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How Graff Diamonds Chairman Laurence Graff became owner of over 50 luxury jewellery stores worldwide

Laurence Graff went from being a 16-year-old apprentice to owner of over 50 luxury jewellery stores in the world, including Singapore.

There is a story that Singapore has a special place in Laurence Graff’s heart. As a young entrepreneur, he was passing through the city when he met a friend who had been tasked to set up a jewellery section in a local department store. Graff happened to be carrying a briefcase of gems at the time that he was trying to sell, and the friend ended up taking them as stock for the store. They sold out, and became one of the many stories that led to the now 57-year-old jeweller cementing his position as ‘king’ of the diamond world.

He’s come a long way from his early start as a 16-year-old apprentice to starting his own business at the age of 22 and now, as the chairman of Graff Diamonds with his CEO son Francois, presiding over more than 50 stores worldwide, with one in Singapore opening recently.

Chairman Laurence Graff and CEO François Graff visit Asia to officially open Graff Diamonds’ Hong Kong Central new flagship store

Chairman Laurence Graff and CEO François Graff visit Asia to officially open Graff Diamonds’ Hong Kong Central new flagship store

The senior Graff built a solid reputation in this business by obtaining, cutting and polishing large diamonds. To ensure a steady supply of the best quality, he acquired a stake in the South African Diamond Corporation (Safdico) in 1998, which subsequently bought land in Botswana, where he built the Diamond Technology Park in 2008. Recognising Botswana’s role in the diamond industry, he was able to connect and control every facet of the industry through the park. According to him,”If you want to be successful with diamonds, you have to get as close to them as possible.”

With some of the best diamond cutters in the world, Graff is able to tackle challenging pieces from diamonds to coloured diamonds, the latter said to be the most complicated and trickiest pieces to work with. Its philosophy of pursuing perfect beauty even landed them in controversy in 2010.

Graff is synonymous with yellow diamonds, with a legacy that includes many of the world's most important and rare yellow jewels

Graff is synonymous with yellow diamonds, with a legacy that includes many of the world’s most important and rare yellow jewels.

At the time, Graff acquired the historic blue Wittelsbach-Graff, but shaved off four and a half carats because he was determined to improve its clarity and transform its colour and clarity from VS2 to Internally Flawless – the highest diamond grade and the pinnacle of perfection in the diamond world.

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Some other notable stones include

The Heart Diamond

Graff made diamond history with the Graff Venus – the largest D Flawless heart shape diamond in the world. It took over 18 months for Graff’s master craftsmen to cut and polish this flawless heart-shaped diamond from a 357-carat rough discovered in the famous Letseng mine in Lesotho.

The 3-Billion-Year-Old Diamond

This year, Graff proudly announced the acquisition of a spectacular 373.72 carat rough diamond from the Karowe mine in Botswana. Said to be over 3 billion years old, it was likely formed while the Earth was still being created. Once part of the Lesedi la Rona (the third-largest diamond ever discovered), it was detached during the recovery process. Measuring 48 x 41 x 22mm, it is the second largest gem quality diamond ever discovered and the largest in more than a century.

The World’s Biggest Yellow Diamond

Unearthed in a South African diamond mine, this extremely rare and rough diamond of 221 carats has a natural octahedral shape. Graff acquired it and despite some potential risks, was determined to preserve its form by transforming it into a square emerald-cut diamond. It is now the world’s largest yellow diamond at 118 carats.

The Largest Cut Graff Diamond

In conjunction with its Place Vendôme, Paris opening in 2016, Graff revealed the 105.07-carat D Flawless pear shape Graff Vendôme diamond. The diamond was initially cut using lasers from a 314-carat rough sourced in Lesotho, then polished by hand. At 105.07 carats, the Graff Vendôme diamond is the largest cut and polished diamond of its kind in Graff’s history.

Story first appeared on The Business Times.

PHOTOS Graff Diamonds