In 2010, shortly after we had opened the store, we attended the JCK Jewellery show in Las Vegas. It was only the second year we had attended, although working in the industry for years, I had always heard of the fabulous show, with amazing diamonds, gemstones, and jewellery as far as the eye could see. I planned on meeting new suppliers, attending educational workshops, and seeing new trends. To that end, I had registered for a luncheon featuring the inimitable Gabi Tolkowsky, master diamond cutter.
For those who are outside of the jewellery industry, the Tolkowsky name is somewhat akin to royalty – his uncle, Marcel was the father of modern diamond cutting techniques, including the most familiar diamond, the modern round brilliant. Gabi, himself, is the sixth generation in his family to be in the diamond-cutting business and is currently one of the world’s most renowned diamond cutters. He’s cut two of the world’s most recent, important diamonds – the Centenary and the Golden Jubilee Diamond. He was at JCK that year to promote his new line of diamond jewellery, as well as discuss modern diamond-cutting techniques.
Dale and I had a red-eye flight to Las Vegas and calculated that we would only have time to get checked into our hotel before we had to get over to the Sands Convention Centre for the luncheon. Once there, looking at the empty room, we realized we were still on Alberta time, and had a full hour before things started. We decided that it might just be nice to sit in the peace and quiet of the ballroom where the event was being held and just rest a little, and perhaps make a game plan for what we would do at the show the rest of our time there.
As we sat and discussed things under the watchful eye of the security guards (there were several pieces of Tolkowsky’s new jewellery line in showcases around the room) the door burst open, and a wild-haired, enthusiastic older gentleman came in. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when I realized it was the man himself – Gabi Tolkowsky. When he realized Dale and I were sitting there, he came right over and made himself at home; introducing himself, asking our names and how our trip to JCK was going, and of course, the talk turned to diamonds.
Gabi Tolkowsky holding the rough Golden Jubilee Diamond. The Golden Jubilee Diamond is the largest cut and faceted diamond in the world. It weighs 545.67 carats (109.13 g). It outweighs the Cullinan I by 15.37 carats.
During the course of our conversation talk came around to the industry standards of beauty – colour (or lack thereof), cut, carat weight, et cetera. So often, I’m asked to provide customers with a beautiful diamond, but whose standard of beauty is it? Gabi Tolkowsky made me think about beauty in a diamond in a whole different way. He told me that when he’s holding a rough diamond – whether it’s a small piece of rough or a large one like the Golden Jubilee (which was considered an ugly duckling because of its brown colour when compared to the Centenary) he asks it what it should become, and all the diamonds all say the same thing to him – they say “I should become the most beautiful.”
Indeed, in a letter from Tolkowsky to Ryan Thompson (the full letter can be found at www.famousdiamonds.tripod.com) he talks about exactly that – in an excerpt from that letter, he says, “in the silent conversations (I have with the Diamond), I ask what should you become?”, The diamond says, “I should become the most beautiful.” “My answer,” Tolkowsky says, “Should be the result. Every rough diamond requests the same demand, my answer is the final result.”
The Golden Jubilee Diamond – after being cut by Gabi Tolkowsky.
The hour we spent with Tolkowsky was one of those unscripted moments in life, which money could never buy, and it fundamentally changed how I perceive diamonds and the industry in which I’ve chosen to do my life work in. I’m forever grateful for the twist of fate that took us to the luncheon early, and the quiet hour we spent in the presence of a true master.
I was recently reminded of this when searching for a diamond for a client of ours in regard to an insurance claim she had to make. She had a few requests for size and cut, and we had a price point that we had to stick to as part of the claim. The stars aligned and brought us the exact diamond she was looking for – with one exception, the colour. It was not nearly colourless, but instead had a faint champagne hue to it, as it fell into the L category of colour.
We work very closely with our goldsmith, Paul, who not only does our custom and repair work but has the best diamonds in both quality and prices I’ve ever found. I have an infinite amount of trust in him, and the quality of work he does for us. He had just purchased this diamond, which in all other respects was exactly what we were looking for. When Paul and I were talking, his conviction that this diamond was the one we needed took me back to that darkened ballroom, and the discussions with Tolkowsky. “Let me set the diamond,” said Paul, “Then your customer can decide.”
So, I called my client, and we talked at length about the diamond. I told her about our hour with Gabi Tolkowsky, and the wisdom he had imparted. It’s beautiful, I told her, but beauty is always in the eyes of the beholder. I asked for her permission to set the diamond, and then she could make her decision, which she agreed to.
When I received the diamond this past Friday, I thought Tolkowsky would be pleased. This diamond was gorgeous – at just over 3.00 carats, it was of VS clarity, had a very good cut, and its gorgeous champagne colour was out of this world beautiful. Whoever had cut this diamond clearly had asked it what it wanted to be, and listened when it said, “The most beautiful.” Paul and his team had done an amazing job of setting the diamond according to her specifications, and the whole ring took my breath away. Thankfully, it took my customer’s breath away too, and we both had a little tear as her husband slipped it onto her finger when they came in to pick it up. In fact, we were all mesmerized by this diamond, and as my customer’s husband said, it looked like an infinity pool – an amazingly brilliant and scintillating infinity pool of light and beauty. When they left, I was thankful they (and Paul with this diamond) had allowed me to show them the beauty in the unexpected.
At the end of the day, while I may be in the business of selling jewellery, I don’t take it lightly that I’m in business for my customer – and that this isn’t just a commodity we’re selling. It’s more than diamonds, or gemstones, or gold – it’s the connections we make with you. We hold your dreams in our hands when you entrust us with your jewellery needs, and I’m glad to have been reminded of my time with Gabi Tolkowsky and of the wisdom of his words. We promise that we’ll do everything in our power to find you your perfect diamond – whatever that may look like. We promise to see the beauty in the jewellery you bring us for repair, and we want to hear your stories around them. Finally, we promise to think of the wisdom of Gabi Toklowsky’s words every time we make purchasing decisions for the store – and to try to embody all those things he holds dear.
Located just south of Calgary, Sarini Fine Jewellery serves the High River, Okotoks, Nanton, and Claresholm regions with full-service jewellery repair, custom design, insurance claims, and ready-to-wear jewellery