Meet 11 Fascinating Women Who Shaped the Diamond Industry
These are the power players you need to know.By Jill Newman |
In honor of International Women’s Day, a recognition and celebration of the achievements of females all over the globe, we are highlighting just a few of the women who have helped to make the diamond industry sparkle like it does today. Get inspired.
The Diamond Whisperer: Eira Thomas
Straight out of college, geologist Eira Thomas struck it big: in 1994, she began prospecting for diamonds on Canada’s frozen tundra and she led the team that uncovered a two carat diamond. It was the first stone to emerge from what became the Diavik mine, which produces about seven million carats of gem-quality diamonds annually. Today, as Chief Executive of Lucara Diamond Corporation—and the first female CEO of a major diamond mining company—she’s ushering in a new era in mining and distribution.
The Queen of Diamonds: Nayla Hayek
When Swiss billionaire Nayla Hayek purchased the legendary jewelry brand Harry Winston in 2013, she promised to uphold Mr. Winston’s reputation as the ‘King of Diamonds.’ Shortly after the acquisition, Hayek went on a record-breaking buying spree, acquiring an 18.96 carat fancy vivid pink diamond for $50 million, a 13 carat fancy blue diamond for nearly $24 million and a flawless 101.73 carat diamond for $26.7 million. And she hasn’t stopped since.
The Diamond Dreamer: Frances Gerety
Frances Gerety was a junior copywriter at N.W. Ayer & Son in 1947 when she was asked to come up with a slogan for De Beers that expressed the romance of a diamond. Late one night at the office, she wrote down “a diamond is forever,” a tagline that inextricably tied diamonds to lasting love. That famous tagline was awarded the slogan of the century by Advertising Age in 1999, and after 75 years, it remains emblazoned in everyone’s conscience when they think of love and diamonds.
The Matriarch of Bond Street: Alisa Moussaieff
Nothing stops octogenarian Alisa Moussaieff, who has been chasing down the world’s best and rarest diamonds and gems for more than half of a century. As the matriarch of her family’s 800-year-old jewelry business, Moussaieff remains one of the industry’s most respected power players, although she prefers to keep a low profile. Over the decades, she has acquired numerous record-breaking stones, but is most famous for buying the Moussaieff Red, an extraordinary 5.11 carat fancy red diamond.
The Explorer: Maureen Muggeridge
In the 1970s, geologist Maureen Muggeridge was so certain that an important diamond deposit existed in Australia that she relentlessly explored the region—while she was six months pregnant. While her team pursued a different area, she surveyed the flood plains of Smoke Creek, a river that fed into the Argyle Lake, where she soon uncovered diamonds. This discovery led to the famous Argyle deposit, the world’s main source of pink diamonds.
The Transformer: Dr. Alison Shaw
Dr. Alison Shaw is pioneering new ways to reduce the environmental impact of mining; her work is not only changing the future of mining, but also has the potential to fight climate change globally. As a Senior Geochemist at Lorax Environmental Services, Dr. Shaw is working with the De Beers Group to transform kimberlite (the rock in which diamonds are formed) into carbonated rock, which essentially means she is capturing and storing carbon.
The Russian Pioneer: Larisa Popugayeva
Geologist Larisa Popugayeva joined a team of Russian prospectors in 1953, and while exploring around the Daldyn River she uncovered what would become the first diamond deposit in the Soviet Union, the Zarnitsa pipe in Udachny. Though the discovery would prove to change her country’s future, she was given no credit for the discovery until decades later.
Ruler of the Red Carpet: Lorraine Schwartz
Lorraine Schwartz is the go-to source for A-list celebrities who want to make a dramatic diamond entrance, and, unlike many other designers and jewelry houses, she doesn’t pay for placement. She’s draped her celeb pals, including Beyonce, Kim Kardashian and countless others in custom-made, jaw-dropping pieces, which are often set with hundreds of carats of diamonds.
The Visionary CEO: Hélène Poulit- Duquesne
It takes vision and courage to shake up Place Vendôme’s oldest jewelry house, and that’s just what Hélène Poulit- Duquesne did when she took over as CEO of Boucheron in 2015. While staying true to the 160-year-old house’s heritage, she infused Boucheron with new energy and ideas, which included wildly innovative high jewelry collections and a massive overhaul of its legendary Paris flagship. Note: It’s the only jeweler with an elegant upstairs apartment for its VIPs featuring a soaking tub perfectly positioned with views of Place Vendôme.
The Trailblazer: Mercedes Abramo
When Mercedes Abramo took over as Cartier North America’s president and CEO in 2014, she was the first ever woman to fill that role. During her tenure, the retail veteran not only grew the US business, but she also helped build Cartier’s virtually non-existent e-commerce (the US market is the largest globally) and strengthen its client relations through a mix of unique and highly personalized touch points. But that’s not all, she spearheaded the renovation of the historic New York flagship, initiated plans to open 10 more stores in the US over the next few years, and supported numerous philanthropic alliances. Abramo’s effective leadership earned her a promotion: She was named Deputy Chief Commercial Officer and a member of the Cartier International Executive Committee, effective March 1, 2023.
The Big Thinker: Sabina Belli
For Pomellato’s CEO Sabina Belli, the job is about much more than creating stylish, contemporary jewelry. Well, she does a great job of that too. For the past six years, the Italian executive has spearheaded Pomellato’s International Women’s Day video, which enlists influential and inspiring women to create awareness around critical issues.For this year’s FREEDOM theme video, Belli talked with actresses Jane Fonda and Joey King, Italian volleyball player and voice for LGBTQ+ rights Paola Egonu, and Iranian professional climber and women’s rights activist Nasim Eshqi about how women’s freedom is under threat, and how, together, we need to speak up, rise up, and act now.