‘Uncommon, important and lovely’: The art of reproducing diamonds

[h4] [/h4] I n the midst of the pandemic, diamonds (a minimum of freshly mined ones) might have lost their lustre. But in the studio of his New york city house, John Hatleberg is wagering it will soon be back.

For months, he has actually been at work stooped over a gem-faceting device, where he is cutting and polishing a synthetic product that will be used to make a specific reproduction of the Hope Diamond as it existed in the 17th century.

Perhaps no diamond has as much glamour as this luminescent blue 45.52-carat stone, encircled by 16 white diamonds and set on display screen in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (briefly closed). It is brimming with a history of a royal owner, theft and family curses and has long been the most popular object at the Smithsonian.

However the existing Hope Diamond is just the latest version of the stone. The diamond, first purchased from a mine in India, was recut as the “French Blue” after King Louis XIV got it. Stolen throughout the Reign Of Terror, it resurfaced in 1812 in London and was recut into its existing style and named for its owner, Henry Philip Hope.

Having actually finished replicas of the initial stone and the Hope itself, Hatleberg has been labouring given that the winter season to finish the French Blue.

He aims to assure that his replicas have the specific same angles and colour as their inspiration, a process that included 7 journeys to Azotic LLC, a laboratory for gems and crystals in Rochester, Minnesota. There, professionals covered and recoated the replica using a thick level of precious metals to match the rich blue of the Hope.

Hatleberg is not working for some wealthy personal customer who desires a knock-off for travel. Rather, his three reproductions will appear beside the Hope at the Smithsonian. When?

Who knows?

‘ An Intriguing Shade’

The art of duplicating diamonds is a delicate one, and possibly nobody has actually worked straight with so many named stones as Hatleberg, 63, who made a reproduction of the 31.06-carat Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond for Laurence Graff, the billionaire diamond dealership, and the 273.85-carat Centenary Diamond that was found in 1986 by DeBeers.

So perfect was his copy of the Centenary that when DeBeers executives were welcomed to compare the 2, some could not right away tell the difference, said Rory More O’Ferrall, the manager of marketing liaison at the time.

For the Okavango Diamond Company, Hatleberg just recently finished a copy of the Okavango Blue, a 20.46-carat fancy deep blue diamond discovered in 2018 in Botswana. “We wanted a replica since we require to hold on to the tradition of the stone for future generations,” stated Marcus ter Haar, the managing director of the business, which is selling the original.

A perfect reproduction is an art form that, for Hatleberg, can require months and even years of work. “We have had the luxury of looking at individuals doing that sort of work, however John is an artist with a sense of information and excellence,” said Jeffrey Post, the manager of the United States National Gem and Mineral Collection at the Smithsonian, who hired him. “When John hands me a stone, I understand he has considered and analysed it, and he would not hand it to me unless he thought it was perfect.”

For the Hope Diamond, Post said that the trouble was matching the colour. “It is a fascinating shade, not like other tones of blue. We desired exact replicas.” For the museum, the objective was not to offer but to assist inform the story of the history of diamond. “Visitors see the shapes and sizes in an effective method to give the history of the cutting of the stone,.” he said. “You can not just show an image of a three-dimensional object.”

Most terrific stones attract massive publicity when they are first drawn out of the mines, cut and polished. However after the hoopla, the diamonds typically disappear into coffers of the extremely rich, just to reappear when an auction hammer comes down on a multi-million-dollar sale. (The diamond industry as a whole has also seen important headlines in recent years, as human rights abuses and the trade of so-called blood diamonds have actually come to light.).

Years back, some diamonds were bought by socialites and movie stars. American heiress Evalyn Walsh McLean, the Hope’s last personal owner, often wore it in public– or occasionally put it around the neck of her dog or wore it when she gardened. Richard Burton made headings in 1969 when he bought a 68-carat diamond for Elizabeth Taylor, calling it the Taylor-Burton Diamond. Just after the actor purchased it, Cartier, the seller, put it on display screen in New york city where 6,000 individuals a day lined up to gape.

But over the last few years, film stars usually did not buy them, they borrowed them, said Henry Barguirdjian, a previous chief executive of Graff U.S.A. and managing partner of Arcot, a gem financial investment firm, in an interview quickly before he passed away in October. “In America there are people who enjoy to purchase jewels, however they are typically business people and completely confidential,” he stated. “In Asia they buy the way Americans utilized to buy: for status symbols.”.

In 2015, Joseph Lau, a businessman in Hong Kong, set a record of $48.4 million purchasing a 12.03-carat diamond at Sotheby’s called “Blue Moon of Josephine” for his 7-year-old child just after buying a 16.08-carat pink diamond, “Sugary food Josephine,” for $28.5 million (₤ 21.4 m) from Christie’s.

The Hope, often cited as a metaphor for ne plus ultra, is unusual in that it has been on view for more than 60 years. (To be sure, both the French and British crown gems, on public display, consist of remarkable diamonds: among them those cut from the 3,106-carat Cullinan, found in South Africa in 1905, and the 105.6-carat Koh-i-Noor, discovered in India.).

The Hope’s course to America was circuitous. After Jean Baptiste Tavernier offered it to King Louis XIV in 1668, the Sun King purchased it recut in a more symmetric style popular at that time. It was then set in gold and suspended on a neck ribbon that the king used for ceremonial events.

After its disappearance in 1792 and reappearance in London, it was offered and resold until it wound up with McLean when her husband, a publishing scion, purchased it in 1911. Wealthy, yes, however ill-fated. Her oldest boy died in a vehicle mishap and her daughter from a drug overdose. At her death, Harry Winston purchased her entire jewellery collection and in 1958 gave the Intend to the museum.

In reproducing it for the general public, Post sought a sense of what the diamond had looked like in each of its 3 versions.

‘ Nuts About Gems’.

Hatleberg’s interest in such work began in youth: His mother was a documentary professional photographer for the Smithsonian’s gem collection. Growing up in Bethesda, Maryland, he recalled: “All of us studied geology in school at that time. People brought in crystals, agates and whatever. I was nuts about gems, so my mother found a centre for retirees at a neighborhood entertainment centre where there was a course in gem cutting. I loved it.”.

After getting a graduate degree in sculpture at Cranbrook Academy of Art, Hatleberg supported himself doing faux surfaces and other kinds of artisan works.

He initially had access to the Hope Diamond in 1988 when he made a mould of it that he used for chocolate copies that were, for a while, sold in the Smithsonian gift shop.

Then in 2007, “I found out about a new approach to colour match my diamond replicas,” he said. “Before that it was challenging to colour-match fancy coloured diamonds.” That connection was exceptionally important given that coloured stones are normally the most treasured.

“‘ Colourless’ product provides you much less to worry about,” said John King, a former lab chief quality officer at the Gemological Institute of America. “The richer colours are more valuable. But when you begin to colour it and you are not pleased with the original colour, it is a much larger problem.”.

The procedure can be nerve-wracking, “We do multi-iterations,” stated the president of Azotic, Steve Starcke. “It can be a little too purple or a little too blue in our initial samples. John would state, ‘Can you press it a little more in this direction?'”.

Building how the Hope Diamond searched in its earlier lives was a sleuthing experience. The initial Tavernier stone was reimagined from drawings of the duration. The second was a secret up until 2009 when Francois Farges, of the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, uncovered a long-lost lead cast of the stone.

Barbara Barrett, the secretary of the Air Force who functioned as a Smithsonian board member, supported the job with her partner, Craig, Post stated.

Hatleberg is far from the only individual producing copies. Lots of are used coloured cubic zirconia. Scott Sucher, who specialises in reproductions of popular diamonds, normally depends on pictures and line drawings to create his works, although there have been some exceptions. For the Koh-i-Noor, the Nature Museum in London provided him a plaster design of the historic version of the diamond.

He then had it laser scanned in Antwerp, Belgium, and used that information as a guide for cutting. For a Discovery Channel programme, Sucher had access to the original and developed a replica using coloured zirconia. As part of the arrangement, the Discovery Channel offered it to the museum, although it is not on display. Sucher said copies of his work were in numerous museums.

Obviously, a lot of those are now closed.

On the other hand, the development of Hatleberg, who just makes moulds from the initial stone and finds cutting nearly as overwhelming as getting the colour right, has been slowed by travel limitations.

When he made his 1992 replica of the Centenary, he went back and forth to London every 2 months for more than a year, he remembered. “It was extremely tough due to the fact that of the style of the elements. The whole top of the diamond was cut with angles that are less than 15 degrees. That meant the differential in the angles was small and hard to manage.”.

To get a concept of how difficult the original cutting was, DeBeers established an unique underground room in Johannesburg for a team led by Gabi Tolkowsky, the prominent diamond cutter, so regarding prevent any technical factor that might hinder the cutting. “Vibration is problematic, and the city is provided to tremors, in part since of the gold mining that has happened there,” More O’Ferrall stated.

For most people, the isolation of the pandemic might have made work tough. But aside from not having the ability to travel, or deliver the ended up French Blue, for Hatleberg this may be the supreme quarantine task. Even after making copies of dozens of significant stones, the work has not lost its appeal. From the first, he stated, he found the gems: “Unusual, valuable and beautiful. They completely intrigued me.”.

A diamond is forever, simply put– and lockdown is only temporary.

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