A brief history of Graff
Sixty years after he founded his eponymous house, London-born jeweller Laurence Graff is renowned the world over for diamonds of rare historical pedigree and coloured gems of remarkable quality.
From the start, his eye for high-quality gemstones got him noticed. His settings enhanced their natural brilliance and fire, and his focus on balance and proportion led to deceptively simple designs that transcend the whims of fashion.
In 1973 Graff became the first jeweller to receive the Queen’s Award to Industry and Export. By the early 1980s, Graff had become synonymous with the ‘all-diamond’ jewel, attracting an international clientele that loved large, spectacular stones.
The house is involved with every stage of a diamond’s life, from mining and cutting to designing and manufacturing. From humble beginnings in London’s East End, the Graff brand is now one of the largest diamond corporations and is represented by more than 50 stores worldwide.
Historic gems that made history
Laurence Graff’s passion for rare and extraordinary gems has brought him into contact with some of the most celebrated diamonds in the world, from the Emperor Maximilian and the Idol’s Eye to the Eternal Twins, two identical 50-carat emerald-cut diamonds set into a magnificent pair of earrings.
More recently, Graff’s team of master craftsmen expertly cut and polished the Graff Lesedi La Rona, a spectacular 302.37-carat square emerald-cut stone that is the largest, highest-colour, highest-clarity diamond ever certified by the Gemological Institute of America.
One of the most prestigious of Graff’s historic gems was probably the Wittelsbach, a 17th-century blue diamond from the Golconda mines of India, with a documented history dating back to many royal families of Europe.
In 2008, Graff acquired this legendary 35.56-carat stone for more than £16 million at Christie’s in London. In 2009, after careful repolishing to improve its colour and clarity, the diamond, now weighing 31.06 carats, was renamed the Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond.
Coloured diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires
In 2009, a Graff ring set with a fancy vivid pink diamond of 5.00 carats was auctioned at Christie’s Hong Kong and sold for HKD 83,540,000 — the equivalent of US$2 million per carat, and a record price-per-carat for any pink diamond at that time.
Other notable coloured diamonds to have passed through Graff’s hands include the Empress Rose, the largest internally flawless Fancy Light pink diamond in the world; and the Golden Empress, a Fancy Intense yellow diamond from Lesotho’s Letšeng mine in South Africa. The splendid honey-hued 132.55-carat cushion-cut diamond was presented in 2015, together with a further eight stones: two brilliant rounds and six pear-shaped diamonds.
Over the decades, Graff has also designed jewels set with coloured gems of the rarest quality. In 2006, Christie’s Senior International Specialist Jean-Marc Lunel came across the near perfect 8.62 carat Burmese ruby, which came to be known as ‘The Graff Ruby’.
Combining the highly sought-after ‘pigeon’s blood’ red typical of old Burmese material and a high degree of transparency, which is rare in rubies, it came to auction with a pre-sale estimate of between $400,000 and $600,000. More than 20 minutes of bidding saw the final price reach the $3.6 million mark — at the time the highest price-per-carat ruby ever sold.
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Graff creates red-carpet jewellery, too — feminine designs enhanced with floating diamonds, sometimes with the addition of fine coloured gemstones.
A-list celebrities favouring Graff include Anna Kendrick and Angelina Jolie. The latter famously paired a dazzling set of Graff diamond earrings, weighing 32.98 carats, with a full-length black dress at the BAFTAs in 2018.