In a surprise move that points to an increased focus on the jewelry business, the luxury fashion giant has bought the Sewelo diamond. Could Louis Vuitton be about to trade fine leather for fine jewelry and cash in on its prime position on Place Vendôme?
Towards a leadership position in fine jewelry
Just two months ago, Louis Vuitton parent company LVMH announced the acquisition of Tiffany for a record-breaking $16.2 billion, providing a significant boost to its watches & jewelry business, currently the smallest division in the group’s portfolio. Now, Louis Vuitton itself has paid an undisclosed sum for the largest stone mined since the Cullinan diamond in 1905.
It follows a declaration of intent in 2018, when the house hired former Tiffany Design Director Francesca Amphitheatrof who has sent the Vuitton jewelry offering in a much bolder direction. Although the house is a relative newcomer to the fine jewelry business, producing its first fine pieces 19 years ago, as Louis Vuitton CEO Michael Burke told the Financial Times, the recent moves are all part of the company’s jewelry business strategy to become “one of the top five players” in the notoriously competitive $270 billion jewelry market.
A $19 million stone?
For Tobias Kormind, managing director of 77diamonds.com, the choice of stone with which to make a move towards leadership is surprising: “although this diamond is remarkable for its record size, Louis Vuitton have chosen a stone of relatively low quality, suggested by the black color of its current rough form. It will be interesting to see whether they break it into many smaller stones or try to create a few larger ones. I estimate the value of the stone to be between $6.5 million and $19.5 million, but it is unlikely to yield top-quality diamonds.”
The Sewelo diamond was found in the Karowe mine in Botswana in April, by Canadian mining company Lucara Diamond Corporation using state-of-the-art X-ray technology. Weighing in at an incredible 1,758 carats, it is the second-largest stone ever found, next to the Cullinan at 3,106 carats, mined in South Africa in 1905.
It has now sold in nine months, in contrast to another find by Lucara, the 302 carat Lesedi La Rona, which they tried to auction at Sotheby’s. “Lucara is trying to break diamonds out of their traditional route to market,” says Kormind, “the Lesedi La Rona failed to sell at auction as the diamond cutters stayed away and non-experts were not prepared to bid.” It was eventually sold privately to Graff Diamonds for $53 million in 2017, two years after being mined.
The diamond is classed as “near gem” and of variable quality, pointing to inclusions that could dictate how it is cut. Lucara have signed a partnership with Louis Vuitton and Antwerp-based HB Company to support the cutting and polishing of the stone later this year, after a three-month study to determine optimal cuts. In return, they will have a 50% interest on the resulting diamonds and 5% of retail proceeds to be reinvested into community initiatives in Botswana.
Cutting a baseball-sized diamond
While the Cullinan was cut by Joseph Asscher into nine major stones, some of which ended up in the British Crown Jewels, and the Lesedi La Rona produced 67 separate stones, speculation abounds on how the Sewelo will be cut and used, which according to Burke will not happen until it has a buyer. Ilan Kaplan, CEO of iSparkle, a Johannesburg-based high-end diamond house believes that “a diamond of this size will yield tens of polished diamonds of different sizes,” although “it is impossible to say for certain.”
The cutting process itself is complex: “It will be planned with state-of-the-art diamond-scanning technology to produce a 3D image on which to simulate cutting options. The final cutting decision will be made depending on maximum profitability and saleability of the resultant polished pieces,” says Kaplan. A highly experienced master diamond cutter will follow the plan closely with a laser saw and each individual stone will be polished. “With a diamond of this size and complexity, this process could take well over a year,” he finishes.
Right now, the stone is a long way from that. At present, it is coated in carbon and what lies beneath is a mystery which makes cutting it all the more difficult. The purchase is a move that is not without risk for Louis Vuitton, but it represents the kind of eye-catching big bet that had made LVMH the world’s premiere luxury group, and Louis Vuitton its most valuable luxury brand.
As a Paris-based writer and editorial consultant for the luxury industry, I have spent my career strategizing and creating content and communications for organizations ranging from start-ups to multinational corporations. Ex-Condé Nast, where I launched and edited the international edition of Vogue.fr, I now help luxury brands better define their positioning through editorial and social, and write about lifestyle and culture for editorial titles. I have a particular interest in independent jewelry design, and write about the new jewelry scene in the face of changing notions of luxury.
As ever moreprestigious clients rolled into his New York boutique at the turn of the 20th Century, Pierre Cartier [grandson of Louis-Francois Cartier, founder of the eponymous jewelry brand] was insistent that the firm remain true to its original aim: “We must never lose our current reputation; in other words, we must sell only large jewels.”
It was with this in mind that, in 1910, he invested in a gemstone so large and important that it represented an enormous risk. If he couldn’t sell it, Cartier would be left with a dent in its cash flow that could severely hamper the entire firm. And yet Pierre was in no doubt that it was a risk worth taking. As he had discovered in America, the fame and size of one’s diamond was everything.
Sometimes jewels carry a story with them that impacts all their owners. The notoriously cursed 45-carat blue Hope Diamond, once known as the Tavernier Blue, was one of these. Since its discovery in the Kollur mine in seventeenth-century India by Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a French gem merchant, many of those who had owned or even been close to the stone were said to have suffered terrible fates. [Its uplifting name is derived from the London banking family that owned the gem in the 1830s.]
If you were to believe the stories, the horrific endings linked to it included being torn apart by wild dogs in Constantinople, being shot onstage and, in the case of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI (who had enjoyed the diamond as part of the French crown jewels), famously being beheaded during the French Revolution.
Several months after Pierre opened Cartier’s New York branch, the company bought the Hope Diamond in Paris. The gemstone had changed hands several times in the preceding few months. From Simon Frankel, a diamond dealer in New York, it had passed to a collector in Turkey (reportedly on behalf of Sultan Hamid of the Ottoman Empire before he was deposed), and then on to the French dealer Rosenau, from whom Cartier acquired it for 500,000 francs (around $2.2 million today).
Though the gem was magnificent, it was not easy to locate a client who was wealthy enough to afford it, fanatical enough about diamonds to need a large blue one, and brave enough to disregard the curse. Frankel, for example, hadn’t been able to find a buyer for seven years, after which time his finances were in such a dire strait that he was forced to sell it at a distressed price.
This was where Cartier, with its multiple branches and increasingly impressive global client list, started to come into its own. Pierre and his brothers, Jacques and Louis, could be hot on the buying scene in Paris, where so many of the best gemstones came to market, while simultaneously discreetly spreading the word of their new purchase overseas. They were well aware that an American heiress would relish the idea of parading a unique jewel from the chic French capital in front of her peers back home.
In the case of the Hope Diamond, the brothers were confident enough of selling it that they were not to be deterred by the 1908 warnings in the press: “There are those who say [diamond dealers] will never regain their old position of supremacy in their trade as long as the Hope Diamond remains in their ownership.” In fact, far from being put off by the curse, Pierre believed the gemstone’s notoriety could act in his favor. He even had a client in mind who he suspected would be enticed by it.
The American heiress Evalyn Walsh McLean couldn’t get enough of jewels. She was inordinately rich, thanks to her father, who had literally struck gold with one of the largest gold mines in America. In 1908, at the age of twenty-two, Evalyn married nineteen-year-old Ned McLean of the well-known Washington Post family. The young couple, it was widely reported, had far more money than sense.
“It is no use to anyone to chide me for loving jewels. I cannot help it if I have a passion for them,” Evalyn admitted. “They make me feel comfortable, and even happy. The truth is, when I neglect to wear jewels, astute members of my family call in doctors because it is a sign I’m becoming ill.”
Evalyn had previously crossed paths with the Cartiers in 1908 when she was on her honeymoon in Paris. Two years later, when Evalyn and Ned were back in the French capital, Pierre made an appointment to meet them in their hotel. Understanding from their previous purchases that the jewelry they sought out was large and significant, he was hopeful they would fall on the Hope Diamond like hungry wolves. “His manner was exquisitely mysterious,” Evalyn remembered, as he placed an intriguing-looking package sealed with wax seals before them.
Pierre retraced the gemstone’s famous history for his captive audience, from its prominent place among the French crown jewels for more than a century, to a London lord and a Turkish sultan, and now all the way to their very hotel room in Paris. By the time he unveiled the gemstone, he had them on the edge of their seats. Unfortunately, though, it wasn’t enough. Whether it was because the young couple weren’t keen on the setting, or they had misgivings about the curse, or they had simply run out of that kind of spending money by the end of their trip that year, Evalyn and Ned left empty-handed.
Disappointed but determined his instincts were right about the McLeans being the perfect clients for the Hope, Pierre moved on to Plan B. He shipped the gemstone to America and changed the setting to an oval frame of smaller diamonds that enhanced the large blue Hope in the center. He again showed it to Evalyn, who, though more interested this time around, was still not convinced. Knowing his client’s weakness for gems, Pierre proposed that she hold on to the necklace for a few days, suspecting that once she had it in her possession, it would be almost impossible for her to return it.
She was used to getting things, not to giving them back. Evalyn took the bait and that evening, before she went to bed, she placed the diamond on her dresser. “For hours, that jewel stared at me, and at some time during the night I began to really want the thing. Then I put the chain around my neck and hooked my life to its destiny for good or evil.”
The next day, Pierre received word that the McLeans would buy the Hope. The price was $180,000 (about $5 million today), of which the first installment was to be $40,000.
The Cartiers were relieved: Having large gemstones in stock played havoc with the firm’s cash flow until they were sold. But as with many privileged clients, the sale process wasn’t as straightforward as it might have been. Several weeks after the agreed contract had been signed and the McLeans had taken possession of the gemstone, Pierre hadn’t yet received a cent in payment.
At his clients’ request, he had even put a clause into the contract to assuage their worst curse-related fears (the “customer’s privilege to exchange goods in case of fatality”), but still Evalyn procrastinated. At one stage, she tried sending the Hope back to Cartier. Pierre refused to stand for it and the necklace was returned to its owner along with a repeat demand for payment. By March 1911, two months after the sale had been agreed upon, Pierre was so frustrated by his clients’ endless delaying tactics that a series of exchanges with Louis in Paris led the brothers to file a legal suit against the McLeans.
Finally realizing that there was no legal way out of the deal, Evalyn changed tack and decided that if she was going to buy the gemstone, she should at least take it to church for a blessing. She wasn’t sure she believed in the curse, but May Yohe, the ex-wife of Thomas Hope and a previous wearer of the diamond, had publicly warned her against it in a March 1911 newspaper article, and she couldn’t help but be spooked.
The blessing took place in the church of Russel Monseigneur. The diamond was awaiting its blessing on a velvet cushion, when seemingly on cue, lightning flashed and thunder shook the building. Many might have taken this as a sign to back away, but not Evalyn. “Ever since that day,” she would later declare, “I’ve worn my diamond as a charm.” The sale was finally concluded in early 1912, with the McLeans trading in the emerald from the Star of the East pendant they had bought a couple of years earlier to help pay for the Hope.
Financially speaking, the sale of the Hope wasn’t a positive for Cartier. After all the legal fees, the firm ended up taking a loss. The board meeting minutes noted, “Upon examining our legal expenses . . . we have decided to be more strict. In future, we will have to think very carefully before taking legal advice.
We will avoid it as much as possible.” And yet there was no question in Pierre’s mind that it had been worth it. Through this single transaction, Cartier became a household name in New York. After all, who wasn’t secretly fascinated by the exploits of the opulent and profligate McLeans? Add to that the idea of a mysterious curse, and the gossip columns had struck gold. The Cartiers may have shied away from taking out advertisements in the early years (Louis particularly felt they were beneath a great jewelry maison favored by royalty), but they were more than happy to have their name spread by the press alongside pictures or social updates of their famous clients.
And Evalyn McLean, who loved the stone’s notoriety, never missed an opportunity to flaunt the spectacular Hope. She tied the diamond around the neck of her Great Dane dog, Mike, or held lavish garden parties where she hid it in the bushes and insisted the guests join in her favorite game: Find the Hope.
Evalyn held on to the diamond for the rest of her life, and though she never believed in the curse, she suffered a fair amount of bad luck over the years. Her husband, Ned, ran off with another woman and later died in a mental institution; their family paper, The Washington Post, went bankrupt; her son was killed in a car accident; and her daughter died of a drug overdose.
And for a brief moment during the Depression, she was forced to pawn the Hope Diamond for $37,500 in a last-minute attempt to prevent a house foreclosure. On the day she had arranged to reclaim it, she took the train from Washington to New York and turned up at William Simpson’s pawnshop entirely alone. No bodyguard for her, in fact not even a bag:
She stuffed the diamond, along with a few other precious stones she was picking up, into her dress and set off uptown to meet some friends. After lingering too long over lunch, she rushed to catch her train, running “through the station so fast I thought I would be shaking the stones out of my bosom at every step.” A far cry from the high security of the Smithsonian Institution, where the Hope sits safely on a turntable within a glass cabinet today, attracting more than seven million visitors a year and currently estimated to be worth around $350 million.
Francesca Cartier Brickell is a direct descendant of the Cartier family. Her great-great-great-grandfather founded the world-famous firm in 1847. A graduate of Oxford University, she is a sought-after international lecturer on Cartier’s illustrious history and has given talks for major auction houses, museums, and societies. This book is the result of years of the author’s independent research into her family and the business they founded.
The gemstone, which is now called the Hope Diamond, was formed deep within the Earth more than 1 billion years ago! It was originally used as one of the decorations of an Indian temple idol. But one day a Hindu priest decided it was far too beautiful and valuable to leave there and plucked it out. He was severely punished, of course, but the Hope Diamond was already out of the temple. “The King’s jewel,” “The blue of France” – these are some nicknames for the most mysterious and seemingly dangerous gem in history. The selected few who were “lucky” enough to possess the famous Hope Diamond died horrific deaths. But in the beginning, nobody could foresee the trouble… Other videos you might like: 3 Unbelievable Coincidences That Will Leave You Confused https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lz9OS… If You See a Coin In Your Car Door Handle, Run And Call the Police! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WShss… Only a Genius Or a Person With a Mental Illness Can Answer This https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVgHM… TIMESTAMPS: From a temple to King 0:23 Evil curse: what happened to King Louis XIV 1:25 The diamond gets to England 2:37 … and changes owners all the time 3:23 Tragedies of McLean family 4:48 Where is the diamond now? 6:16 How many people it “killed” 7:27#hopediamond#largestdiamonds#gemstones Music by Epidemic Sound https://www.epidemicsound.com/ SUMMARY: – Some say that Tavernier stole the diamond from the previous owner, while others are sure he bought it. Rumor also has it that Tavernier had a serious raging fever not long after he got the marvelous Hope Diamond. – The Hope Diamond curse got to King Louis XIV as well – he died suffering of gangrene. Moreover, all but one of his children didn’t make it passed their childhood, though it wasn’t that uncommon those days. – Both Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were executed by guillotine during the French revolution. The Hope Diamond was stolen from the Royal Storehouse shortly after. – A couple of years passed and the diamond was suddenly discovered in England. Well how did it get there? Several sources confirmed that it was actually owned by King George IV of the United Kingdom. – Evalyn Walsh McLean absolutely adored the Hope Diamond and wore it almost every single day. But the happiness didn’t last long. First, Evalyn’s mother-in-law died. Then her 9-year-old son was in a car accident, and didn’t make it. This broke her and her husband so much that he actually left for another woman and later died in a mental hospital. – Now the Hope Diamond weighs a little bit over 45 carats, still has its deep greyish-blue color, and even produces a dangerous red glow if you decide to expose it to short-wave ultraviolet light. – Despite the diamond’s rich history, there are still heated debates as to whether it’s actually cursed or not. Some people are sure that all the legends about the jewel’s cursed origins were simply created to boost its popularity. – In 1911, the New York Times came out with a whole list of the diamond’s supposed “victims.” The list consisted of about 14 people who died tragic deaths not long after possessing or even holding the Hope Diamond. Subscribe to Bright Side : https://goo.gl/rQTJZz —————————————————————————————- Our Social Media: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brightside/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brightgram/ 5-Minute Crafts Youtube: https://www.goo.gl/8JVmuC Photos: https://www.depositphotos.com East News —————————————————————————————- For more videos and articles visit: http://www.brightside.me/
Wearing a dark suit and tie, Kazumi Arikawa, formally greets guests as they enter Nobu Fifty Seven in New York with a handshake and a bow. It’s not until everyone arrives that he joins the group at a large table on the mezzanine, sitting in the middle of about a dozen people.
Royal House of Bayern sapphire and diamond parure
Arikawa was in the city during a cold November afternoon for the opening of the jewelry exhibition, “The Body Transformed,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which ended its run in February. His company, Albion Art, with locations in Tokyo and Fukuoka in southern Japan, was the main sponsor of the exhibition. In addition to the sponsorship, Arikawa donated three historic jewelry pieces to the museum.
Catherine II of Russia emerald and diamond suite
In the rarefied world of high jewelry collectors and academics Arikawa is well known but to the larger jewelry and art loving public in the western world he is undiscovered. His accomplishment is amassing a collection of about 800 historic jewels over a period of more than 30 years. Surprisingly, even though he is a lifelong resident of Japan, the vast majority of his collection consists of jewels from the western world, from antiquity to the Renaissance and beyond.
The Wurttemberg topaz and diamond parure
Arikawa’s sponsorship of the Met exhibition was a sort of a coming out event for him and Albion Art as he is now looking at ways to share his collection with larger audiences. One plan is to open a museum in Kyoto for his collection in seven years. If it happens there will be nothing quite like it, according to those who have seen his collection.
In some ways Arikawa was a man in search of a passion. At first he wanted to be a politician but his mother disapproved (his father died when he was 10 years old). He then spent two years studying to become a Buddhist monk. After that he wanted to devote himself to academic pursuits.
Apollo Intaglio by Nathaniel Marchant
“When I returned to the real world, I was interested in education and philosophy, I wanted to become a university professor, but I had little confidence in myself and my personality,” he said.
His mother founded a traditional jewelry retail store when he was young and during his time of indecision, his sister took over the business and he helped her. Gradually he became interested in jewelry but in a much different way.
The Castellani Triptych, circa 1865, by Augusto Castellani of Italy
“I took my responsibility to the family business very seriously, wholeheartedly and in my first year I managed to triple our sales figures,” he said. “I felt I had to be the best, it is in my nature. However, at that time the jewelry was not artistic it was more commercial, and this was also a time when treated stones were entering the market. I knew I had a responsibility also to our clients, I had to have integrity. I took a year away from the business to study management.”
Duke of Wellington châtelaine and watch
During this time he spent three weeks in Paris where he visited the Place Vendôme and saw modern high jewelry designs. Then he went to London where he visited the Victoria and Albert Museum. He says the jewelry gallery in the museum changed his life.
“I felt that something extraordinary would happen from that time onwards. I don’t remember exactly what I saw; I just remember the impact of it, the sense of inspiration.”
When Arikawa returned to Tokyo, he told his sister of what he saw and how his view of jewelry had changed. She recommended he visit two antique jewelry stores in Tokyo.
Renaissance era flying Cupid pendant
“I visited one and realized how jewelry has such great life, such sophisticated beauty. I remember marveling at the finesse of Edwardian jewelry,” he said. “I was so inspired. I experienced what I call a ‘heart-shaking’ moment – that shaking heart, the visceral response, both physical and emotional, to a jewel of great beauty and inner meaning continues today.”
He became friends with the owner and he consigned Arikawa with four jewels with a value of about $10,000.
Gimmel Memento Mori ring
“I will never forget this kindness, it changed my life. I remember one of the four jewels; it was a beautiful rose-diamond brooch. I sold them all immediately to private buyers, people I knew through the family business,” he said. “For the next 15 years we were selling only to private clients. I opened a small antique jewelry shop in Fukuoka and it all started from there, more than 30 years ago. Within a few years I became the leading antique jewelry dealer in Japan. I wanted to be the best dealer in the world.”
He credits his training in Buddhism, which he is still devoted, for his appreciation of western jewelry.
This determination and passion is evident at the lunch event as he speaks. Collecting jewelry is not only his life’s work but in his own way he believes he is making the world a better place.
“I choose for one reason: beauty. I select masterpieces. Today I am able to buy the most beautiful, most important and historic jewels, including Russian Imperial jewels,” he said. “If I sometimes pay high prices for the jewels, still I feel they are undervalued.”
Art Deco diamond brooch or pendant
He added, “The most pressing problem facing us today is the environment. Through pollution and over-consumption we are losing the beauty of our planet, the beauty of air, water, forests. If we lose these vital elements, if we lose this essential beauty, we will perish. So that today beauty is essential; it is not superficial or a luxury. Beauty is essential to our survival. I believe if I can demonstrate and share the true essential beauty of jewelry, created as it is from the most important natural treasures of the earth, I can help change our values, help to generate a much-needed shift in attitude.”
Viscount Rosse breast jewel and earrings
Since he collects with the goals of beauty and purpose he was able to buy pieces at what is now considered a bargain. For example, he had a particular interest in tiaras long before they became highly sought after among collectors.
“When I started 35 years ago tiaras were inexpensive despite the fact that they were mostly set with many diamonds. No one was interested in them; they were totally out of fashion. I thought the tiaras I saw in auctions or at dealers looked sad; I could hear them crying ‘Please take me to Japan,’” he said. “Very early on, I bought a Fabergé tiara; it cost me 50% of the worth of my entire stock, but I felt it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I understood and appreciated the beauty and meaning of tiaras and I collected about 150 superb examples.”
Petit point bracelet by Lacloche Frères
Cameos are also a favorite for Arikawa, which he says he understands through his familiarity with Buddhist sculpture.
“Even 35 years ago I was fascinated by the art of gem engraving, by the depictions of gods, goddesses and heroes in ancient cameos,” he said. “To the ancients, cameos were like sacred sculptures, they had a spiritual dimension, a power. In the Renaissance period, gem-engraving was considered the height of artistic achievement, far more important, far more valuable than paintings. Painting was a new art, compared to gem engraving which is rooted in earliest antiquity.”
Queen Marie Josée Royal ruby ring
It was painting that took over the art world but Arikawa believes now is time for jewelry as art to shine again.