Posted by Alain Elkann on 09/06/2020
THE ULTIMATE GIFT OF LOVE. The jeweller Laurence Graff OBE has always been fascinated by diamonds. Graff diamonds was established in 1960 and now enjoys global success with over 50 stores worldwide. Laurence Graff has handled more important diamonds than any other diamantaire of our time, possibly of any time. These include both noble, historic diamonds of the past, and astonishing new discoveries, destined to be the famous diamonds of the future.
Laurence Graff, you are one of the most important diamond dealers in the world. Is this the most devastating crisis that you went through since you began?
Without question this virus is an attack on our wellbeing, and the financial consequences are immeasurable.
Which are the other dramatic moments that you remember in your rather successful and adventurous professional life and career?
This makes any past upheavals, shocks and incidents so minor and incomparable.
During the period of panic, like in March when the markets plunged all over the world, were people investing in jewellery?
Until the virus hit we were trading very well world-wide, and completed a variety of important sales.
“I have handled the best stones in the world and regret selling most of them.”
Laurence Graff, are precious stones considered a kind of safe haven currency like gold?
Without doubt a store of wealth, wealthy people throughout the ages always collected treasure in good times and bad.
If jewellery is an investment, like investing in art, do you think that values are going to change?
The very best will always be in demand. There has in the past been ups and downs but long term, values have always increased.
In central Africa diamonds are mined in areas controlled by forces opposed to the legitimate, internationally recognized government of a country and sold to fund military action against that government. Did you have problems with the trade in these so called blood or conflict diamonds?
Never. We always traded clean. The rough diamonds that we buy always come with invoices that certify the place of origin as being within non-conflict areas. For example, we have contracts with de Beers, who gather diamonds from many different mines, so we always know the origin.
How do you feel today knowing that the trade is more protected by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme?
I am delighted. The certification scheme certainly has removed the majority of conflict diamonds from the trade, most probably all.
How big a damage is the pandemic for your business, and will you have to shut some of your stores around the world?
We are studying the effects and the way forward, as leases expire we will decide and evaluate at that time the viability. Where we own our properties outright they are secure and will always remain.
Where in the world have you experienced the greatest downturn and where has been the least affected? Are there signs of recovery yet?
0ut of 65 boutiques world-wide only 10 are open at this time. But strangely as it may seem globally we are trading, if only at a fraction.
“For sure diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but many men adore and collect.”
Laurence Graff, many observers keep on saying that things will never be the same. Do you think that diamonds will always be the symbolic stone that every woman would like to own?
For sure diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but many men adore and collect.
Will giving a diamond to a woman still have a meaning in a world that has less and less symbolic values?
The ultimate gift of love. Remember a diamond is forever.
Do you design your jewellery collections yourselves and how many people work for you?
I still instigate ideas and designs. Our design team takeover and enlarge upon the ideas, besides introducing collections on their own. Employees are approximately 1000 persons.
Extremely high quality pieces are obviously always going to be desirable. When we spoke some time ago you were working on cutting the very famous 1,111 carat Lesedi La Rona diamond. Did you finish cutting it safely and did you then sell it?
The Lesedi la Rona (‘Our Light’ in Botswana language) is now cut and polished and certified by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) as the largest and finest quality D colour Diamond of its type, 302.37 carats plus 66 satellites of equal quality. It indeed it has been my greatest challenge from rough to polish, with many sleepless nights thinking about the next move in the production of this magnificent gem. Due to go on world tour but held up by Covid-19, the majority of satellites are already sold.
Which is the most expensive diamond that you have sold? And for how much?
One of the most valuable stones I have sold was 110 million US dollars, an amazing pink diamond.
Which are the jewels that you regret that you couldn’t afford or didn’t manage to buy?
Over the years if I wanted a stone I bought it!!
In a dreamland, if you had to purchase one single stone, which one would you have?
Impossible to say. I have handled the best stones in the world and regret selling most of them.
“The very best will always be in demand.”
Laurence Graff, you are not only a man of diamonds but also an art collector. Are you pleased with your art collection?
Yes I am. I have been fortunate to have been able to have a world class collection.
What is your feeling about the art world today? Who in the art world is going to keep their level? Who is going to lose appeal?
Museum quality art will never lose appeal, there is too much secondary commercial art being traded for profit, which will have no longevity.
You also have a large collection of rare automobiles. Do you consider it part of your art collection or do you just love to drive them?
I love vintage cars to look at as artworks, but also enjoy driving these amazing sculptures.
Do you think that this very technological and scientific connected world in which we live has changed the tastes and perception of excellences?
This is the future. We are busy at this time of corona virus in developing our selling platform on line. You will hear more about this later this year.
To possess a diamond will always be a dream of women all over the world. Are you proud to have sold so many beautiful diamonds in your life that have made so many women happy?
Delighted, a woman can never have enough diamonds and, as Mae West said, “never too big”. And when a man walks into a room with a bejewelled lady on his arm he excels the power needed to acquire those beautiful gems.