Much has changed during the pandemic but one thing has remained constant, our desire for diamonds. De Beers recorded £475 million in rough diamond sales in January 2021, an increase of £70 million on January 2020, ready to cater for the boom in pandemic engagements in the retail trade. But with the trend for customisation continuing, these rough diamonds could be heading for a very different future- as a piece of bespoke jewellery.
For most of us, the thought of buying bespoke can be daunting. Henry Pruwer is a diamond expert who learnt his art in the diamond capital of Antwerp, now creating bespoke pieces at his Hatton Garden studio in London. Henry experienced a 60% increase in engagement ring enquiries during the pandemic, as well as an increased demand for bespoke pieces such as earrings as a substitute for delayed weddings. A key benefit to buying bespoke, believes Henry, is getting the finest quality diamonds for your budget:
“Most diamonds that are available to buy retail have not been screened for quality other than a generic certificate. Contrary to popular belief, any diamond can be certified, whatever the quality. The certificate merely confirms a diamond’s characteristics and whether it is a natural diamond. Buying bespoke can guide a client to the best stones, avoiding poor quality diamonds that will only sparkle under a showroom spotlight. There is the perception that buying retail guarantees quality, but that is not always the case.”
And it’s not only the ultra-rich who can buy bespoke said Henry:
“Whether a client has a budget is £3,000 or £300,000, my job is to hunt down the best ethically sourced diamond for that particular budget. I will usually examine stones from around the world, having them securely couriered to me by a specialist company, and select the best to show the client. When you can show, say, three diamonds side by side, you can demonstrate the characteristics of each. It’s vital that you have complete trust in your diamond specialist as it will be their job to guide you through the process.”
One of the things drummed into the average consumer is the 4Cs of carat, cut, colour and clarity, developed by the GIA. The C that most of us have most knowledge of is carat, or diamond weight, but the size of the diamond isn’t the only consideration says Henry:
“In general, the higher the carat, the higher the price but diamond prices don’t increase smoothly. A 1.01 carat ring could be 20% more expensive than a diamond of 0.95 carats. And you really wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. People often pay far too much attention to carat and too little to cut, clarity and colour. The cut of a diamond, for example, determines its life and brilliance.
“As a rule of thumb, the less colour in a diamond, the rarer it is, but lots of factors influence how much colour a diamond reflects, such as shape and band metal. Then, there are the fancy colour diamonds, like yellow diamonds, which are a separate category entirely. The most popular fancy colour for a bespoke engagement ring is yellow, and the most popular diamond shape is round, but there are so many diamond shapes to choose from.”
Maxim Gelmann, 36 from London is a start-up founder. Maxim opted for a bespoke engagement ring when he was planning to propose to his girlfriend, now wife, Alice, commissioning Henry to create the piece:
“I’d never bought bespoke jewellery before, but this was a one-off special occasion. I wanted the engagement ring to be personal. I was working in the commercial world at the time, in strategic consulting, so I was aware that if I purchased from one of the luxury jewellery retailers that I would be paying for the brand and the marketing and not getting the best value for money with the diamond.
“There is a huge amount of trust involved when you buy an engagement ring. It’s a big chunk of money and when someone presents a range of diamonds to you as a non-expert, they’ll all look the same. You need to have that expert at your side to show you the parameters.
“I had an idea of budget and setting and Henry guided me through decisions like colour, cut and clarity. Henry was able to go into depth about the diamond grades, explaining that flawless diamonds are extremely rare and that most will have inclusions. Where that inclusion is though makes a huge difference. With Henry’s guidance I was able to choose the stone myself.
“The bespoke engagement ring Henry created was a round diamond, a ring that I felt was a safe, quality choice that Alice would like. During the design process, we talked about wedding bands too and how the engagement ring could sit with the band. Alice didn’t wear many rings at that time, so it was tricky to get the right size. I managed to borrow one of her rings though and Henry sized from there.
“I planned to propose in Cuba, so it was a race against time to get the ring ready. The whole process took around 2-3 months. I carried that ring around for two weeks as we travelled across Cuba! Thankfully, Alice said yes, and loved the ring. When we returned to the UK, Henry resized the ring to Alice’s exact size and created our wedding bands, bespoke platinum rings, so the engagement ring and wedding band sat perfectly next to each other.
“Henry made what could be a really complicated process easy. If I hadn’t had that expert guidance, I’d have just bought off the shelf.”
The first step to buying bespoke is to get an idea of what you like suggests Henry, looking in magazines or online to get an idea of shapes, settings and colours:
“When you create a bespoke piece, the possibilities are truly endless. A rough diamond is a piece of potential. It has the ability to be transformed into a truly unique, dazzling piece of jewellery, or it can become an average, forgettable piece. Diamonds are there to mark some of the most important times in our lives, pieces that will be treasured and handed down through the generations. I think it’s vital that each piece is made with infinite care and attention.”