By Maria Doulton
Looking at the De Beers Talisman medallion, shimmering with both rough and polished diamonds in a variety of earthy and celestial hues, is a very different experience from gazing at the perfect symmetry of a dazzling white diamond solitaire or an evenly matched pair of ear studs.
In this latest collection of De Beers jewellery we are presented with rough diamonds in their purest, primal form, untouched by human hand. And this is just how man must first have seen them when he sought their protective and talismanic powers. Charged with a mystical aura, diamonds appeal to us instinctively; their enigmatic light shining out through their milky skins - a quality that is lost when the diamond is cut and polished. These irregular, unrefined diamonds draw us back to the very dawn of time as these precious stones are as old as the stars, born of the crucible of our young and barely-formed planet.
The Talisman jewellery collection was first introduced by diamond jewellery house De Beers a decade ago when it dared to combine the natural octahedron, or irregular nubby shapes of the rough, with perfectly cut and polished stones. First set into medallions, with their clear symbolism of power and ritual, the 10-year-old Talisman has become one of its most recognisable designs.
Entering its second decade, De Beers' creative director, Hollie Bonneville Barden, has revisited the Talisman collection with fresh eyes. “We have had lots of variations of the Talisman over the past 10 years, but I wanted to introduce new shapes and motifs,” explains Hollie. “In essence, the Talisman is about mixing rough and polished diamonds, and setting them into textured gold - or the unique poinçon setting as we call it.”
This year, for the first time, the Talisman enters the firmament of high jewellery. Hollie explains: “I wanted to explore this area so I added in new ideas such as using the rough diamonds as drops so that they appear to float at the end of a necklace. I was aiming for a new richness by combining these organic shapes with fancy cuts and very valuable coloured gemstones to add the refinement, fluidity and flexibility of high jewellery. I like the mix of very sophisticated and refined diamonds, and techniques with the organic appeal of rough diamonds.”
There is no standardisation to the creation of a Talisman. Each is a unique combination of diamonds in their natural form, judiciously mingled with polished diamonds, which act as bright highlights among the gentler glow of rough diamonds.
“When I am pulling together the diamonds for each piece, I gaze for hours at a table full of rough diamonds and make my selection. As the design is not led by one single diamond, I look for a combination of colours and a harmony. I look for hues that match or complement one another, from orangey browns to greyish blues. I quite literally work with what nature has given us.”
Another variant that Hollie has introduced is to open the offering to men. Although Talisman has always had a masculine appeal thanks to the assertive medallion shape and muted colour palette, the new De Beers signet rings will speak directly to men. Talisman has also become more appealing to a younger audience or those looking for something lighter and easier to wear. New designs include fashionable slender bangles, delicate De Beers rings and stacking bands.
But the star of the show is the Talisman Wondrous Sphere, which, as Hollie explains, “is purely for the expression of art and the love of rough diamonds.” What looks like a flat, saucer-sized, diamond-sprinkled disc, which echoes the shape of the original medallion, transforms into a three-dimensional mobile sphere. “It is inspired by the early celestial orbs that mapped the stars. It is a piece for true connoisseurs of rough diamonds and is priced at US$1 million.”