Louis Vuitton brings world's second largest rough diamond to Singapore

SINGAPORE – The world’s second largest rough diamond has found its way to Singapore’s shores.

Roughly the size of a tennis ball, the 1,758-carat diamond that was purchased by Louis Vuitton and unveiled in January is now being showcased to interested buyers until Tuesday.

Named Sewelo, which means “rare find” in the Setswana language, it was discovered in April last year at a mine in Botswana owned by Canadian diamond mining company Lucara Diamond Corporation.

The glinting black stone is the second largest rough gem diamond in recorded history, second only to the Cullinan – a 3,106-carat gem mined in South Africa in 1905.

That makes the Sewelo, estimated to be two billion years old, the largest diamond discovered in this century.

Louis Vuitton’s purchase of this historic find has been dubbed by many as a bold move for the luxury house, which is better known for its handbags and heritage trunks.

The LVMH-owned brand entered high jewellery only in 2012, with an atelier in the esteemed Place Vendome in Paris.

It is not known exactly how many millions the French fashion house paid for the stone.

Asked why the Sewelo would be the stone to propel Vuitton’s high jewellery efforts, chairman and chief executive of Louis Vuitton Michael Burke said in an e-mail interview: “This rough stone is unique. Unveiling it to a handful of clients is a testament to our daring spirit and our desire to be a major player in jewellery.”

He added: “We’re positioning ourselves for the next 100 years.”

Available for viewing by appointment only, its stop in Singapore at the Louis Vuitton Island Maison at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands is its only one in South-east Asia.

Inside the store, the Sewelo takes centre stage, mounted on a miniature trunk in a dark exhibit. No barricades have been set up around it, allowing clients to get up close and personal with the stone.

Showcasing the diamond in its rawest form – its thin black carbon coating untouched – was significant, said Mr Burke.

“The idea is not to bypass the traditional network (of jewellery), but to make the chain more transparent by showing Sewelo’s origin.”

While the house declined to comment on its exact plans for the rare stone, it is expected to be custom-cut into diamonds and turned into bespoke pieces once Vuitton finds a buyer.

Unique to the brand is its ability to cut diamonds in the signet of Louis Vuitton’s iconic Monogram – the LV Flower Cut, a rounded flower; and the LV Star Cut, a star-shaped motif.

Louis Vuitton is currently working closely with Antwerp-based diamond cutters HB Company to study and plan the optimal yield of the stone – which is estimated to vary from one oval diamond of 900 carats to one diamond of 300 carats, with multiple satellites of three to five carats.

The possibilities are endless. The Cullinan produced stones of various cuts and sizes, with the two largest currently mounted in the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.

The Sewelo showcase reiterates Louis Vuitton’s ambition to be a player in the high jewellery field, competing with the likes of Cartier.

Industry pundits also believe this is another move by parent company LVMH – which already owns Bvlgari and paid US$16.2 billion (S$22.2 billion) to acquire Tiffany’s last November – to stake a big claim in the high jewellery sector.

Mr Burke said: “We are trunk makers, not jewellers. Even if we recruited new talent and put all our efforts into this new field, we wouldn’t want to proceed as the others – it would make no sense.

“We have to be audacious and brave; this stone is the proof of this. No jeweller on Place Vendome would ever dare to take the same risk.”

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• Clients interested in viewing the Sewelo diamond can contact Louis Vuitton Client Services by telephone at 6788-3888.

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