Jewellery

How to Find the Perfect Diamond

by Hervé Dewintre and Kenny Loh
06.08.2017
What makes a good diamond great? One of New York’s most respected stone gurus gives us an eye-opening crash course

 

Anyone who knows a diamond knows the four C’s – carat, colour, clarity and cut – and how they alter the stone’s value. But which of those do the pros typically look at first? “Carats seem to get the most attention,” says Melvyn Kirtley, Tiffany & Co.’s Chief Gemmologist and High Jewellery President. “Not from me, though,” he reveals.

If not carats, then what? “It’s the one thing that people forget most – cut,” points out Kirtley, who has acquired exceptional gemstones for the New York brand for more than 30 years. “A perfectly cut diamond is more luminous looking. It sparkles more and has more life, but some weight is often sacrificed to get that result,” he explains. “A perfectly cut diamond should also reveal a symmetrical motif composed of eight hearts or arrows under a special light. We call those diamonds Hearts & Arrows.”

That’s not to say that the other two Cs – clarity and colour – aren’t important. “Microscopic impurities are known as inclusions. My recommendation is to buy only IF (Internally Flawless) or VVS1 (Very, Very Small Inclusions) grade diamonds,” Kirtley shares. “In terms of colour, a white diamond has to be totally colourless (D, E or F) to be considered special. Diamonds which are slightly coloured are less valuable, especially if the hues are indistinct. Coloured diamonds need to be clearly ‘fancy’ to be worth anything. And when the colour is absolutely striking, we call the stone ‘fancy vivid’. In some very rare cases, the colour is so intense that the diamond becomes ‘fancy deep’, which is the ultimate,” he adds. 

You see lots of stones every day. How do you make your choice?

“I have a heightened sense of a gemstone’s character. When I see a stone that could work, a visceral reaction prompts me to find out more. I take in the stone’s shape, cut and colour with an unaided eye before using my loupe. I examine both the stone’s exterior and interior very closely before looking at it again without the loupe. I need to feel the same way as I did in the beginning before saying yes.”

 

What exactly are you looking for?

“An overall ‘presence’. It has to have all the exacting qualities that we insist for every stone. I’m proud to say that our parameters for selecting diamonds far exceed those established by the industry. An astonishing 99.96% of the world’s gem-grade diamonds fall short of our standards. The remaining 0.04% are the elite of diamonds in terms of colour (D-E) and clarity (IF to VS2). Those are stones of superb quality and transparency.”

 

How do you know where to find those stones? Do you get tip-offs?

“I am constantly talking to my contacts around the world and being on top of what’s out there. The search for the rarest and most unusual gemstones never ends. It is also imperative that we act quickly and decisively once we’ve learnt about a particularly interesting stone that has surfaced. The business moves really fast and that’s both challenging and exciting at the same time.”

 

Which comes first – the stones or the design?

“Our designs are often inspired by gemstones, but sometimes the designs are developed before a suitable gemstone is found. Our design philosophy has always been focused on designing around a gem or diamond’s beauty.”

 

What unusual cuts has Tiffany & Co. produced?

“We offer an incredible selection of diamond cuts, some of which like the Lucida, for instance, are patented by Tiffany & Co. The cuts for our coloured gemstones, including briolette and rose, are more stylised and varied.”

 

Right: Tiffany & Co.’s Chief Gemmologist Melvyn Kirtley also works with the brand’s design teams to develop one-of-a-kind stunners.

“I think that carats are far from being the only factor that determines a diamond’s value. In fact, I’d say that it’s the least important factor.”

Tiffany Anniversary diamond

Is there a stone you’ll never forget?

“I remember uncovering a blue diamond imbued with the exact same hue as Tiffany’s robin’s-egg blue years ago. We named our discovery the Tiffany Anniversary diamond. It was completely mesmerising.”

Share article

Tags

related posts

Recommended posts for you