by laurie brookins | May 3, 2013 | Style & Beauty
The MasterGraff Ultra Flat Tourbillon, limited to 50 pieces.
Graff’s Oak Street boutique.
Graff’s diamond bracelet features a 56.15- carat heart-shaped diamond that can be removed and worn as a solitaire ring.
The $100 million peacock brooch features an array of colored diamonds.
As the saying goes, “Where some see problems, others see possibilities.” That’s particularly true of master jeweler Laurence Graff, who every day looks into rough-hewn stones and sees the shape of a finished, faceted diamond. It’s a bit unfair to ask Graff to select a favorite, as he’s romanced more than a few significant stones in the 53 years since he founded his eponymous house. “We have so many, it’s hard to choose,” says the man who started his career in the 1950s as a jeweler’s apprentice. “I’m very fortunate to have handled some of the most historic and rare gems of all time.” That said, it’s clear that one or maybe two gems have risen to top of mind. “One of our more recent pieces, the Graff Sweethearts, [consists of] a perfectly matched pair of exceptional heart-shaped diamonds exceeding 50 carats each,” he says. “Cut and polished by Graff’s master craftsmen, they are truly stunning stones. We’ve set them as earrings, accompanied by pear-shaped and round diamonds.”
Graff’s Oak Street boutique, which opened its doors in 2004, was only the diamond house’s third in the US (there are a total of six US boutiques today). As in the other locations, Graff says, he finds the Chicago clientele to be astute about fine jewelry—and, more than ever, intrigued by the notion of fancy-colored diamonds. “There is an extremely high demand for colored diamonds and stones that are rare in size,” he says. “They are recognized as strong investment pieces that hold their value over the long term.”
Indeed, size matters when it comes to diamonds, though it isn’t always the defining factor; cut, color, and clarity must also be considered, and in a house like Graff, the artistry of the setting often amplifies the “wow” factor. Graff calls a 56.15-carat, D Internally Flawless heartshaped diamond “one of our latest treasures,” adding that the stone and its future owner were deserving of more than a simple setting.
“I wanted to create a unique, innovative design for this very special stone and so conceptualized a multifunctional piece of jewelry,” he explains. The diamond bracelet that resulted ultimately incorporates 143.37 carats of diamonds, with the heart-shaped diamond at its center. But that’s just the beginning, Graff says: “The diamond can then be removed by the wearer and placed in a separate setting to form a stunning solitaire ring.”
In the mood for something more colorful than convertible? In March Graff debuted a design that marries all the codes of the house, a peacock brooch measuring a little more than 10 centimeters in height and featuring a rainbow of white and fancy-colored diamonds totaling 120.81 carats with a 20.02-carat fancy deep blue pear-shaped diamond at its center. The price for the Graff peacock falls into the if-you-have-to-ask department: $100 million.
While such one-of-a-kind pieces are undeniably the house’s showstoppers, displaying the ideal marriage of high handcraft and exquisite stones, Graff says you’ll also find classics at the Oak Street boutique, “collection pieces [that] are instantly recognizable and desirable,” from fancy-colored or white-diamond solitaires in cushion or Asscher cuts to the house’s signature butterfly or scattered “Infinity” motifs.
And this month Oak Street also should see the arrival of the house’s latest debuts, the timepieces Graff premiered in late April at BaselWorld, the renowned watch and jewelry fair in Switzerland. Graff added watches to its roster in 2009; with status timepieces so prevalent throughout the market, how did he feel he could make a unique statement? “The design of our watches is inspired by the facets of a diamond, and we closely link the art of fine jewelry making to the art of fine watchmaking,” he explains.
Among the 2013 debuts: the MasterGraff Ultra Flat Tourbillon, its 3.5mm movement and 7.05mm faceted case making it one of the thinnest tourbillons in the world. Limited to just 50 pieces, the rose-gold MasterGraff is the latest, Graff says, in what one might call his perpetual big-picture philosophy: “to continue to discover the most beautiful stones in the world and to create truly beautiful works of art with them, giving [clients] access to treasures they can pass on for generations to come.” 103 E. Oak St., 312-604-1000
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