Contrary to popular belief, diamonds are not always worthy of ‘best friend’ status. In fact, in a marketplace dominated by acronyms and arcane designations of quality, they can be an expensive mistake – and that’s before you get to the small matter of the diamond’s recipient.
Whether you’re looking for an engagement ring for your partner or simply on the lookout for a new piece of jewellery, there are few purchases as perilous. So how do you choose? Enter 77 Diamonds.
Co-founded by Tobias Kormind and Vadim Weinig in 2005, the company set out to transform the tired stereotypes of the jewellery industry by curating a service that put the needs of the customer first: no more mark-ups to buy from a fancy boutique, no more uncertainty of a gemstone’s provenance, and certainly no more “sir, you must spend twice your monthly salary on a ring”.
In a digital age where the customer has never been more knowledgeable, 77 Diamonds located a gap in the market for a jeweller that gave the buyer far greater autonomy over the buying process.
It offers its clientele the opportunity to select their own stone directly from the world’s diamond suppliers – those that cut and polish the stones before sending them onto the jeweller – before one chooses the setting and the band. If this bespoke process sounds expensive, it’s actually the opposite: buying direct from the supplier means the stones come without the markup of your average high street store, while making each piece to order enables 77 Diamonds to keep its costs down.
It’s a win-win for everyone involved, as Kormind explains to me from the brand’s Mayfair showroom: “A lot of the traditional diamond players believed ‘We have the goods, we have the power’ but with diamonds being more available, better supplies, improved mining techniques and independent laboratory grading, the customer can know what they’re buying and compare like for like quicker.
"The power is in the hands of the consumer – and we’ve enabled that by allowing transparency and providing them the choice, especially with made-to-order. It’s turned the industry on its head.”
In the spirit of education, Kormind takes me through the buying process for an engagement ring. Step one: choose your loose diamond. At the time of writing, 77 Diamonds has – I kid you not – 491,339 diamonds available for purchase on its website. Think of it as a Compare The Market for gemstones, where clients can select the quality and shape of the diamond from a number of different filters before making their final decision.
It turns out understanding diamond quality is as easy as C, C, C… er, C. Carat, colour, clarity and cut – this set of parameters established by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) grades each stone on a fastidious level. The closer to perfection you desire, the more you pay.
Kormind shows me two seemingly identical stones. Both are D colour, VS2 clarity, excellent cut, and clock in at around 2 carats (a Goldilocks-right sweetspot for diamond quality and weight), however one is £4,000 and the other is £20,000. He asks me if I can spot the difference. Unsurprisingly, I can’t. But it turns out I’m not alone: only under a strong microscope can the two be distinguished.
At the time of writing, 77 Diamonds has – I kid you not – 491,339 diamonds available for purchase on its website
It transpires I’m looking at a natural and a lab-grown diamond – a rising trend in the marketplace on account of the latter’s vastly cheaper cost. Kormind, a man who lives and breathes diamonds, is of course a strong proponent for the good old fashioned way: “Lab grown just doesn’t have the magic of something that has been formed over millions of years – and it also doesn’t quite hold its value for future generations in the same way as a natural diamond.”
I appreciate the sentiment, diamonds are a natural-born wonder, but ultimately should you fancy a big rock without cashing out your entire life savings there is now a viable alternative. Of course, having the raw materials is one thing, creating something from them is something else entirely: “For me, I see diamonds as pieces of art. Each can be beautiful in their own way, and that beauty comes from the craftsmanship.
“The potential within that stone is unlocked by the men and women that cut them,” Kormind says.
The only thing left to do is find someone to give the diamonds to… At least when it comes to a 77 Diamonds ring you can be certain they’ll say yes.
For more information, see 77diamonds.com