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Saul Goldberg; in his blood runs a river of diamonds ...

May 9th

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Diamond negotiators and dealers are absolutely discrete and do not open their doors easily. Saul Goldberg, the president of the William Goldberg company, is showing his jewels at GemGenève as early as the 10th of May, has agreed to raise slightly the veil on the Diamond District in New York, and on this so secret business. Isabelle Cerboneschi , New York.

When William Goldberg, Saul Goldberg's father, started in the diamond industry, in XNUMX, he could not imagine that one day a street in New York would bear his name. Today, the William Goldberg company, of which Saul Goldberg is the president, has sprung up on William Goldberg Way. So chic!

William Goldberg was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth, let alone with a diamond. This is what makes its trajectory so interesting. "We lived in the same neighbourhood in Williamsburg, Brooklyn," says Lili Goldberg, his widow. Her parents had a candy shop just around the corner, I could not afford to buy them: we lived at 11 in a three-room apartment. "

Lili Goldberg is the matriarch; today she still spends four days a week in the office. Luckily, she was present the day of my visit.

Lili and William met at the beginning of the 1950 years: they danced together, started again, "He danced the mambo very well: he was nicknamed Mambo Willie". And they got married in 1955. It has been three years since William Goldberg joined forces with Irving Weiss to create the Goldberg & Weiss, then the William Goldberg Diamond Corporation in 1973.

"When he was a child, William went to a local religious school that had connections with the stone industry," says Lili Goldberg. He did an apprenticeship to become a diamond dealer, but he was not a very good cutter, he was the worst of all! On the other hand, he was an excellent seller. To avoid spoiling the money his mother had invested in him by making him do his apprenticeship, he decided to become a merchant. Then in 1952 he joined with Irving Weiss, an excellent diamond dealer. "

William Goldberg never offered an engagement ring to his wife but he christened a blue 30,06 carat diamond that was cut by his company, the Blue Lili. "It did not do much to be honest," she said disinterested. I never wore it. It was too fat. I think it is in a collection today. If my husband had not been in the diamond industry, I do not think I would have worn jewellery. And especially not having grown up in the family from which I came! "

When I ask her if she had thought that one day her life could change so much she replies, "She has not changed! I am always the same person that I have been. But I like this business: he gave us enough to support us. "

Today, the patriarch, who holds the reins of the company, is Saul Goldberg. The president works with his family, his mother of course, his sister Eve, his brother-in-law Barry Berg, and his son Benjamin. As early as the XNUMX May, visitors to the show GemGenève will be able to discover their exceptional diamonds on their stand.

But that day, we were in New York, and I had a thousand questions to ask him about this secret job. I could hardly contain myself...

IC: How do you manage to see inside a rough diamond its inherent qualities and hidden beauty that will be revealed by the size?
Saul Goldberg: It's a long training. You have to travel, see many rough diamonds in many countries, see them again and again, and gradually you feel what the stone can become. There is always a risk, but ...

Is this a form of intuition?
Yes, I think, to a certain extent. But it's mostly a matter of experience. For example, I used to buy rough diamonds from Botswana that looked a little greenish, but with the experience of pruning, you could imagine that this aspect was only on the surface. It was a gamble to buy these rough khaki-cut diamonds, but none of the diamonds obtained after the cut remained green. Some have become H, A, and some even C-coloured diamonds. But there is no machine that can tell you what a rough diamond will become, apart from your intuition, and courage.

Of all the most exceptional diamonds that have passed through this office, which has given you the most intense emotion?
At my wedding, my mother wore a round and blue diamond pendant. He was blue as ink. If you had seen it, you would have thought it was a sapphire. For me it's a very symbolic piece. I had asked my father to keep it, but eventually he sold it. This diamond has always stayed in my mind. Later we had in our hands a lilac diamond of 3 carats. I had never seen this color of my life. And we sold it. Of course we happen to have the chance to put some stones aside and be able to keep them, but we are first and foremost merchants, not collectors. Selling stones is our business. Colored diamonds affect me more particularly. White diamonds are fantastic of course, but these colors! I saw a lot of white diamonds D flawless in my life, but a single lilac diamond, and a single purple diamond.

In 1975 your father was able to buy the Queen of Holland, a blue diamond of 136,25 carats and the exchange was done in the coffers of a Swiss bank. It looks like a movie. Can you tell us this story?
We should make a novel of this adventure! I was 20 years old. I was still going to college and to my eyes it was like a treasure hunt. We went to a small town in the north of Switzerland, where a river was flowing, we went down into the vaults of a bank, in the basement, the stone was taken out of a pocket. We bought it, brought to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), it was the original Queen of Holland! A bit like a James Bond movie. At the time this whole operation was top secret.

Did the person who sold it to you keep it in that safe?
Even if so, it was a very long time ago, this type of transaction is very discreet and is done under ta veil of secrecy; we never talk about it. I do not know if this piece came from a person of royal rank, a Maharajah, I do not even know if the person who sold it is still alive, but we can assume that the origins of the stone come from India.

How did you feel when your eyes first focused on the 265,82 carats rough diamond from which Beluga, the largest oval D flawless diamond to emerge?
The crude had been bought in Israel, this sale was a team effort. The stone was sumptuous! We saw immediately that we could turn it into a big oval diamond. It was a unique piece at that time. A piece of rock!

When you hold such a stone in your hands, do you feel anything?
Yes, it's fantastic to be able to hold large diamonds in the hand; because they are rough, they have emerged from the earth, they are destined to be cut, polished, and will come out a marvel, which will in turn adorn a piece of jewellery, a unique collector's item.

Do you wear diamonds?
Yes (he said showing a ring), I received that one from my father. A brown diamond, with orange tones.

You love coloured diamonds, so what did you think when you saw the crude one that became the Red Shield, a red diamond of great rarity*?
It was a huge job! When we saw the arrival of the Brazil raw diamond, we immediately knew that it was a special piece. Brazilian raws of pink or reddish colour, can take many directions. They are responsible for many sleepless nights. We go to bed at night with a stone that we think is a vivid rose, and wake up after the cut with a diamond much less rich than we had thought. These stones are not very reliable; they are capricious. And sometimes even another colour can appear, they can turn pink-purple. The crude that gave the Red Shield was pure red, but getting the colour after cutting was not easy.

How did your family come up with the idea of ​​registering in 1999 the Ashoka® cup that takes its name from a 41.37 carat D flawless diamond found in the Golconde mines?
This idea was born after many discussions between our family and people of the trade. There was a renewed interest in vintage stones, cushion sizes, "old mine" diamonds. The market was thirsty for something rare, unique, fresh. Why not bring up to date an old size? We started by doing experiments with Ashoka size, the stones were beautiful and started to sell slowly. The name being available, we have introduced this brand and this cup which, in our eyes, had a great future. Gradually, the Ashoka collection began to exist as such. We have chosen some of the clients with whom we have negotiated exclusive contracts: if you want to buy Ashoka diamonds, whether in London, Hong Kong or Paris, you can only do this in a few specific shops. In a sense, it protects our customers and the brand, and it allows the brand to grow. But the beauty of the stone speaks for itself: it sells itself.

This adventure could begin with a historic diamond.
Yes, there is an original Ashoka diamond of 41.37 carat, D flawless which belonged to the actress Maria Félix. One day, this diamond appeared at a Sotheby's auction at Saint-Moritzwe tried to buy it, but we did not succeed. I think we improved the cut of the original, in terms of shine and life. Ashoka diamonds are big, they look bigger than they really are. They attract me, I find them sexy, and it's not because it's our brand. A diamond must speak to you. That's what my father said.

The Diamond District on 47e Street has evolved a lot since the time your father worked there. How was it back then?
It was very busy, there was a lot of business, sales, shopping. A salesman came to see my father every morning, at 9h, he stayed an hour, an hour and a half, they talked about business, then they did business, buying one to the other and vice versa. I think with the arrival of the internet and the ease with which we now get information, something of this tradition has been lost. The dynamic, it has continued, but today we send the certificates, the photos of the stones by e-mail, and it has nothing to do with the way old school to close deals that I had the chance to know.

Why did the diamond industry move to Israel and India?
It's a question of technology, of price too. In India, the banking conditions are much more advantageous than in New York, loans are easy to obtain, it is easier to conduct your business there. This job requires a lot of money, transactions are carried out at very high levels.

But you are still here in New York.
Because we have a loyal clientele and a very healthy business.

Few can claim to have given their name to a street. In 2006, the street where your building is located has been called the William Goldberg Way. How was this made possible?
When my father died (in 2003, ed), I thought that with what he had brought to New York and this industry, he could deserve to give his name to a street. I met some politicians, they told me it was legitimate and they tabled a motion. In a very secret industry like diamonds, my father was not afraid to answer interviews, talk about our job, try to make it understood. Most actors prefer to stay behind the scenes and not be visible, sometimes for security reasons as well. But that was not the case with my father.

What feelings do you have when you walk down that street and see your father's name up there?
I feel something very strong. I go under this sign every day to come to the office. Besides, we planted one on our terrace.

William Goldberg was very concerned about the conflict diamonds, blood diamonds / war. Today, thanks to the Kimberley Process, 99% of the diamonds on the market are clean, or are supposed to be. How can we be certain when we know that in some African countries, for example, today's rebels may officially reign over the state tomorrow?
How to be sure? We can never be sure that there will be no more dishonest and corrupt people in the world ... Our industry is doing everything in its power to protect themselves and ensure the origin of diamonds. But there will always be someone to defy the rules ... In fact, customers buy diamonds from people they trust in their comfort zone. If they come to us, or if they go to see a big name in the place, it's for a reason. You can have as many certificates as you want, it's a story of trust, it's eye to eye.

Your father said that a diamond should bring joy. Do they make you happy?
Yes! They make me happy. They make people happy. They add a little light, a shine, a fire, I do not know how to explain it ...

GemGeneve from 10 to 13 Mai, Palexpo, François-Peyrot Road 30, 1218 Le Grand-Saconnex, Switzerland. https://gemgeneve.com

* According to statistics, for every one million carats of diamonds mined from the mines, only one carat will be a pink diamond. And real red diamonds are even rarer.