Less polish more character: rough diamond rings
By Claire Roberts
The phrase "diamond in the rough" is most often used
metaphorically to refer to something that, with a little spit and
polish, has the potential to become bigger, better or more
beautiful. Used literally, however, it describes a diamond's
appearance when it is first plucked from the earth: organic,
asymmetric, pebble-like. A diamond in its raw, uncut state doesn't
refract the light in a million different directions. In fact, it
doesn't look like a diamond at all. So what is the allure?
US jewellery designer Todd Reed is a trailblazer of the raw
elegance movement. Back in 1992, he launched a collection of fine
jewellery that broke the mould, featuring only rough, uncut
diamonds and recycled metals. Reed sees beyond the material value
of each stone: "Diamonds have always had an undeniable association
with wealth and status. It seems they have become more about
commerce and less about the jeweller's craft or their beauty in
their natural form. I believe that the most perfect cut is still an
uncut," he says.
Reed's designs are earthy and imperfect. Rather than glittering,
they give off a mellow glow. Yet there is something infinitely
fascinating about them. The raw octahedron diamond set in his 18ct
yellow gold engagement ring (US$17,600) came out of the ground in
that distinctive shape - a mini pyramid for your finger. Another
ring, also in 18ct yellow gold, contrasts a pink rose-cut diamond -
an antique diamond cut - with a grey rough diamond, following the
exact contours of both stones (US$11,660).
Prized for their natural beauty and innate character, rough
diamonds have been the exclusive privilege of kings and queens
since Egyptian times. A symbol of luck and prosperity, they were
set in jewellery right up to the 20th century, when the
round brilliant began its dazzling ascent to become the most
popular diamond cut in history.
Leading diamond experts De Beers have been pivotal in the revival
of the trend for rough gems. Their Talisman Collection features
both rough and polished diamonds in designs that look purposely
handcrafted and whose historic influences are clear to see. The
Talisman Aurora Solitaire ring in 18ct yellow gold (£2,050), set
with a 0.4ct fancy yellow rough diamond, and the Talisman Half-Band
in 18ct white gold (£2,600) are elegant homages to jewellery makers
of centuries past.
New York-based Diamond in the Rough has built an entire, thriving
business on raw diamond jewellery. Launched in 2002, its bridal
range features rough diamonds that range in colour from deep amber
to ice white. The Nouveau range (from $US2,750) - which plays
with the classic, modern six-prong engagement ring design, adding
texture and form - is one of the brand's most recent launches.
Its most iconic engagement ring, however, is the Embrace (from
US$7,500). Featuring a central rough diamond, delicately enclosed
in a criss-cross of micro pave diamonds, there is absolutely
nothing raw about it. It's a beautifully refined piece of jewellery
Back in Britain, former Chloe designer, Pippa Small, applies her
trademark silver foil to the reverse of rough diamonds, reflecting
light deep within the stone. In one ring, set with a single rough
diamond, the gemstone's inclusions - tiny internal flaws - come
alive, resembling mysterious smoke swirls. Each of Small's rough
diamond rings, made from 24ct Fairtrade and Fairmined gold, is
unique and made to order (POA).
Jason French, one of the founders of Brighton-based fine jewellery
showroom Baroque Bespoke, also has a soft spot for rough diamonds.
After 25 years working for Bond Street jeweller Graff Diamonds, he
set up shop in the Lanes, Brighton's cobbled shopping district.
French recognises that rough diamonds are not the most popular
choice for an engagement ring, but they offer an extremely personal
"In a rough diamond, the notorious light and sparkle becomes a
more subtle beauty," points out French. "Untouched by man, the
uncut diamond hasn't been polished, cut or shaped by the human
hand. It forces you to abandon all notions of the 'ideal'
proportion. Whilst inclusions and blemishes in polished diamonds
decrease their desirability, the same apparent imperfections become
part of a rough diamond's character. While it is true to say that
one diamond is never the same as the next, this is so much more
apparent in its natural state," he explains. French's original
designs for Baroque include a stunning 18ct yellow gold engagement
ring, set with a mighty 7ct rough white (£11,099) - a true diamond
in the rough among the millions of homogenous engagement rings on