A rough diamond of 910 carats at the origin of a unique high jewellery collection

This exceptional type IIa rough with a weight of 910 carats was discovered in 2018. It has given rise to a collection that deserves all the superlatives: Legend of Diamonds. Created by Van Cleef & Arpels, this series of 25 pieces will mark the annals of high jewellery. Isabelle Cerboneschi, Paris

The history of all the great jewellers has been written by the discovery of the most extraordinary gems. Van Cleef & Arpels’ history, which began in 1906, has been enriched by new acquisitions that have given birth to many chapters. The latest was unveiled last July in Paris and is entitled Legend of Diamonds – 25 Mystery Set Jewels.

It all started with the extraction of a rare 910-carat rough diamond in January 2018 from the Letseng mine in Lesotho. The Lesotho Legend was sold for $40 million in March of that year, according to CNBC. The famous diamond dealer Taché told Van Cleef & Arpels about the stone. It is the fifth largest rough diamond ever mined. In addition to its perfect D colour, it is a type IIa diamond. Only 1 to 2% of the diamonds mined in the world are type IIa. They are considered to be the purest, rarest and most sought after. All diamonds have atomic impurities and the most common is nitrogen, which gives the diamond colour. Type IIa diamonds have almost no impurities and are colourless. The Lesotho Legend is part of a prestigious lineage that includes the Regent, the South Star, the famous Cullinan and the legendary Koh-I-Noor, which was extracted from the now exhausted Indian mines of Golconde

The Letseng mine, located in the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho, is known to have produced some of the largest diamonds, such as the 603-carat Lesotho Promise found in 2006 and the 550-carat Letseng Star. This open pit mine is owned by Gem Diamonds and the Lesotho government. Since the discovery of the Lesotho Legend, a community project has been set up and money has been allocated to benefit the communities affected by the mine.

Legend of Lesotho ©Ilan Taché Van Cleef & Arpels

In order to make the most of this rough, Van Cleef & Arpels and the Taché company called on Diamcad, a renowned diamond dealer based in Antwerp. Thanks to extensive analyses, the company was able to cut some very large and beautiful diamonds from the gem: one of 79.35 carats, another of 31.24 carats and one of 25.06 carats.

The company does not work much with rough stones. We traditionally start with cut and faceted stones, already suitable for use in jewellery. This is the first time in several decades that we have accompanied a project from its starting point – the extraction of the stone – to the finalisation of a Haute Joaillerie collection. The appearance of this extraordinary rough has given us this unique opportunity to tell a story about diamonds, notes Nicolas Bos, President of Van Cleef & Arpels.

Legend of Lesotho ©Ilan Taché Van Cleef & Arpels

The diamond cutters used 3D technology to envision the diamonds at the heart of the stone. It took a year to get the mapping right before they began to cut the rough and bring out the gems. The Lesotho Legend resulted in a set of 67 diamonds totalling 441 carats.

The advantage of starting with a rough stone is that you can obtain diamonds of the desired shape and volume. The collection presented last July in Paris is a story of alchemy where several factors come into play: the diamond dealers, the cutters, the diamonds, the other precious stones, the designers, the history and the know-how of the house.

The development of Legend of Diamonds took about four years, from the moment we met the rough, to the release of the pieces. I am very proud of it. I think we have succeeded in showing, through the work of all the teams in the company, that an exceptional diamond could be the starting point of an astonishing collection that will be a milestone in the history of Van Cleef & Arpels,” says Nicolas Bos.

The Legend of Diamonds collection comprises 25 pieces, all designed to enhance each diamond, thanks in particular to the use of one of the House’s most emblematic skills: the famous mystery setting, a setting technique patented in 1933. Its secret? Grooves are dug into the base of each gem so that it can be slid and adjusted in gold rails. The result is like a carpet of precious stones, with no visible claws. These tapestries of rubies, sapphires or emeralds, made for the collection, enhance the diamonds better than any other technique. The central diamond of the Atours Mystérieux necklace, for example, weighing 79.35 carats, is enthroned in majesty at the heart of a spurt of rubies in a mysterious setting that reveals all its brilliance.

Another key piece in the collection, the Mysterious Chevron necklace is inspired by the wrap-around collars popular in the 1950s. It features three centre stones, three majestic pear-cut diamonds weighing 31 carats (centre), 12.18 and 12.07 carats respectively. The chevron pattern that forms the necklace is composed of sapphires, emeralds and diamonds. This jewel is the most versatile in the entire collection, offering six different metamorphosis possibilities. The central motif can be worn on a chain and the other two diamonds can be worn as earrings.

It took more than 30,000 hours of work to create what can be called a masterpiece of high jewellery. A rough diamond of such size and purity does not appear on the market every day and Van Cleef & Arpels, with the help of all the experts, has succeeded in creating a collection that will go down in the annals of jewellery. Collectors have understood this. On the first days of the presentation, last July, they had already flocked, eager to enrich their collection with pieces of exceptional rarity. No one knows when such an opportunity will arise again…