The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 Wednesday, August 12, 2020


Louis Vuitton gets huge lump of coal for Christmas, upending tradition
In an undated image provided by the fashion house, the 1,758-carat Sewelo diamond, which has been purchased by Louis Vuitton. The acquisition, announced on Jan. 15, 2020, is the latest sign that LVMH is out not just to compete, but to utterly dominate the high jewelry market. Grégoire Vieille/Louis Vuitton via The New York Times.

by Vanessa Friedman



(NYT NEWS SERVICE ).- The largest rough diamond discovered since 1905, the 1,758-carat Sewelo, was revealed with great fanfare last April, named in July and then largely disappeared from view. Now it has resurfaced with a new owner — and it’s not a name you might expect.

It is not, for example, Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world on the hunt for a trophy asset. It is not a royal family, searching for a centerpiece for a new tiara. It is not the De Beers Group, arguably the creator of the diamond market, which owns the Millennium Star diamond, a 770-carat pear-shaped stone.

It is not even diamond specialist Graff, owner of the Graff Lesedi La Rona, a 302.37-carat diamond that is the world’s largest emerald-cut sparkler.

It is Louis Vuitton, the luxury brand better known for its logo-bedecked handbags than its mega-gems, which has been present on Place Vendôme, the heart of the high jewelry market, for less than a decade.

And it is the latest sign, after the $16.2 billion purchase of Tiffany by French behemoth LVMH (the parent company of Louis Vuitton) in November, that LVMH is out not just to compete, but to utterly dominate the high jewelry market. Taken together, the double punch of purchasing (brand and stone) in less than two months is the luxury equivalent of shock and awe.

“There are less than 10 people in the world who would know what to do with a stone like that or how to cut it and be able to put the money on the table to buy it,” said Marcel Pruwer, former president of the Antwerp Diamond Exchange and managing director of the International Economic Strategy advisory firm. “To buy and then sell what could be a $50 million stone, you need the technical qualifications, as well as the power to write the check and take the risk.”

Michael Burke, chief executive of Louis Vuitton, declined to say how much the company had spent on the stone, though he acknowledged that it was in the “millions” and that “some of my competitors, I believe, will be surprised” that Vuitton was the purchaser.

“Nobody expects us to put such an emphasis on high jewelry,” Burke said. “I think it will spice things up a bit. Wake up the industry.”

According to Jeffrey Post, curator in charge of gems and minerals at the Smithsonian Institution, “if you buy a diamond like that, it gives you immediate credibility.” It is also, especially in the case of the Sewelo, more risky than you may imagine.

Unearthing a Gem
Discovered in April 2019 at the Karowe mine in Botswana (owned by Lucara Diamond Corp., a Canadian miner), the baseball-size Sewelo is the second-largest rough diamond ever mined.

The largest was the 3,106.75-carat Cullinan diamond, which was discovered in South Africa in 1905 and eventually yielded two enormous high-quality stones — one of 530.4 carats and one 317.4, both now part of the British crown jewels, as well as many smaller stones.

The Sewelo is also the largest rough diamond ever found in Botswana (a country that has become an emblem for responsible mining) and the third very large diamond discovered in Karowe.

The mine also produced the 813-carat Constellation, uncovered in 2015 and sold for $63 million to Nemesis International in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, a diamond trading company (in partnership with Swiss jeweler de Grisogono) and the Lesedi La Rona, discovered in 2016 and sold to Graff for $53 million.

When Lucara held a competition to name the Sewelo, 22,000 Botswana citizens submitted entries. “Sewelo” means “rare find” in Setswana.

Unlike both the Constellation and the Lesedi, however, it is covered in carbon (at the moment it looks like a big lump of coal), which makes exactly what kind of diamond material is inside a “mystery,” according to Ulrika D’Haenens-Johansson, a senior research scientist at the Gemological Institute of America.

It also makes “the risk that much greater,” Pruwer said. When the stone was unearthed, there was a fair amount of speculation that it may be worth significantly less than its not-quite-as-giant siblings.

The profitability of any large stone depends on its yield: how many gem-quality carats can be gotten out of it once cut to maximize the price, which is in turn a function of the impurities in the stone — though, as D’Haenens-Johansson points out, even the impurities have value in a stone this size. They can reveal when the diamond was created and at what depth in the earth.

The mine, which has examined the diamond through a tiny “window” in the coal and scanned it with lasers, describes the stone as “near gem quality,” with “domains of high-quality white gem.” There are 10,000 gradations of diamonds, ranging from D-flawless (the most rare) to industrial stones used in cutting and manufacturing.

“Is it D or D-flawless, and how big is the flawless part? I don’t know,” Burke said, acknowledging that the purchase “took a little bit of guts and trust in our expertise.” (To be fair, LVMH can afford it; its revenues in 2018 were 46.8 billion euros, or $52 billion.)

Still, Post said, “You don’t buy a stone like that unless you have some plan for what you are going to do with it and some belief that there is enough clear material that you can cut it and make a profit.”

Burke said when he showed the stone to Bernard Arnault, the majority owner and chief executive of LVMH, and “he had it in his hand, he smiled.” A smile from Arnault, a famously taciturn executive, is the equivalent of a scream of triumph from another chief executive.

Embracing the Risk
After all, along with the potential profits, LVMH also bought the less quantifiable, but nevertheless palpable, bragging rights to the diamond in an industry in which mythology and romance are part of the price.

Burke said that when his team suggested that Vuitton consider buying the Sewelo, his initial reaction was: “What took you so long?”

“It’s a big, unusual stone, which makes it right up our alley,” he said. It is also the first time Vuitton has bought a rough stone without having presold it to a client. (According to Pruwer, most branded fine jewelers buy stones that are already cut and polished.)

“We are experimenting with a different way of bringing a stone to market,” said Burke, who said Vuitton would not cut the stone until it had a buyer and that the company did not plan to hang on to the stone as a showpiece, the way Tiffany has kept its 128.54-carat namesake stone.

Vuitton’s partners in Antwerp are building a scanner able to see through the stone’s coating, though with the imaging already in place, including a CT scan, they have estimated it may yield a 904-carat cushion-cut diamond, an 891-carat oval or several stones of between 100 and 300 carats.

As for the fact that the acquisition happened around the same time as the Tiffany acquisition, Burke said it was a coincidence. Yet he acknowledged, with some understatement, that LVMH “typically likes to become leaders in whatever field we go into.”

And if the Sewelo doesn’t prove to be quite as lucrative as LVMH is betting? “I’ll go jump in a river,” Burke said.

© 2020 The New York Times Company










Today's News

January 17, 2020

Claremont Rug Company Reports Significant Increases In Sales of "High-End" Antique Oriental Rugs

VMFA receives more than 8,000 photographs from the Aaron Siskind Foundation

Spanish banker gets jail term for trying to smuggle out Picasso work

In Afghanistan, being an artist is a dangerous job

Christie's announces highlights included in its Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale

Vancouver Art Gallery announces major gifts of art for its permanent collection

Louis Vuitton gets huge lump of coal for Christmas, upending tradition

Christopher Tolkien, son of J.R.R. Tolkien and keeper of his legacy, dies at 95

Edith Wharton's 'The Age of Innocence' comes home

The Andy Warhol Foundation announces fall 2019 grantees

Affordable art offered in Shannon's online sale now through January 23rd

Galeria Joan Prats exhibits recent works made between 2012 and 2018 by Chema Madoz

Museum reunites celebrated painting series by Jacob Lawrence for nationally-touring exhibition

Strike suspended at Mandela's prison museum in South Africa

Exhibition provides an overview of Noah Davis's brief but expansive career

Exhibition of new paintings by Bay Area artist Dana Hart-Stone opens at Brian Gross Fine Art

Modern Art exhibits works by Paul Mpagi Sepuya as part of Condo, London

'Swissness Applied,' an exhibition by Architecture Office, opens at Yale Architecture Gallery

Looking for something 'Out of the Ordinary'

Alice Black opens a group exhibition which explores the theme of Apollonian & Dionysian duality

Nohra Haime Gallery opens its first exhibition with Colombian artist Juan Cortés

For this choreographer, the traditional is contemporary

New exhibition explores cultures and fosters global understanding

Simon Lee Gallery opens an exhibition of works by João Penalva

Increasing the Popularity of Video Content With Subtitles

Some facts about having the eyelash extensions

How to find Yevgeniy Fiks Art Work using the Search Image Technology

6 Neat and Clever Ways to Put Your Mind Into a Creative State

TIPS FOR MAKING FRIENDS FROM THE FOUNDER OF ONLINE DATING

Cork to showcase the Zurich Portrait Prize exhibition which will feature a new competition especially for young artists

How to Paint By Numbers?

Things to Know About Photographs

Tips for buying used auto parts




Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

 



Founder:
Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

sa gaming free credit

Royalville Communications, Inc
produces:

ignaciovillarreal.org avemariasound.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
Hommage
to a Mexican poet.
Hommage
       

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful