As the light plays across it, the Thames is sometimes transformed into a sparkling river of diamonds. At such times, its only rivals are gems such as the “Great Star of Africa” or the “Graff Lesedi La Rona”. Because the City is home to the Crown Jewels but also, in Mayfair, to the ateliers of one of the world’s most important diamond dealers : Graff.
Αfter a firm and friendly handshake, Raymond Graff immediately tells me : “I have something to show you.” A dazzling diamond necklace sparkling on a dark presentation tray, setting the tone for an exploration of glittering jewelry creations and incredibly pure gems, a treasure trove of discoveries punctuating the visit to the atelier, dotted with admirative exclamations.
This warm welcome also reveals a family brand, intimately linked to London. While the founder Laurence Graff is now surrounded by his brother Raymond, his son François and his nephew Eliott, his career dates back to 1950. His first employer at Hatton Garden – the legendary haven for prospective fiancés looking for the perfect ring – had already made the bold prediction when asked how far he could go : “The sky’s the limit.” Graff Diamonds was founded in 1960 and has remained at the heart of Mayfair ever since. This entirely autonomous firm houses under one roof all the skills required for jewelry creation, right the way through to an official Goldsmith’s company assay office for the hallmarking of precious metals. “Each diamond and each finished jewelry creation are checked by a member of our family,” says Raymond Graff.
A SHOWER OF FACETS
Laurence Graff has succeeded in conquering some of the most extraordinary diamonds in history, endowed with intense and rare colors. The “Graff Lesedi La Rona” is a lifetime achievement : 1,109 carats and nearly 222 grams for the second largest rough diamond in the world of precious quality, surpassed only by the “Cullinan”, from which the “Great Star of Africa” mounted on the British Imperial Crown is derived.
Like so many glasses of champagne, the stunning number of carats handled by Graff’s craftsmen is enough to set minds bubbling with excitement. Yet this place is pervaded by a family atmosphere of quiet and intense concentration. Son and father, brothers, apprentices and masters labor side by side at the workbench. Sixty artisans craft the jewelry, from prototyping to gemsetting. One of the nine apprentices is putting the finishing touches to his “masterpiece”, a refined brooch designed to show the extent of his expertise. Perhaps by dint of the care lavished on it, he may even win a Craftsmanship & Design Award from the Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Council : a quintessentially British event regarded as the Oscars of Haute Joaillerie and naturally supported by Graff.