Naval Bhandari of Sotheby’s Diamonds and Tim Marlow of White Cube Gallery.

LONDON - Tim Marlow and Sotheby’s Diamonds’ Naval Bhandari delve into the Natural History Museum in London to unearth the science, artistry and rarity that makes a diamond desirable.
It turns out that diamonds aren’t quite forever but they give Father Time a run for his money. I am inside The Vault, the inner gems chamber within the historic minerals hall at London’s Natural History Museum. We passed numerous dinosaurs on the way up, but the sparkling jewels here are a far sight older.

Typically 1 to 3.5 billion years old, diamonds form under extreme heat and pressure some 90 miles beneath the earth. And, like all our natural resources, they are finite – the right conditions for creating these stones will not occur again as the earth’s core slowly cools.

Diamond cutters will polish a ‘window’ into a rough diamond in order to assess its quality.

Illuminating me about these ancient stones is Naval Bhandari, Vice President and Head of Private Sales, for Sotheby’s Diamonds New York. He’s brought along some spectacular pieces from the Sotheby’s Diamonds collection too, but we start with the display here – some diamonds in the rough. After learning how to reveal a gem’s quality from the rock, I’m surprised at how much weight is lost in cutting. Then Naval allows me a close look at one of the purest things on the planet.

Not all diamonds are gem quality, but what I am holding certainly is. A magnificent diamond ring is just under 30 carats and flawless. I discover the cornerstones of its quality (Cut, Colour, Clarity and Carat) and just how the cut ‘unlocks’ brilliance. It is all about the speed of light – less impurity means faster speeds and more radiance.

A dazzling vivid pink ring from the Sotheby’s Diamonds Collection.

I learn why pink diamonds are 20 times more valuable than their white cousins, and an idea that diamonds ‘shrink’ over time (it’s all in the mind – you get used to their awesome glitter). Naval also has a theory as to why diamonds really are a girl’s best friend: the blues and oranges they refract may be less obvious to men, who are prone to colour blindness.

But diamonds of course are universal, and represent the most concentrated wealth in existence. The ring we examine is no wider than two centimetres, but, Naval says, in terms of value is an incredibly rare Picasso. Another example of priceless fractured forms, I can’t help but joke.


[This article originally appeared in Sotheby's at Auction. To subscribe click here.]