Tuesday October 29, 2009
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Diamond expert Neil Duttson launched his own gems company in 2002 to demystify the business for nervous buyers. Having trained in Antwerp with the Diamond High Council, he evaluated stones for eight hours every day. He is the official independent spokesman for the diamond exhibition now open at the Natural History Museum.
How much should a guy spend on an engagement ring?
Well, the old-fashioned way was a month’s salary. These days, people spend a little more. It’s really up to the individual but the average engagement ring is normally between £3,000 and £15,000.
What was the most you’ve ever seen spent on a diamond?
I have seen diamonds that are worth £2million to £3million.
Hopefully, an engagement ring will never be sold but do diamonds depreciate in value?
They don’t go down in value and, over a number of years, they will appreciate.
Many diamonds come from conflict zones and are often central to the causes of war in places such as Angola and Sierra Leone. Does that bother you?
It does, yes. Conflict diamonds are stones from countries that have been used to finance arms purchases and other illegal activities. But once they are brought to market and polished, the origin of that stone is very difficult – if not impossible – to trace. However, DeBeers has started a tracking process to police the source of its stones and it manages that very well.
‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.’ Why?
A diamond is a token of love. They are very valuable and a treasure. Girls love to be dressed up. They love going out covered in bling.
Which came first – the love of bling or diamond advertising?
A diamond is a billion and a half years old-plus. When diamonds were discovered in India, they were used as a currency as well as jewellery, so I think the love of the rock was there first.
Do you have a favourite diamond story?
I brought a beautiful two-carat emerald-cut to a client’s flat about six months ago and handed it over to the client, who dropped it. Diamonds bounce and this one bounced so far, it landed in the sink. I remember the ping as it went down the plughole. Thank God for U-bends. It was scary. I was screaming from the inside.
How much was that worth?
You must get quite nervous carrying that amount in diamonds around with you?
I rarely carry diamonds with me. They are sent ahead by security services.
More men are now wearing diamonds. Do you?
Occasionally I wear diamond cufflinks. I don’t wear them in my ears, however. I look after various England footballers, some of whom wear diamonds, and a couple of pop stars.
Are you going to the Natural History Museum exhibit?
I will be going regularly because they are changing it around every few months. It will bring some of the larger stones out from the world, some that are so sexy that they are hardly ever on display.
If you were going to propose, how would you go about it?
I wouldn’t produce a ring. I would produce the diamond, just the stone, and then ask her to design her own ring. Women tend to know what they want to wear on their left hands from when they are about 15 years old and a guy might buy completely the wrong ring. So present her with the stone and – hoping she says yes – then take her to a designer. That gives it a lot more history and it involves her. And, as far as the place is concerned, no one really knows when the time is right. You might be in Bora-Bora, you might be in Bolton.
Designing a ring would cost a fortune, wouldn’t it?
To have a ring designed by us can cost as little as £800, up to £2,000. If someone’s going for a big diamond, it’s quite a nerve-wracking experience.
There is something called the four Cs, which is your colour, cut, clarity and carat. You need to understand a little of what you are buying into so you don’t just pick up a sexy box from a high street shop and pay over the odds.
And the actual rock would cost?
Well, you can spend £3,000 or you can spend £15,000 – it’s completely up to you. Women love a carat and a carat is about £3,000 to £5,000 but it all comes down to the colour and the clarity.
What traps should one avoid?
You don’t want to overpay for a big diamond. You can buy something a lot smaller with much more colour and clarity.
And diamonds can be made artificially?
Yes, they are real diamonds, which will confuse the experts. But DeBeers has policed it and these diamonds have to be certified to the public that they are man-made. Its slogan at the moment is: ‘A real man buys a real diamond.’
Is Antwerp still the centre of the trade? If so, why?
About 85 per cent of the world’s diamonds go through Antwerp; the rest go through New York, Tel Aviv or South Africa. Antwerp is a huge port and its history – which goes back hundreds of years with the Jewish community and now the Indian community – has made it the diamond capital of the world – although most diamonds are now shipped off to Mumbai to be cut and polished.
Do you have a favourite diamond?
My favourite cut is the emerald cut and my favourite colour of diamond is blue.
Are you rich?
No. I’m just running a business, like any other businessman, and trying to make a living. I have huge ambition and huge goals. The diamond business is quite a closed, curious world and I think that it is very exciting.
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