Diamonds to Die For

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Forty Seventh Street, Home to More Gems Than You Could Ever Guess.

Astounding diamonds always make news. In early January Louis Vuitton purchased the Sewelo diamond, at 1,758 carats and discovered in Africa in early 2019, for an undisclosed sum. Obviously a tidy one. As the diamond was still covered in its natural carbon, there is no way to know for sure what the stone can yield.

There are four things that matter with a diamond, carat, color, clarity and cut. The latter is determined after the diamond is turned over to an expert and an artist to bring it to life. A scanner is being built to see through the stone’s coating, and determine how many huge amazing stones they can get out of the piece. Very few people have the big bucks or know-how to deal with a diamond this size.

Luckily right here in New York there are several companies where you can purchase diamonds, large or smaller, already set in necklaces, rings, bracelets, or earrings, or design your own pieces with the help of their experts. Or just buy huge stones unset because you love them. Jack Reiss, Scarselli, and Diamond Runway are three of the suppliers on Fifth Avenue in the Diamond District where you can find singular pieces. Perhaps a Valentine’s Day gift?

Big diamonds next to a dime
Not as Big as The Ritz, but still sizable.

It’s pretty amazing to look into the safes at Jack Reiss and realized that they are filled with tray after tray of cut stones. The company is run by the third generation of family manufacturers and dealers of fine diamonds. What you may or may not realize is that most fine jewelers do not actually own their own large diamonds. There are exceptions, but most turn to companies like Jack Reiss when they want to design major pieces, or make one for a client. The stones are all natural diamonds, meaning they are not treated or dyed.

Cases of Boxed Diamonds.
One of many cases of boxed diamonds.

The diamonds are stored in cases like these, that are in turn stacked in the safes. Detailed records of larger stones are kept so dealers can track stones, and all these stones have G.I.A. certificates. There is a very limited supply of fine real diamonds (not lab grown), and no one knows how many more will be found. Diamonds are handled in a sustainable way because of this. Diamonds are often recycled; and when a particular era’s style is out of fashion the stones are taken from their settings and reset to be worn by a new generation.

A Box Holding some Rather Large Diamonds
A box holding some rather large diamonds.

The markings on the box indicate the carats and other details that contribute to a diamond’s value. The four C’s — carat, color, clarity and cut — are visible.

Big Diamonds Up Close
Big diamonds up close.

Here is a closer look at these beautiful specimens.

Raw Uncut Diamonds
Raw uncut diamonds.

The only uncut diamonds when I visited were very small. The two at the bottom are covered in carbon, just like the Sewelo. You can see how it might be difficult to know exactly what Reiss will be able to do with the stone. Stones are cleaned to remove the carbon with recipes unique to each mine or merchant.

A Program That Shows How to Maximize a Stone's yield.
A program showing how to maximize a stone’s yield.

Once the stone is cleaned off, new laser technology allows to stone to be mapped in 3-D.  The images are uploaded to a special program. Any flaws are visible. And the house can rotate the stone and see how they can maximize what they get out of the stone while avoiding the imperfections that would lessen its value. It is fascinating to watch the screen morph and change as a variety of cuts are considered.

A Diamond Cutter at Work on Fifth Avenue
A diamond cutter at work on Fifth Avenue.

Jack Reiss maintains one of the last diamond cutting rooms in New York City. These extremely talented people have superb skills and a trained eye, not to mention steady hands. To use their jargon, they saw layers, block, shape, girdle and brilliant —among other things — before the stones are polished. When you commission a piece you can watch your diamond transformed.

A Technical Chart
A technical chart for cutting a diamond.

A technical drawing is made for each stone. Some of the different tools they use are displayed on either side. It is precise and painstaking work. Diamonds are used to cut diamonds inserted into different tools. The cutters and management look through their loupes and microscopes to plot their way to perfection. Dealing with stones like these, you don’t want to make a mistake!

Metal pieces to hold Diamonds while cutting
Cutters use their shaped pieces to hold diamonds as they work on them.

These molds are used to hold the stones while work is being done on them. Cutting precious stones is low tech, except for the computer modeling, and very high skill dependent.

A Diamond Cutting Wheel with some Major Diamonds
A diamond cutting wheel with some major diamonds.

Here is a cutting wheel, embedded with industrial diamonds, as only diamonds can cut a diamond. Sitting on the wheel are two pair of earrings; the ones on the right are around 30 carats each, for a total of close to 60 carats for the pair. The simplicity of the setting is intriguing and chic, as who would assume rocks this size are actually real natural diamonds. They look purer not being surrounded by smaller stones. Want to wear these on the street? They work for day and night.

Large Diamond Ring
Before and after, composing a ring.

Once a stone is chosen, a setting is designed and built for it. Here is one work in progress before the actual major stone is set.

Different Cuts Of Diamonds in Rings
Different cuts of diamonds in rings.

You can get different cuts, styles and sizes of diamonds. I love the big stones, but Reiss is happy to work with smaller stones as well. There is a team to work in the office with you to suggest ideas or bring your ideas to life. Loose stones to finished pieces have a diamond experience. Marilyn was right (sort of) — Diamonds are everyone’s best friends.

Jack Reiss;

Pink Diamond Pieces in NYC
A handful of pink diamond pieces.

Located nearby is Scarselli Diamonds, one of the few diamond dealers to specialize in natural color diamonds. Rarer, and these days more lusted after than clear white ones, these stones come in shades of yellow, pink, blue, purple, green, orange and red. Red is the rarest and most costly. Even the less costly colored stones of great quality are worth ten times or more than clear diamonds. The Scarselli family founded their business in the twentieth century in Italy, and their reputation spread across Europe. The family came to New York in 1955, bringing both uncut and set diamonds. The pink diamonds above come in different shades of pink; the more vibrant the more valuable. Bunny Mellon’s 9.75 carat blue diamond brought over $32 million at auction in 2014, and the 59.6 Pink Star was sold by Sotheby’s to a Hong Kong buyer in 2017 for $71.2 million. Dizzying. And of course stones with social and historic provenance sell for more, although not that much more. You don’t need to pay that much for a dazzling stone, but none of them come cheap.

Colored Diamond Rings.
Colored diamond rings.

I don’t know about you, but I would he happy with any, or all of these rings. Scarselli cuts their own diamonds. Their stones are not chemically enhanced, but cuts are designed to bring out the deepest colors in the stones. Pink diamonds are rare, and popular. One can understand why.

Rare Blue Diamonds for sale in NYC
Rare blue diamonds.

The Garden of Eden necklace took years to make. Matching earrings are also available.  The stones were collected as they came available and set in hand carved mother of pearl.  It’s difficult to find this many matching stones in a rare color. The rings illustrate different depths of color.

Yellow Diamonds Large and Small mixed with natural diamonds
Yellow diamonds large and small.

Yellow diamonds are the most common color, if you can call any colored diamond common. The necklace at the top features two pear shaped yellow diamonds hanging from a beautiful white diamond necklace. The necklace in the front is a simple white diamond necklace that can take single stone pendants; in this case big yellow diamond pendants, one larger than the other. The bracelet is a modern mixture of yellow and white diamonds.

Yellow Diamonds Large and Small
A necklace and bracelet of emeralds and yellow diamonds.

An interesting pairing of emeralds and different sizes of yellow diamonds is striking. Colorfully stylish.

Yellow and Natural Diamonds in jewelry
Yellow diamonds mixed with natural colored diamonds.

A large square cut yellow diamond sits amid more yellow and white pieces. Scarselli does custom work out of its New York office. What would you do with this wonderful stone? They will bring their expertise to your imagination or help you create a piece.

Green Diamond Rings and Earrings in a plant
Green diamond rings and earrings.

Green diamonds are much more rare than other colors, and tend to be bought by collectors who understand their subtle charms.

The Vasco da Gama Green Diamond Close Up.
The Vasco da Gama green diamond up close.

This small beauty has a name.  The stone is just over 2 carats and is VS. It is worth $6.8 to 7.5 million. Or about $3 to $3.5 million per carat. By comparison, 100 kgs. (about 200 lbs.) of pure gold is worth slightly north of $5.1 million. Small stones like this are often bought by collectors, or people looking for portable capital. Large green diamonds are extremely rare, and not frequently seen.

Green Diamond Has It's Own GIA Book
This green diamond has its own GIA monograph.

The G.I.A., or the Gemological Institute of America, is located in California. They are the go-to place for certifying that your stones are really what they are sold as. They certify that diamonds are what they are. All important stones have their certificates. Some stones even have a GIA Monograph, or an entire book just dedicated to the one stone. The Vasco Da Gama is one of them. The books document the full grading and identification process along with the stone’s historical provenance.

A Very Rare Orange Diamond.
A very rare orange diamond.

Not as rare as red diamonds, like those, orange diamonds tend to be small. This one is just above 2 carats and is VS. Larger ones are even more rare and costly. What color’s for you? They are nature’s beauties, desirable and striking. If you want to add some colored diamonds to your collection, or start one, book your appointment and prepare to be amazed.

 Scarselli Diamonds,

ANecklaces with daimonds for Diamond Runway
Fine and delicate handwork.

Diamond Runway is a website with a physical base on 47th Street and Fifth Avenue. The company coordinates the design and execution of pieces for individuals and for jewelry stores around the country. The website features HD videos that let you see every piece in great detail. The necklace on the right has a signature “crownwork”  body and is designed by Ray Griffiths, a well known designer who works with the company. His work sells at many major retailers; you can find it here and have it customized. It can also be ordered in other sizes and with different stones. The site offers many different kinds of gemstones, as well as  pearls, coral and other materials. Diamond Runway works with many different well known designers. It is built to help you find great jewelry, and to connect you to designers, dealers and manufacturers so you can customize your pieces.

Two Different Earring Designs with daimonds
Two different earring designs.

These modern earrings can be customized for you. Pretty much everything can be. The pair on the left can be made with diamonds from one to eight carats variations. The Trefoil earrings on the right are also available in 18 and 22 carat gold with different stones.

Diamond Runway Jewelry
Name your poison. Try a ring or a necklace.

These clever pieces open to reveal a small case. What would you carry in it? It can be made in 18 or 22 carat gold and with different sizes of diamonds.

Diamonds and craftsmanship on rings
Fine craftsmanship makes these rings unique.

The handwork in these rings is amazing. The setting on the one on the left has delicate diamond studded shapes. In the center the gold beaded setting is painstakingly crafted.

A Diamond and Pearl Necklace and Diamond Earrings
A diamond and pearl necklace and diamond earrings.

A Y necklace ends in with a large pearl pendant with a diamond composition at the bottom of the Y. The pearls is a drop shaped cultured 18 mm South Sea pearl. Different pendants are available.The earrings are available in a variety of diamond colors, and with stones from one to five carats.

Modern Earrings in diamonds
Modern earrings.

Diamond Runway offers well designed simple pieces along with the bigger and more elaborate pieces.

Diamond earring and ring
Diamonds sparkle in unusual settings.

OK, you can wear diamond studs, but why not try these on and see what a lift the extra layer of diamonds can give you. The ring too gets a lift from an intricate setting. A world of jewelry is available for you too explore online and in person. If you don’t live in New York, Diamond Runway will make additional up-loads of videos of pieces that interest you, working with you until you have just what you are looking for. New York is the only place in the United States with the resources and know how to produce major pieces of fine jewelry.

These three companies offer a wealth of stones and the ability to let your creative juices run free.

Diamond portal (or 212-390-1260)

Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn

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