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The jewel in his crown

The necklace set a world record at auction on November 14.

The necklace set a world record at auction on November 14.

An emerald and diamond necklace by de Grisogono, set with the largest flawless D-colour diamond ever auctioned, set a world auction record. De Grisogono founder and creative director Fawaz Gruosi tells Ivan Borg how this will set an enduring legacy.

De Grisogono’s Creation 1, an emerald and diamond necklaceDe Grisogono’s Creation 1, an emerald and diamond necklace

Fawaz Gruosi, founder and creative director at de Grisogono, is not the kind of man to grandstand loudly and make a lot of noise. His softly spoken manner belies a strong commitment to his craft and an immediate charisma.

He is riding the wave of a very successful year, one that saw him and the company he founded score a massive coup with the sale of an emerald-cut masterpiece they created.

Mr Gruosi takes me through the long process that led up to the record-breaking sale – the origin story of the creation. The rough was originally unearthed in Angola, on a national holiday, and immediately turned expert heads.

“What was amazing about this diamond was not just the weight of the rough stone, but more the quality,” Mr Gruosi explains. “Even an idiot could see it was unbelievably clear and it was totally unexpected.”

It was the first time de Grisogono had attempted an undertaking of such a scale. Mr Gruosi recalls the highly tense moment of the first cut, the result of many weeks of preparation and study – you don’t get a mulligan if you mess up.

When everything was said and done, an elite team of artisans – including eight jewellers, five setters and one engraver – had pored over the creation for a combined 1,700 hours over a span of around six months.

Fawaz Gruosi, founder and creative director at de GrisogonoFawaz Gruosi, founder and creative director at de Grisogono

Each element was handcrafted to Mr Gruosi’s exceptionally demanding standards – he concedes he’s almost pathological in his pursuit of perfection – and the piece eventually completed in de Grisogono’s high jewellery atelier, working off a highly-detailed wax model.

The final piece then went on a world tour, so to speak. It started in Hong Kong and made its way around the world, wowing even the most jaded connoisseur along the way. While it wasn’t as tense an experience as actually cutting the rough stone, it was an important step in the process of getting the word out to potential buyers – and when the stakes are this high, it’s not an inconsequential step.

The auction itself, a collaboration with Christie’s, was a roaring success and established de Grisogono on a higher-level playing field. Mr Gruosi explains that he never expected the brand that is his brainchild to grow as much as it has, and for a very idealistic reason.

“I wanted to keep it small, and only be a real artisan,” he explains. “When you have a massive amount of shops, it is impossible to keep that quality and I could never accept that.”

Working on Creation 1 also marked a personal high for the long-serving pioneer in an industry that is exceptionally competitive.

“I never expected to handle roughs and very important stones at that,” he tells me. “We’re the youngest company operating at this level.”

The 163-carat D-flawless diamondThe 163-carat D-flawless diamond

Perhaps that will be the enduring legacy of this one, truly exceptional stone. It hasn’t only served as a man’s coronation, but has catapulted the entire de Grisogono brand to a level of recognition and prestige that feels earned, not given.

On multiple occasions during our chat, Mr Gruosi insists that he does not consider himself to be an artist and it doesn’t appear to be false modesty. However, the process he undergoes has all the familiar trappings of the rollercoaster ride that is the artistic process – so we eventually agreed to disagree on this particular point.

I ask him if he considers the triumph of Creation 1, and its record-breaking sale at auction, to be his crowning achievement – but the man is like a racehorse whose success only breeds more hunger.

He does recognise the impact of the whole experience but he looks at Creation 1 as a springboard to even greater success. He only tentatively teases de Grisogono’s future projects, out of a genuine humility – but he tells me enough for me to know that the brand’s game-changing success has not bred complacency and de Grisogono will shine even brighter.

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