Marcel Pruwer (President of the Board of Directors of the ‘Beurs voor Diamanthandel’) opened this year’s HRD Antwerp Graduate Club event with an apt metaphor. Nowadays fine dining or haute cuisine is rather popular and there are great similarities between gastronomy and the gemstone industry. Not only is there a need for technical advancement and outstanding materials, creativity and passion are also essential driving forces in both professions. The metaphor is also fitting because compared to its size, Belgium has an impressive number of Michelin star or Bib Gourmand restaurants – there are three 3-star restaurants in Belgium: De Karmeliet in Bruges (chef: Geert Van Hecke), Hertog Jan in Bruges (chef: Gert De Mangeleer) and Hof van Cleve in Kruishoutem (chef: Peter Goossens). The Wallonia region of Belgium had the most impressive showing on the Bib Gourmand list, with 12 new restaurants out of 23 total new Bib Gourmands in Belgium).
As the inspectors said, the pairing of wine with food is trendy in Belgium right now. The goal is for the restaurants to create unique pairings and for the exceptional ingredients to complement each other, creating perfect harmony.
The “Á La Carte” symposium of HRD had a similar aim, they offered interesting and diverse presentations from excellent experts to HRD Antwerp’s alumni students, visitors and professionals.
Apéritif: Grib Diamonds
Martin Leake (Head of Sales at Grib Diamonds) introduced Grib Diamonds, a new player on the diamond market. The Grib mine is one of the largest diamond mines in Russia and in the world. The mine is located in the north-western part of the country and has an estimated annual production capacity of 3.62 million Carats. The company is a fully owned subsidiary of OAO LUKOIL. They just had the first auction of rough diamonds in September. These auction are online and working through a multi-split, ascending clock auction method with the clearing price set by the highest losing bid. (Essentially here an auction item is offered at an increasing price until the point when there is a single bidder remaining, who can then take the item at the second highest price.)
Entree: LPHT treatments
We got an interesting teaser about the LPHT treatments from the lovely Ellen Biermans. She has a PhD in Physics from University of Antwerp, and is the Research Manager at HRD Antwerp. The already known HPHT (High Pressure High Temperature Treatment) treatments are suitable for changing yellow toned diamonds into fancy coloured, or improving brownish diamonds into the much more valuable, almost colourless diamonds. Mrs. Biemans and her fellow researchers had the opportunity of examining an LPHT-treated (Low Pressure High Temperature Treatment) fancy intense yellow, a fancy vivid green and a black diamond. For this, they had to apply characterisation techniques, optical microscopy, absorption spectroscopy and more. Similar to the HPHT treatment, the final colour also depends on the original colour and type of the diamonds. So the new technique still awaits some refinement and maintaining detection protocols.
Wine: History of diamond polishing
After our coffee break in the big and impressive hall of the Antwerp Diamond Burse we heard an overview of the history of Diamond Polishing by Eddy Vleeschdrager. He is a Diamond Expert and Author of the Book ‘Hardness 10’. Albeit diamonds have been used in jewellery for a long time, diamond cutting and polishing has a 500 year history. On the one hand it was difficult to find suitable techniques to work with the hardest natural material on the other hand diamonds were thought to have special properties (they were thought to give courage, heal and make one invincible) and when cut, a diamond would lose this power. In the early 1460s the diamond cutting and polishing profession formed and has been continuously developing ever since.
Main course: Opals
Because I have lived and travelled in Australia, I was eagerly looking forward to Geoff Dominy’s (Gemmologist, Author, and Jewellery Appraiser) presentation on opals. He started the presentation with Tino Hammid’s breathtaking photos that showcased the diverse and secret world of opals. (Tino is an internationally renowned gem and jewellery photographer).
Throughout the exciting and lively presentation, Geoff talked about the types of opals, his experiences in Lightning Ridge (Australia) and the inner motivation that drives the miners who work there. The Lightning Ridge is an area in north-western New South Wales, Australia. It is a world-renowned centre for the mining of black opals and other opal gemstones. Lightning Ridge has the largest known deposits of black opals in the world.
Dessert: Life of a Christie’s jewellery specialist
I’m sure many ladies (and gents) are envious of Daniel Struyf (Jewellery Specialist at Christie’s), who’s led a very colourful career. Throughout his work, Daniel has the chance to see stunning and unpaired jewellery; he shared some stories with us and thus we could glimpse into the life of a jewellery specialist. The examination and valuation of jewellery is essentially based on 8 criteria: material, period, signature, provenance, design/construction, work, condition, X factor. Mr Struyf has dealt with several pieces that had this certain X factor, such as the Cartier Belle Époque devant-de-corsage brooch.
Cartier, Devant-de-corsage, 1912, centering upon a pear-shaped diamond of 34.08 carats, E color, VSI clarity
The Belle Époque era started in 1871 and ended at the beginning of the World War I. It was a period characterized by optimism, peace at home and in Europe, new technology and scientific discoveries, and considered as the “Golden age”.
Other outstanding pieces include coloured diamonds Bulgari ear pendants (one of the stones is a vivid blue 6.95 ct, the other a vivid pink 6.79 ct diamond), the Winston Blue (a pear-shaped fancy vivid blue, flawless diamond of 13.22 cts, $1,799,953 per carat) and so on. Fancy diamonds are extremely sought-after nowadays; several pink, blue and yellow diamonds sold at record prices in recent years.
The truly unique Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Mauboussin or Bulgari Art Deco, Belle Époque pieces or Elizabeth Taylor’s jewellery collection also broke records and the auctions held haute joaillerie fans captive across the globe.
Francesca Peretti is the daughter of Dr. Adolf Peretti the famous gemologist. She talked about various ruby sites (Burma, Tanzania, Kenya, Madagascar, Vietnam and Mozambique), the characteristic fractures of Myanmar and Möng Hsu rubies and the relatively new mines in Mozambique. The Montepuez Ruby deposit is located in the North-East of Mozambique in the Cabo Delgado province, it is believed to be the most significant recently discovered deposit in the world; early studies show that the quality of rubies is exceptional and comparable to the Burmese ‘pigeon blood’ rubies. (Source: Gemfields) These rubies contain more iron than chrome (as opposed to Burmese gemstones that contain more chrome, causing the exceptional colour) nonetheless stones of beautiful colour can be found in the region. At the end of her talk, Francesca showed a video of some of her father’s experiences, including a gemstone auction in Mogok, markets, haggling with indigenous people and of course Dr. A. Peretti’s outstanding expertise.
See pictures about the event on HRD website.
Photo credits: Christie’s, Loupiosity.com.
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