The stones always known the story first. And they were trying to tell me something when I visited the jewelry workshop on the top floor of the Louis Vuitton Place Vendome flagship last year – I’m sure of it. “We are very serious about this here”, I thought I heard a perfect 19.31. unheated Madagascar sapphire say.
Now, the whole world is listening. Louis Vuitton just announced its acquisition of the second largest diamond discovered since 1905. The 1,750 carat Sewelo was unearthed in April 2019 in Botswana, a country that has become a leader in responsible mining. “Sewelo” means rare find.
“Nobody expects us to put such an emphasis on high jewelry”, Michael Burke chief executive of Louis Vuitton, told the New York Times, “I think it will spice things up a bit. Wake up the industry”. Vuitton, which was founded in 1854, entered the jewelry market in 2004, and the High Jewelry world of one of a kind pieces and exceptional stones in 2009. The news of the Sewelo indicated a firm commitment to leadership it the category. “It’s a big unusual stone”, Burke said, “which makes it right up our alley”.
There are two questions I imagine people have on hearing this news, and seeing the image of what a thousand carat stone it. “That’s what a diamond look like?” And yes, the Sewelo is currently in its rough state, and the “diamond” as we recognize will be revealed when the stone is cut by highly trained experts (there are but a few in the world at this level) to see what it yields. The purchase displays a deep investment, and also took, according to Burke, “a little bit of guts and trust in our expertise”.
Jewelry insider were already privately messaging each other in anticipation of what Francesca Amfitheatr of, whose work is market by rich narrative and rigorous construction, might dream up around it once the stone itself “appears” after the cutting process. Her most recently high jewelry collection for Louis Vuitton, Riders of the Knights, was inspired by arms and armor and even Joan of Arc.
The next questions of course is, “if this is the second largest diamond unearthed since 1905 then what is the first?” That would be the Cullinan diamond, all 3,106 carats of it, which were unearthed in South Africa and now reside in the Tower of London, key elements in the British Crown Jewels.
The Cullinan stone was cut into two large main stones, and seven smaller stones. The largest (530) is at the head of the Sovereigns Sceptre with Cross, part of the coronation regalia meant to symbolize the king or queen’s temporal power as head of state.
The second largest, the Cullinan II, is on the Imperial State Crown right below the spinel knows as the Black Prince’s Ruby. The smaller stones yielded from the Cullinan are present in Queen Elizabeth’s personal collection including broches and pendant. She has said that they are referred to jokingly as “Granny’s chips” since she inherited them from her grandmother Queen Mary.
The path of the Sewelo from its current 1,758 rough state to an historic piece of Louis Vuitton High Jewelry will be one keenly watched and waited for in the jewelry world. Insiders will get a first view of it during a private dinner in Paris next week.
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