore the 128.54-carat cushion-shaped Tiffany Diamond, the grandest natural diamond to ever grace a red carpet.
The yellow diamond, acquired by founder Charles Lewis Tiffany in 1877, was never offered for sale. Instead Mr. Tiffany put it on display in his store for all to enjoy. It was a contributing factor to the press nicknaming the jeweler, “the King of Diamonds.” In advance of the 2019 Oscars Tiffany’s Chief Artistic Officer, Reed Krakoff said, “I’m thrilled Lady Gaga will be wearing the legendary Tiffany Diamond on the awards show red carpet for the first time since it was discovered 141 years ago.”
The red carpet is not only a showcase for beautiful big natural diamonds, it is also a dynamic space for innovative designers to show their creations with the gem. Few have been more successful in bejeweling stars than Fernando Jorge.
“Natural diamonds have so much significance to me, because they have been forged billions of years ago, deep inside our planet, and they will outlive us and carry our memories into the future which is very romantic,” explains Jorge. “When it comes to their use in jewelry, diamonds are the most versatile gemstone, and have high visual impact.” The long list of luminaries—including Beyoncé, Emily Blunt and Viola Davis—who have chosen his pieces prove they make a stylish and bold statement.
The most enduring and symbolic of all jewels is a natural diamond engagement ring. “There are very few things in life that bring that joy,” explains Neil Lane who is responsible for designing the natural diamond engagement rings for The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. “It is a manifestation of love.”
The designer says the first jewel he ever became entranced by was his mother’s diamond engagement ring. Shortly after he established his vintage jewelry boutique in Los Angeles, he began making diamond engagement rings for his celebrity clientele including Madonna’s ring from Guy Ritchie, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia di Rossi and Jimmy Fallon and his wife Nancy Juvonen.
With all the natural diamond engagement rings Lane has made over the years, he has had a lot of close-up looks at people’s reaction to the gem. “You can’t really describe what that sparkle does to the human consciousness,” says Lane. “It enlivens it and it’s a wow.”