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Diamond Disruptor

Lessons I’ve learned from working with the diamond industry.

Photo courtesy of Colin Cowie

I sometimes joke that the diamond is the only stone you have that shrinks as you get older. When you outgrow your diamond and start looking for an upgrade, bigger is better. Diamonds are not only the most treasured gems in the world, the most valuable and desirable stones on the planet, but also a representation of so many feelings—love, commitment, strength.

I have always been fascinated by jewelry and have tremendous respect for the greats: Van Cleef & Arpels, Boucheron, Bulgari, Cartier and Harry Winston along with celebrated contemporaries from Paris like JAR and Lorenz Bäumer, Jacob & Co. from New York and Graff from London.

Mythical Diamonds

One of my favorite things about diamonds is their history. The world’s most famous diamonds are surrounded by countless myths, stories and even tales of curses that have been told over the centuries.

For instance, the Kohinoor Diamond, which changed hands several times between the 13th century and 1849, weighs 105.6 carats. It finally ended up in the Queen Mother’s crown as part of the crown jewels of the United Kingdom, but only after gaining a reputation for bringing any man who wears it bad luck. Since its arrival in the United Kingdom, only women have worn the jewel.

The Hope Diamond, weighing 45.52 carats, ended up in the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. This is another one that became a sort of jinx, and a lot of rumors surrounded the stone over the years. The stories say that everyone who owns the diamond somehow comes to a tragic death.

One of the largest diamonds in the world was the Cullinan Diamond, which weighed an incredible 3,106.75 carats. It was mined from the Big Hole in Kimberley, South Africa, and was eventually gifted to King Edward VII. It was flown on an unidentified plane after a diversion was sent by ship, with the actual stone delivered in a plain, unmarked box. The original stone was cut down into nine gems, and the two largest were imbedded in the crown jewels. The largest stone was 106.04 carats and was cut in Antwerp.

Diamond Industry Disruption

I find the stories surrounding these diamonds fascinating, and I’ve spent years studying the diamond industry. It eventually led me to create my own collection for Blue Nile. I work so closely with the company because it is the ultimate disruptor in the industry today. It is to jewelry what Uber is to private transportation and cars—bringing transparency and more choices for consumers with their inventory of over 200,000 diamonds.

These days it’s all about creating a flawless experience, and that comes from well-executed customer service and making sure you exceed the expectations of every client. Although you know how much gold is worth or what the value of a stone is, jewelry isn’t always a transparent business. Blue Nile changes that, creating a jewelry shopping experience that allows customers to create each and every piece to cater to their wants and needs without any physical locations. Each stone at Blue Nile is independently graded by the Gemological Institute of America, so it’s very much a business where if you do some research you can find out exactly how much you should pay for what you’re looking for.

The average one-carat stone can be about a $3,000 investment. I use the word “investment” because diamonds don’t fluctuate in value like the price of fuel. While nothing is certain, diamonds usually hold their value.

Photo courtesy of Colin Cowie

Because of my involvement with jewelry design and the joy I get from learning about diamonds, I make sure to spend time discovering the process from start to finish. A while back I took a trip to the Blue Nile fulfillment center. To give you an idea of how much intricacy and attention to detail is required for a single diamond ring, each piece is touched by dozens of hands between the time the order arrives and when it is sent out for delivery. The ring is checked and polished multiple times to make sure the stone is secure, with no risk of falling out. They check the cut and inspect every element—there are so many different finishes, and especially with micro-diamonds, it takes an extremely close look to be certain that every detail is right.

Sometimes when you think a necklace is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, it’s actually worth millions. Take, for example, a necklace with graduated stones. You have to collect each stone over time—it’s not as simple as going out to buy them. Each stone on either side has to match the other perfectly in quality, color and size. If you’re mixing and matching, it’s a whole different story. Now you’re dealing with marquise cuts, princess cuts, square cuts and many more. When you buy a piece like that you’re buying it from an artist who created it, like any other artist creates a work of art.

I love the security of diamonds. I love the protective bars that go up in jewelry stores and the excitement of waiting for a tray to come out from the back room. I actually got to help create a clients’ order from beginning to end myself, and it gave me even more appreciation for the art. That is exactly where you can learn to draw your respect and appreciation for how truly special and timeless diamonds are.


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