The lure of a fiercely brilliant diamond can ensnare even the most resilient of hearts. Just ask Caroline Scheufele, co-president of Chopard. Constantly surrounded by remarkable examples of gemstones in every shape and hue, it is still the diamond that elicits the brightest sparkle from her eyes. “I love sapphires and emeralds, but diamonds remain the most unique. Their whiteness and transparency give them an eternal beauty. I consider it to be the most royal stone. When I draw important pieces, diamonds inspire me more than anything,” she shares.
Although her love for diamonds is deeply embedded in Chopard’s high jewellery collections, such as the Red Carpet collections that are introduced at the Cannes Film Festival every year, she was missing her chef-d’oeuvre. “I’ve always thought about doing something that I’ve never created before. It’s been awhile since I’ve been searching for this ultimate piece — something I can make from a rough diamond,” she says.
In 2015, the missing piece of the puzzle that eluded her for years came in the form of a 341.97-ct type IIa diamond rough recovered from the rubble of kimberlite found in the Karowe mine in Botswana. To understand the magnitude of this discovery is to know that unlike the majority of diamonds formed some 160km below the earth’s crust, large and exceptional stones (such as those of the type II variety) are forged far deeper, at depths of a whopping 750km (the equivalent of 84 Mount Everests), in pools of molten metal.
Requiring a far longer time to produce and subjected to astonishingly high temperatures and a phenomenal amount of pressure, these chemically pure diamonds are devoid of any measurable impurities and comprise less than two percent of all natural diamonds. In the last two years alone, the Lucara-owned Karowe mine has yielded some remarkable finds that include the 1,111-ct Lesedi La Rona, the 813-ct Constellation and two other yet-to-be-named large specimens weighing 813ct and 374ct.
Like all significant diamond discoveries, news of the 341.97-ct rough quickly reached the diamantaires at Antwerp. It was Jean-Jacques Taché of Taché Diamonds who made the call to Scheufele, prompting her to hastily put together a travel plan to Botswana so she could personally inspect the rock.
The minute Taché and her laid eyes on the stone, they felt an inexplicable positive energy emanating from it. “I immediately sensed that this was an incredibly rare gem of exceptional beauty and purity,” she shares. After subjecting the stone to numerous grading tests, the results confirmed what she had predicted from the start: The diamond turned out to be a D-Flawless type IIa diamond.
Following its successful tender procurement, the rough was christened by Scheufele as the Queen of Kalahari. “We had a number of potential options but I wanted to explore every possibility and to represent all diamond cuts,” explains Scheufele. Left in Taché’s good hands, the stone was eventually cut and polished into a splendid assortment of some 23 D-Flawless diamonds totalling 184.11-ct. Among the lot, five weigh more than 20ct each, with the largest taking the shape of a radiant 50-ct brilliant-cut diamond. The other four diamonds include a 26-ct heart, a 25-ct pear, a 21-ct emerald and a 20-ct cushion.
Presented with these polished diamonds, inspiration came swiftly to her. “I immediately imagined what I could do. It had to be something I had never done before,” she says.
On a chilly winter’s night at the tail end of 2015, a motivated Scheufele worked from dusk to dawn, sketching designs that would serve as the foundation blocks of what would eventually be the six-piece Garden of Kalahari high jewellery collection. “I wanted to create something that had the ability to transform. It had to be something that one can play around with and it should be as soft as silk, not something static,” she explains.
Gently swayed by the call of nature, Scheufele and her team at Chopard’s jewellery department designed six pieces of high jewellery inspired by flowers. Composed of a cuff bracelet adorned with two emerald-cut diamonds, two rings (one of which features the 20-ct cushion-cut diamond), a pair of earrings and a secret watch, the collection’s highlight is a majestic necklace that is as remarkable in stature as it is in its construction. Made to be worn in four different ways, it takes the form of a choker at its most understated and at its most extravagant, culminates into a drop pendant necklace, complete with three of the biggest diamonds. These diamonds can also be worn separately, with the option of having two of them — the 26-ct heart and 25-ct pear — attached on diamond-set earrings to be worn as a complete ensemble with the necklace. By placing versatility at the cornerstone of her design philosophy, Scheufele clearly demonstrates her keen understanding of the needs of modern-day high jewellery connoisseurs.
The journey of the Queen of Kalahari, from its discovery by diamond-sorter Tekolo Sethebe, to its eventual transformation into the Garden of Kalahari high jewellery collection, was documented in a 55-minute movie filmed by Alexis Veller. Screened at the Théâtre du Châtelet for a select group of VIP clients and celebrities during Paris Fashion Week, the movie is as much a triumphant celebration of an important milestone for Chopard, as it is a poignant tribute to Scheufele, who now has her magnum opus.