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Passion for the perfect diamond

By Nader Freiha



Laurence Graff, King of Diamonds, shares his obsession for the beautiful gems. He founded his business in 1960 and it’s now a top global brand, with 26 stores worldwide.

The company’s vertical integration and broad expertise is a big part of its success. It has manufacturing operations in Johannesburg, Antwertp, Mauritius and New York


The venerable House of Graff is synonymous with some of the most fabulous jewels in the world. Laurence Graff, Chairman of Graff Diamonds, is one of the word’s leading diamantaires.
In an exclusive interview from his office in London, Graff told Emirates Business about his business philosophy and some of the most exceptional diamonds he has ever seen.


Graff has come a long way from the early 1960s, when at the age of 24 you established the brand’s first shop in London.

How has Graff catapulted into its pre-eminent position in the world of diamonds and gems?

I founded Graff in London in 1960 and the brand has grown to its present position as a top global diamond jewellery brand with more than 26 stores worldwide and with corporate offices in London, New York and Geneva.

The company is known for its rare diamonds and classical pieces of jewellery because they are timeless and have a lasting beauty that can be passed on from generation to generation.

Our business has become the first in the international and very competitive diamond industry to be vertically integrated  able to take a diamond all the way from acquiring it in the rough through to selling it in one of the shops.

We have manufacturing operations in Johannesburg, Antwerp, Mauritius and New York, cutting and polishing tens of thousands of diamonds.

Your rise in the world of business is meteoric having ricocheted from humble beginnings  you are the son of London East End immigrants  to being Britain’s 36th richest man.

How do you take it all in your stride?

On a daily basis, money does not even occur to me. I love what I am doing. I love this exotic fast life. I have urgency inside me. I love the detail of the business.

I love the search for gems. I am driven by the need to find the best diamond in the world. Every day for me is exciting. I am so fortunate to be in this business. You have been called the King of Diamonds.

Could you describe your fascination with the gems?
What drives me is my passion for diamonds, an obsession with searching for and acquiring the most perfect gem. I am inspired by everything around me buildings, people, natural elements, cultures, simple stones on a beach everything.
However, in the end, it is when I have the diamonds in my hands or on my desk that shapes and designs come to my mind. The diamond tells the story. The diamonds and the beautiful women wearing my jewels are an inspiration to me.
Tell us about the 603-carat Lesotho Promise and the 493-carat Letseng Legacy diamonds, which you acquired.

The Lesotho Promise Collection was unveiled in London and Moscow in December 2007. History was made with the acquisition of two significant rough diamonds.

The 603-carat Lesotho Promise and the 493-carat Letseng Legacy were respectively, the 15th and 18th largest diamonds ever discovered. Both were unearthed from the Letseng Mine in the Northern part of Lesotho, a kingdom surrounded by South Africa.
The Lesotho Promise proved to be one of the most complicated diamonds we have ever handled and while it was a top colour, the Graff team decided it would yield several important stones rather than one single large stone.
It took a team of 35 people over a year to maximise and realise the full potential of this incredible stone  yielding 26 stones of top quality with a total finished polished weight of 223.35 carats, all D colour and flawless.
The Letseng Legacy is only at the beginning of its painstaking journey to be cut and polished into an incredible stone. The coincidence of finding two enormous rough diamonds in such a short time is extraordinary.

How important is the Middle East market for Graff?
The demand for our jewels is global. We have always had good relationships with clients around the world but it also makes sense to be in key prime locations.

An important gem collector knows about prices and quality; they come to Graff because they know we have the knowledge and have stocks of the best and rarest stones at the right price.
Graff has two boutiques in the UAE and you are represented in Kuwait.

What are your larger expansion plans in the Middle East?
No further expansion is anticipated for now but then the situation is always volatile and we will consider the options and opportunities as and when they arise.

Where does Graff go from here?
There is considerable investment in our business, not only in acquiring the diamonds and coloured gemstones.

Our vertical integration means we employ a broad expertise; it is important for us to be ahead of the industry in our cutting and polishing skills, with our designers, craftsmen and our technological understanding.
Demand from markets such as China, India and Russia has stimulated demand and increased the shortage of these wonderful gems.  
What message would you like to convey to our readers?
There is a tremendous amount of power associated with big diamonds. After all $5, $10 or $20 million is a substantial amount to hold in the palm of your hand.

The diamond is the most expensive commodity in the world for its size; something so small, so valuable, but I can say from my experience that whatever you pay for a Graff diamond  it is never expensive.



Laurence Graff

Chairman of Graff Diamonds


Laurence Graff founded Graff Diamonds in the early 1960s. He has handled some of the world’s most treasured gemstones including The Idol’s Eye, The Emperor Maximillian, The Porter Rhodes, The Windsor Diamonds, The Hope of Africa, The Begum Blue, The Paragon, The Star of America, The Golden Star and The Lesotho Promise, to name but a few.

An avid collector of modern and contemporary art, Graff is also a member of the International Director Council of the Guggenheim Museum in New York and a member of the International Director Council of the Tate Modern in London.