You are here

Art Encapsulates History, Culture And Preserves Value — It Should Enfold Diamonds Too

The author (left) with the Maharaja of 
Bhavnagar's silver carriage (1915) from the
collection of Prof. Nasser David Khalili (right)

Times are rough for the diamond industry. Matters have been going from bad to worse and it seems the end of this downturn is still not in sight.

I am tempted to write a “we told you so” piece or launch into a diatribe telling you, “We know the answer to the problem!” The truth of the matter is that taking any of those positions would be presumptuous, as nobody has all the answers and I do not think anybody could have predicted the present market situation.

I do hope some of you will smile, as instead of writing a piece about The World Diamond Mark Foundation, the organisation I have the privilege of guiding toward making significant headway into reviving global generic diamond marketing programs for diamonds, I’m going to talk about art.

About a year ago, a New York Times editor asked me whether I would define jewellery as art. Big question! It took me some time to formulate an answer.  Victoria Gomelsky’s New York Times article gives one a lot of perspective. Now I would like to offer my views on the topic.

I inherited a passion for art and beauty from my late grandmother, who was a simple but educated woman whose only connection to art was managing a jewellery store in a provincial town in Latvia — itself a small country on the Baltic Sea which is difficult to find on the world map. Surprisingly, in the late sixties and seventies, while a part of the Soviet Union, it was a beacon of modern art and design in the otherwise drab and dark socialist paradise. It was my grandmother who encouraged me to study art and architecture, and who inspired my brother to study jewellery design. As a matter of fact, I was capable of drawing decent portraits and watercolours at that time. Perhaps, if our industry will disappear during my lifetime, I will do some street paintings and portraits on the beachfront, in Nice…

But back to our times — what do diamonds have to do with art? It all depends on how we imagine the identity and position of diamonds in the future. As we know, art is an integral part of our history, our heritage, our faiths, our preservation of wealth and of our cultural traditions.

Lately, we’ve seen a proliferation of conspiracy theories suggesting diamonds are the tools by which hidden cabals and terrorists exert control on the world at large. The truth of the matter is that diamonds were valued almost two thousand years before they were deliberately promoted and marketed in the 20th century. Diamonds formed an important part of Western culture since Alexander the Great. Obviously they were an integral part of the Persian and the Deccan lifestyle way before the Alexander’s quest. I strongly suspect that one of the reasons he ever went on his conquests was to get some of those precious gems for himself.

Back then diamonds were valued for their rarity, purity and beauty. So what has changed in last two thousand years? Perhaps centralised promotions and marketing killed the art and commoditised diamonds a century ago, or perhaps art has become a commodity itself. In any case, the diamond has since lost some of the cult image and has been replaced by other pop-culture symbols.

In the art world, has Andy Warhol replaced Raphael? No, they are both art and often collected and appreciated by same people. So why are some diamonds treated as art objects and others are not? Maybe as an industry we killed the concept of the diamond and diamond jewellery as art? These existential questions have no straight answers and are nice for discussion over a three-star Michelin dinner.

Van Cleef & Arpels president Nicolas
Bos (left) and the author admire an
emerald and diamonds set made by
Van Cleef for the Maharani of Baroda.

I spent almost four years visiting museums and collectors worldwide while preparing the “India – Jewels that Enchanted the World” exhibition that ended in August 2014 in Moscow’s Kremlin. New York, Jaipur, London, Paris, Jerusalem, Geneva, Doha, Tokyo, Delhi, Copenhagen, Saint Petersburg, Mumbai, Amsterdam, Hyderabad, Bangkok, Singapore, Kuwait, Tel Aviv, Washington and Los Angeles — I found carefully selected collections of fine and costume jewellery everywhere.

So why not bring the diamond back where it belongs — to the world of art? In order not to be empty-worded I invite everyone to join me and my colleagues at the World Diamond Mark to take part in the World Diamond Museum project that is being prepared as we speak by the world’s leading curators and designers.

We’ll unveil the project towards the end of 2015. It will be the most extensive and most spectacular cultural project ever attempted.

Five years ago, when I presented the Indian jewellery exhibition concept to my friends in Mumbai, nobody believed it would be possible. One year after that top-of-the-world event adjourned in Moscow, we’re back with the World Diamond Museum.

Long live the nay-sayers!

Leave a Comment

1 Comments
Beautifully said...thank you. Art is the differentiator for products, especially in the luxury segment, more so for diamond jewellery. Art is what would keep diamond jewellery ahead, and top of mind (irrespective of price points !) Art is inclusive of quality of finish as both are complementary. How does one associate with the World Diamond Musuem project please ?