Choosing a diamond is much more than selecting the stone or setting. These two diamond houses create unforgettable experiences, embedding meaning into this lifelong investment
BENGUELA DIAMONDS LUXURY WITH ADVENTURE
With luxury travel increasingly focused on new and exciting experiences, Benguela Diamonds’ new underwater safari – diving for your own diamonds – taps into the need for adventure. The experience takes you back to the beginning, when humans first discovered this precious gem. The brainchild of experienced and passionate diver Wynand Hendrikse, these journeys take clients to a private ocean concession at Port Nolloth on South Africa’s west coast.
The wild beauty and wealth of natural resources make this stretch of coastline perfect for an underwater safari experience. It’s also one of the few places in the world known for its ocean diamonds. In fact, Benguela is named for the cool current in the area. ‘I started as a diamond diver in Port Nolloth 22 years ago, working on deep-water boats,’ says Wynand. ‘From there, I went on to dive for diamonds in the rivers of Angola, the Ivory Coast, Central African Republic and the Congo.’ It was only after 15 years of running a strictly retail diamond design business in Stellenbosch that Wynand ‘finally connected the end client to the diving experience,’ he says.
Guests are picked up early from Ellerman House in Cape Town, after which you are flown to Port Nolloth in a private plane. You’re then driven to Kai-Kai private beach villa, your base for the day, for a quick refreshment break. After a briefing, Wynard takes you out to his ‘special spot’ to dive, personally spending 30 to 40 minutes underwater helping you seek out the precious gems. Not everyone chooses to get into the water – you can watch from the sidelines while a diver does the work for you, using professional equipment to pick out only the most worthwhile diamonds.
“Benguela diamonds’ new underwater safari – diving for your own diamonds – taps into the need for adventure”
But, while there are no guarantees when it comes to size and quality (think of this as a luxury lucky packet), diving yourself is part of the adventure. Lunch from Ellerman House’s chefs is included in the experience: a West Coast-inspired menu focusing on fresh seafood is paired with award-winning wines. The most exciting part however, says Wynard, is sorting through the day’s findings. ‘You decide which rough diamond best suits your particular piece of jewellery. Selecting the actual stone is a special step.’ The following day, your new diamond ring will be ready. The first-hand experience, on every sensory level, is what sets this safari apart; the key is being part of the 360-degree process. Then there’s provenance: you know the source of your diamond, essential in today’s cultural and political environment. And you’ll have a story to tell, adding emotional and nostalgic weight to the already valuable stone. bengueladiamonds.com
Guests are transported in a limousine from Ellerman House to the airport and then flown by private plane to the coast for a day of diving, diamond sorting and dining; a diamond cutter shapes the stone optimally to maximise its interaction with light; Benguela Diamonds, named after the cold Atlantic Ocean current off Port Nolloth on the West Coast, allows you to dive for your own diamonds. The only requirements needed to dive for your own diamonds are a PADI Open Water 1 certificate and a sense of adventure; while nature determines the colour, carat weight and clarity of your diamond, a skilled craftsman will help you choose the right cut and set it in a design to best show it off; Kai-Kai villa is your base, where you sort your findings and enjoy an ocean-inspired lunch from a private chef. South Africa’s West Coast is the setting of Benguela Diamonds’ diving safari
GRAFF DIAMONDS LUXURY WITH HEART
The greatest art form in the world is the transition of a natural rough crystal into a perfect polished diamond. So believes Laurence Graff OBE, founder of Graff Diamonds. The legacy of sensational jewels to be crafted by the atelier is testament to this. From an apprenticeship in his teens repairing jewellery to an empire that encompasses 35 stores on almost every continent, Laurence’s work has grown into a global brand revered for its craftsmanship, individual designs and iconic gems. Its founder is renowned for pioneering a veritable empire and working with some of the world’s most famous diamonds – including the Lesotho Promise, Delaire Sunrise and Graff Constellation. Master cutters work on these stones, painstakingly crafting the precious gems to show off their beauty to best advantage and unlock their potential from the rough natural stone, a process that can take up to a year.
‘Our clients come to Graff because they know they are getting the best quality, craftsmanship and client care,’ says CEO Francois Graff.
This dedication to perfection and greatness is one of the core principles of Graff, one that has made the brand what it is. The company’s commitment, dedication and patience is echoed, somewhat more humbly, through The FACET Foundation, founded by Graff Diamonds. This proves that they have grown into much more than a pretty face. FACET’s work in sub-Saharan Africa – the honeypot of the diamond industry – proves Graff’s long-term commitment to the children in these areas. FACET works with local partners to provide everything from mobile libraries to healthcare facilities. Francois feels every business person should give back, concluding that, if you can improve a child’s life through education, you should do it. graffdiamonds.com; facet-foundation.org
Graff has established a reputation for creating one-of-a-kind pieces and working on some of the world’s most iconic diamonds; founder Laurence Graff with girls from the Graff Leadership Centre in Lesotho, one of three countries where the brand works with communities. In 1970, inspired by the court hair fashion of 18th century Versailles, Laurence Graff created his famous $1 million ‘Hair & Jewel’ coiffure; a stone-led design is created at Graff’s London atelier; a thirst for travel and a readiness to embrace opportunities on foreign soil helped Laurence grow his brand; he has always taken a keen interest in the development and promotion of the company, including working on an early photoshoot.
Credits: Photos: Supplied, Text: Julia Freemantle