When Marilyn Monroe sang in the 1953 film ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes‘, “Men grow cold as girls grow old, and we all lose our charms in the end. But square-cut or pear-shaped, these rocks don’t lose their shape. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” she became a legend.
I could go on and sing: “Talk to me VAINARD! Tell me all about it!”
The Zurich-based fine jeweler, who is a leading supplier in the natural colored diamond segment, seemed to have heard my request and flew me to its own factory in Idar-Oberstein, the famous German gemstone center, which is also the birth place of Hollywood actor Bruce Willis. There I was able to see the different stages of crafting an exclusive diamond ring, from the sawing and cutting process to the stone setting.
Moreover, I could lend a hand and make my own diamond ring which was an unforgettable experience. It is very rare that a jeweler has a factory in which the diamond cutting workshop is done in-house as well as the design and the setting. Needless to say, this close cooperation between all different stages results in extremely high quality.
The word diamond drives from Greek origin and means “unbreakable“. In fact, a diamond has the highest hardness and thermal conductivity of any bulk material.
Most natural diamonds are formed at high temperature and pressure at depths of 140 to 190 kilometers in the Earth’s mantle and are brought close to the surface through deep volcanic eruptions by magma, which cools into igneous rocks. The last volcanic activity to convey these valuable stones was almost over 100 million years ago. Carbon-containing minerals provide the carbon source of a diamond, and the growth occurs over periods from 1 billion to 3.3 billion years, which are 25% to 75% of the age of the Earth.
Speaking of which, the rarity of a diamond makes this precious stone a must-have among us ladies. There is no girl whose eyes don’t sparkle when gifted with this luxurious gemstone. Diamonds signify steadfast, enduring love because of their unmatched strength and beauty. They can be worn with any outfit, from an elegant cocktail dress to blue jeans.
Extremely important is the gemological characteristic of the stone which shows the value as a gem. Four characteristics, known informally as the four Cs, are today commonly used as the basic descriptors: these are carat (its weight), cut (quality of the cut is graded according to proportions, symmetry and polish), color (how close to white or colorless; for fancy diamonds how intense is its hue), and clarity (how free is it from inclusions).
Because of its extremely rigid lattice, the stone can be contaminated by very few types of impurities. Nitrogen is by far the most common one found in gem diamonds and is responsible for the yellow color. Boron is responsible for the blue hue. Colored diamonds contain impurities or structural defects that cause the coloration, while pure or nearly pure diamonds are transparent and colorless. Their rarity and beauty makes some of the colored diamonds worth millions of dollars.
Creating the final spectacle of a polished diamond jewelry piece can take years to master. Having an understanding of the construction of such a small object is in fact very fascinating. Let me show you what I observed and learned in Idar-Oberstein about the specific skills and techniques that are used to make such an object of desire.
It all starts with the sawing process of the raw diamond that takes several hours. The copper saw blade has to be coated with fine diamond powder to work with this extremely hard material. It takes many years to learn this skill to avoid damaging the stone.
The following multi-step process called “cutting” finally reveals the diamond’s outstanding beauty. This extremely delicate procedure also requires skills, scientific knowledge, tools and experience, as those gemstones can brittle and be split up by a single blow.
The most time-consuming part of the cutting is the preliminary analysis of the rough stone. It needs to address a large number of issues, bears much responsibility, and therefore can last years in case of unique diamonds.
After initial sawing, the diamond is shaped in numerous stages of cutting. Unlike sawing, which is a responsible but quick operation, cutting removes material by gradual erosion and is extremely time consuming. Its final goal is to produce a faceted jewel where the specific angles between the facets would optimize the diamond luster.
Every facet in an ideal cut diamond must be placed at precise angles and contain precise proportions. This ensures the perfect balance between maximum brilliance and dispersion of light. Any discrepancy from these proportions will result in a loss of sparkle.
After the cutting of the stones is finished, the goldsmith will start his work according to the drawing the Vainard jewelry designer prepared beforehand.
The stones depending on the shank need to go back to the diamond cutting workshop in order to achieve the perfect fit. Once this step is completed, the stone setter fits them into the setting.
I have to admit that I had a lot of fun making my own diamond ring. Needless to say, the Vainard team had prepared the most important steps and helped me with the execution.
The first step in soldering is to dip the piece of gold with the help of a brush into a solution of boric acid and alcohol before lighting it.
You have to be very careful as you work with temperatures above 3000 degrees Celsius.
For some work stages, you need to use a microscope to work as precisely as possible.
The final step for me was to close the four claw prong setting with the help of a special working tool. What seems so easy is actually pretty difficult as you are looking through a magnifying glass for maximum precision which made me feel pretty uncoordinated.
Every Vainard Fine Jewellery piece undergoes a final inspection after its ensuing polishing. After having seen the craftsmanship, the expertise and love for detail, I truly appreciate the work of such a fine jeweler even more than I already did before.
When we went into the vault and I was able to indulge in the most beautiful pieces of jewelry, I fell in love with the emerald cut diamond ring and the bracelet you have been seen me a lot with recently. Those treasures make me happy every time I am wearing them and they are something that I will happily pass on one day to my daughter.
There is no doubt, diamonds are a girl’s best friend! If you are in Zurich, I truly recommend a visit to the Vainard Fine Jewellery shop at Schlüsselgasse 4, Phone +41 44 210 04 44.
Besides its large selection of diamond jewelry, the renowned jeweler also works with colored gemstones and is happy to finalize your own designs as well as to remodel an existing piece.
Photos: © Sandra Bauknecht
Photo of the shop in collage: © Vainard, Photo of Marilyn Monroe: Via Vanity Fair