In tough economic times, the status accoutrement in fashion—whether it’s an of-the-moment pair of pumps or a structured tote done up in electric blue python—takes on an odd kind of symbolism. On the one hand, strutting about with a designer label on your feet or arm implies a certain immunity to the tumbling stocks and skyrocketing gas and food prices that have sent most of us scurrying for last season’s stilettos. On the other, who wants to be the woman who, in the midst of a market meltdown, seriously splurges on a purse or shoes?
With gold hovering around $850 an ounce, jittery investors—and jonesing fashionistas—need look no further than the local jewelry counter for what is increasingly considered to be one of the few safe bets. Fashion houses and jewelry companies alike have taken note of the rising worth of precious stones and metals in recent years, putting considerable time and resources toward devising unique bling. And nowhere is this more evident than in the latest accessory to assume gotta-have-it status: the It diamond.
“We wanted to produce diamonds that resemble the Louis Vuitton brand,” says Albert Bensoussan, watch and fine jewelry director at Louis Vuitton Malletier, which has just launched two of its own patented diamond cuts. “You have it today with ready-to-wear, with handbags, with watches, with eyeglasses. You can recognize a brand, and that association is very appealing to us. You’re going to recognize the name and value behind the shape of these diamonds.”
Bensoussan is referring to the standard diamond shapes on the market—square, emerald, cushion and round—as a point of contrast to the two new shapes that Louis Vuitton has created and patented. Mirroring the monogram flowers that appear on Vuitton bags and trunks, the two different cuts are a rounded flower diamond (with curved petals) and a pointed flower diamond (with sharp petals). A brilliant-cut diamond—which essentially means a stone chiseled to create multiple facets, which in turn augment its white-light reflection, or brilliance—typically has 58 facets. The Vuitton diamonds have between 61 and 77 facets and have been set into a bracelet, a pair of earrings, two brooches, a ring and a necklace—the latter consisting of 1,001 tiny brilliant-cut diamonds totaling 15 carats, coexisting with 65 round flower diamonds (49 carats) and 79 pointed ones (44 carats), for a combined bling bang of 108 carats that retails for about $4 million. Vuitton has dubbed the collection Les Ardentes, which translates roughly as “the blazing.”
More than four years in development, the LV ice was cut at Lili Diamonds in Tel Aviv, Israel, considered one of the foremost cutting centers in the world. (The other two hubs for chopping major rocks are Antwerp and New York; myriad factories in India and Asia, where labor is less expensive, are now used to slice smaller stones.) Bensoussan estimates that he visited about 60 workshops before settling on Lili, where he found three seasoned artisans who could take his complicated designs and fashion precise stones with as little waste as possible. “There is one very experienced cutter there,” Bensoussan says. “One day I will ask him to cut the Vuitton diamond blindfolded, because I think he could do it.” Minimizing the amount of unusable stone left over after slicing and dicing was key, as some intricately incised diamonds, while marketable for their uniqueness, yield considerable excess of rough stone and thus have the potential to be less cost-efficient.