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The reign of the classic round diamond is over

Ming Liu
April 22, 2024
5 min

Move over round brilliant-white diamonds: unusual coloured stones and fancy cuts are now stealing the limelight – and the more unexpected, the better. From antique diamonds and kitsch hearts, to atypical semi-precious coloured stones like teal-green Namibian indicolite or pastel-pink kunzite, gemstones with an element of surprise are the ones to start looking out for right now.


“Anything that’s not round is more popular now,” says Sophia Hirsh, managing director of the jewellers Hirsh London. “People are more confident in expressing their own personal style and we have so much more creative freedom now – we layer, we mix, we wear different rings on different fingers,” says Hirsh, who is known to wear both platinum and yellow gold jewellery herself.


Complementing personal expression is the consumer’s growing sophistication and inquisitiveness around stone provenance – which has come to the fore via increased sustainability and social consciousness, as well as the breakout of the ongoing war in Ukraine and resulting sanctions against Russian diamonds. “The war changed demand,” says Randy Poli, president of the Los Angeles-based Poli Trading Company. “It’s changed people’s curiosity about traceability. And it’s changed our supply chain. Russia was supplying 30 per cent of the world’s rough diamonds – now that pipe has been turned off and it’s hard to find a lot of goods today.” The result, he adds, is clients are “more vigilant” about asking where diamonds are coming from.


“Ten years ago, no one would care if a diamond was from Canada or South Africa,” adds Hirsh, who believes that despite the trend for lab-grown diamonds, the desire for natural stones will remain strong. “People want beautiful minerals from the earth – beautiful, natural diamonds. But at the end of the day, they want to be sure that they are not funding a war.”


And the industry is taking note. In 2018, industry behemoth De Beers launched its diamond traceability platform Tracr, which uses blockchain technology to track and trace a diamond’s journey from rough stage, through to cutting and polishing. Around 1.2m rough diamonds have been loaded through the platform, with new participants continuing to sign up monthly, such as pioneering ethical jewellery brand Brilliant Earth, which joins the likes of Gemological Science International (GSI) and the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) on the platform.

Le Jardin De Chaumet high jewellery collection shot by © Paolo Roversi


Unlike diamonds, the provenance of coloured stones can be determined by certain features, say the silky colour ofa Sri Lankan sapphire or the inclusions in an emerald, says Hirsh – and particularly unusual stones are having a moment right now. Chaumet’s Le Jardin de Chaumet high jewellery collection, which pays homage to botany, includes a pansy-inspired suite featuring vivid yellow Zimmi diamonds. Named after the region of rainforest between Sierra Leone and Liberia where the stone is mined, Zimmi diamonds have a much higher colour saturation than fancy vivid yellow diamonds and boast the highest intensity on the GIA grading scale for coloured diamonds. Elsewhere at the brand, a pair of Tulipe earrings are sprinkled with 20 pear-shaped spinels in a striking cobalt blue colour – a departure from the usual reddish or pinks – that hail from Vietnam.


Ondule ring from © Cartier has a rare 0.92-carat grey-violet diamond


The popularity of coloured stones is also leading to record results at auction. In June 2023, the 55.22-carat Estrela de Fura ruby from Mozambique sold for an astonishing $34.8m at Sotheby’s New York, setting a world record not only for a ruby but any coloured gemstone sold at auction. This came on the heels of Bulgari’s 11.16-carat fancy vivid blue Laguna Blu diamond, that hammered down for $25.2m at Sotheby’s.

It’s not only these offbeat coloured stones that are capturing the imagination. Poli has noted that classic round brilliant diamonds are beginning to fall out of favour, too. “I used to sell 10 to 15round stones for every other shape,” he says. “Now its 10 to 15 other shapes for every round. No one asks for rounds anymore. People want something that’s unusual; they’re sick of seeing the same things.”


More than just novelty, the drive towards unusual colours or cuts speaks to a desire to push and elevate jewellery design, while never ceasing the search for beauty. As Poli, who has worked with Fehren since the brand’s early days, says: “It’s not so much about the diamond’s quality, but finding something beautiful and bringing that out of a stone.”