In his 1837 poem Flowers, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow describes a diamond as: “Stars, that in Earth’s firmament do shine.” Almost two centuries later, an all-female team of African diamond cutters have crafted an exclusive new 67-facet diamond cut incorporating all the earthly elements in Longfellow’s “stars of Earth”. The result is the Ocean Flower Diamond Collection.
When you look into the diamond from the culet (bottom-most point), you’ll see the most beautiful flower, which appears to be moving. You might even think it’s radiating. Turn it over and you’ll find a star, shaped by heart and arrow cuts coaxed from the rough stones.
The women behind the concept shine as brightly as their creation. American Swiss had been looking for local partners to create a special cut for some time. And when the brand met sisters Jo Mathole and Khomotso Ramodipa, the directors of Kwame Diamonds, it was a “match made in jewellery heaven”.
“Relationships in the jewellery business are extremely important, as they are built on very high levels of trust. We began to map out what the future could look like for us as Africa’s number-one jeweller in collaboration with whom we believe are the only all-female team of diamond cutters on the continent,” says American Swiss head of buying Lana Coetzee.
“Jo and I started looking at a special cut and what this would mean for our customers, who trust us to deliver beautiful products of good quality at great value.”
Kwame Diamonds was established in 2008. Since then, it has made the fancy cut its niche, and has now introduced multifacets. It’s a skill all the company’s craftswomen have acquired.
“We had produced an 81-facet and were trying to sell that — that’s how we met Lana,” Mathole says. “Through that came the idea to produce a 67-facet diamond because of the link to the Mandela legacy and American Swiss’ work with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.”
The stones selected for the 67-facets special cut are sourced through the state-owned diamond mine Alexkor, which operates in Alexander Bay in the Northern Cape. As they are alluvial diamonds, they possess higher colour and better clarity than the average mined stones.
Kwame Diamonds’ first attempt to achieve the 67 facets was a stroke of luck. The diamond cutters had tried to balance the stone so that all the facets were properly set. And after they had cut it, they were amazed with the result. “Nobody knew what was going to happen; we just knew that 67 facets must be achieved. And we did, it only to find this brilliant flower at the bottom of the stone and from the top, those hearts and arrows,” Mathole says. “It was stunning. We started trying to perfect it. It’s looking good. We love it.”
WATCH | Experience the Kwame story: Making the Cut:
Mathole laughingly refers to herself and her sister as first-generation diamantés because they started their business from scratch, with limited resources. “It’s capital intensive. You need money to set up factories, to buy the stones,” she says. “It was quite an interesting journey, but we’re here, forging ahead.”
That journey began at the dawn of democracy, “when everybody wanted to own a mine,” Ramodipa says. “We were in that space too, trying to find a gold mine; a platinum mine. Since 2000, we’d been trying to make that happen. The diamond journey was meant to be. The short story is we met an old man who had a packet of diamonds and we just fell in love with the sparkle in that little box. We thought if he can do it, so can we. That’s how we started chasing the diamonds.”
Ramodipa is an optometrist, with experience managing three practices. It’s a profession she left behind when she qualified as a diamond sorter and valuator.
Mathole cut her teeth in stockbroking and investment banking before going into the diamond business. She qualified as a diamond sorter and valuator through the Henry Oppenheimer Diamond Training School in 2006 and was the first black female in SA to manage a diamond plant and achieve sightholder status with the De Beers Group.
The Kwame Diamonds directors hold dealing and beneficiation licences, which allow them to trade in rough and polished diamonds. They employ 10 people in the factory, mostly women, who boast combined experience of more than two decades in the industry.
Mathole says. “We are still learning, still infants in this industry; but I think we have the right support, especially from the likes of De Beers and American Swiss. We are hoping to be able to impact lives. That’s what we’re all about.”
Only 30 to 40 of the 67-facet stones will be made available for the launch. These will be certified by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) from 0.25 upwards. The name of the stone and the number of the GIA certificate will be engraved on each diamond. This will reference the original number inscribed at the GIA before the stone was handled. Provenance will be detailed on the certificates, which ties in with American Swiss’ Mine to finger programme. “We felt that was important because these are such special stones. Each diamond will have its own unique number —this is important for the customer who wants to tell the story of the stone in their jewellery piece,” Coetzee says.
“The consumer wants to know what they’re buying, where it’s coming from and what impact it’s having on communities… This ties in nicely with what’s going on now in the market,” Ramodipa adds.
The 67-facet stone can be used for any jewellery setting, including pendants, studs, and engagement rings. “As the stone has such a lovely story to tell, it is also the ideal gift to celebrate special occasions, including milestone birthdays and anniversaries,” Coetzee says.
• This article was paid for by American Swiss.