Rapaport Magazine

Funky Diamonds

A diamond doesn't have to be perfect to be pretty.

By Amber Michelle
RAPAPORT... Everyone knows that a D flawless diamond is coveted for its purity, beauty and rarity. Consumers are currently willing to pay startlingly high prices for the privilege of owning such a piece of perfection. But over the past several years, there has been a growing movement among jewelry designers to use alternative diamonds — rough, opaque, off-color, slices — in their creations.

Initially, designers began adding one or two of these pieces to their collections and many admitted that there was more interest from the press and other industry pros than there was from the consumer. But that is changing as shifts in the market demand new, creative product.

One of the first major shifts is the customer and what that customer wants. There will always be demand for polished white diamonds and the love and glamour that those diamonds epitomize. However, a new consumer is on the shopping horizon. These shoppers are inspired by a renewed social awareness in the world. They are looking for socially responsible products; they don’t want to flash a lot of bling in a world with an increasingly bleak economic outlook and, most of all, they don’t want to look like the girl next door.


“These diamonds speak to a woman who doesn’t want to wear her husband’s wallet around her neck, but wants something more personal. It’s a different sensibility. She knows what it is, but the world doesn’t have to know what it is. It sets her apart,” explains designer Mauri Pioppo, who draws upon her background as a dancer and yoga instructor to inspire her work. Pioppo uses off-color opaque diamond beads in her designs, coupled with spiritual symbols that create a mystical feeling.

Pioppo finds that funky diamonds are more for the free-spirited person, because they have so much earthy appeal. “My designs are organic and driven by the process and exploration of nature,” she says. “There is a voice that comes from these diamonds that is different than clean, white diamonds. It is less of a consciousness about value. What it reveals is about the design, not about the stone.”

Sheryl Jones, managing director of Ozuro Fine Jewelry, which has a booth in an exchange on New York’s Fifth Avenue, finds that the customer for rough or off-color diamond jewelry is a younger consumer. “It’s attracting people who shy away from traditional diamonds or jewelry,” says Jones, whose designs are influenced by the unusual shapes, colors and textures of rough diamonds. “The customers who stop by to check out the funky diamonds are more fashion forward. It’s a younger consumer who is not afraid to be different; it’s someone who wants uniqueness.”


Colorado-based Todd Reed, who was one of the first to successfully create a line of jewelry solely of rough diamonds, has recently begun expanding his collection to include antique opaque diamonds from India that were pulled from old Mughal jewelry. These milky diamonds change the feeling of his pieces. “It’s a logical segue between white and rough diamonds because they are opaque and cut. They work well with rough stones. It’s a good way to fine up the collection,” says Reed, who characterizes end users who buy his product as savvy customers looking for something more organic. “It brings a softer flavor to my work due to the color and shape, and it has made my pieces more accessible.”

Changing the look of his pieces, Reed notes, resonates with eco-conscious consumers. The antique diamonds “are being found,” he says, “and then we are able to reuse them.” Upscale jewelry de-signer Nina Runsdorf began incorporating diamond slices into her creations in 2007, blending the slices into traditional settings. She believes that the organic shape of the slices stands together well with traditional diamonds. Runsdorf says that her creations appeal to the client who already has everything. “Rough diamonds are unique in all aspects compared to a modern cut diamond. Each diamond slice is cut and faceted in the shape of the rough and is truly one of a kind, like a piece of art.”

The designers all agree that the organic feeling of the rough or opaque diamonds has an appeal for today’s more socially conscious customer, who is looking for ways to save the environment, do good in the world and who also has a unique personal style. Since no two rough diamonds or other funky diamonds are ever exactly alike, it automatically makes each piece of jewelry made with them one of a kind.

“For years it’s been all about bling. These designs are organic and stripped down,” notes Jones. “Those people who are eco-friendly go for that look.” The odd shapes and unusual colors also attract consumers who, when they find out that the stone is a diamond, become that much more excited, says Jones. Educating customers about rough diamonds, she observes, opens up new doors for consumers to understand the properties of diamonds. “People think they want to go with a colored gemstone because theythink they are more affordable, but when they see rough diamonds and all the colors and find out that they arediamonds, they realize that it is something really special,” concludes Jones.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - August 2008. To subscribe click here.

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