What do you give the seven year-old who has everything? How about a 12.03 carat blue diamond, of such rarity that there are only a handful in existence? Josephine Lau, the daughter of Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau, has the distinction of having three of the world’s rarest gems named after her. In addition to The Blue Moon of Josephine (see 3 below) Lau, who is in failing health, purchased a $28.6m 16.08 carat pink diamond which he named Sweet Josephine, and a $9.5m 7.03 carat vivid blue gem called Star of Josephine. Her teenage sister Zoe, hasn’t been left out. Lau paid US$32.6 m for a 9.75-carat diamond which he named the ‘Zoe Diamond’, and $11.9m for an exceptional ruby named ‘Zoe Red’.
With the record-breaking sale of the Pink Star Diamond last week, we take a look at the enduring appeal of precious gemstones at auction amid the continuingly boyant market for rocks on the blocks. These are the gemstones which cannot be outshone in the four ‘C’s – cut, clarity, colour and carat.
1)The Pink Star Diamond. In another era it would have graced the finger of an empress or been embedded in a royal crown but this week the Pink Star diamond, one of the rarest gems ever to come to auction, broke the world record in just five minutes of tense bidding at Sotheby’s Hong Kong when it sold to a Hong Kong jewellery company, Chow Tai Fook, for a remarkable $71m, over £57m.
The 59.6 carat stone, which was discovered by De Beers in a mine in Africa (exactly where is a closely guarded secret) in 1999, took two years to cut. It is the largest polished diamond in its class ever to come to auction. The Pink Star created a sensation and attracted a bid of $83m when it first came on the market in Geneva in 2013 but the buyer later defaulted.
At that time, Sotheby’s was forced to stump up the cash as it had guaranteed the seller a price of $60m (£48m). Rising demand from wealthy Asian buyers convinced the auction house that now was the ideal time to return to the salesroom with the flawless gem. The timing proved impeccable.
The market for rare, precious gemstones has been strong in recent years with some spectacular stones coming to market in the last decade. Previously the record was held the by the Oppenheimer Blue diamond (7) which sold for $57.5m (£46m) in Geneva in May 2016 at Christie’s.
2) The Fancy Vivid Orange – in November 2013 the largest vivid orange diamond in the world attracted the highest price paid per carat for any diamond at auction, selling for $35m (£22m), or $2.4m (£1.5m) per carat – $15m above its estimate. Named ‘fire diamonds’ by the gemologist Edwin Streeter, pure orange diamonds remain incredibly rare, with so few having been graded that the exact cause of their colour remains a mystery. The Fancy Vivid orange is four times the size of most orange diamonds.
3) The Blue Moon of Josephine. In November 2015, this ring-mounted blue diamond, was bought by Hong Kong tycoon Joseph Lau, who paid a record $48.4m (£31.7m) for the cushion-shaped stone. He bought it for his seven-year-old daughter, renaming it the Blue Moon of Josephine, after her.
4) The Pink Graff, In November 2010 this “fancy intense pink” diamond was bought at auction by British dealer Laurence Graff for $46.2m (£29m) Described as “one of the greatest diamonds ever discovered,” at the time it was the most expensive gemstone bought at auction. Its rarity comes from the purity of its colour. While most pink diamonds show some elements of purple, orange or grey, The Perfect Pink is just that, showing absolutely no trace of secondary colour.
5) The Sunrise Ruby In May 2015, an anonymous buyer made history by purchasing the Sunrise Ruby, a 25.59-carat “pigeon blood” coloured gemstone, for $30m (£19.1m), making it the world’s most expensive non-diamond gemstone.
6) The Flawless Pear. In 2013, Christie’s auctioned one of the largest pear-shaped diamonds known to date — weighing in at an extraordinary 101.73 carats. Awarded the highest ‘D’ colour grade by the Gemological Institute of America, the stone came with the coveted ‘Flawless’ clarity, and was bought for $26.7m (£17m). Perfectly symmetrical, the finished diamond was produced from a rough diamond of 236 carats sourced in Botswana, and took 21 months to polish.
7) The Oppenheimer Blue Diamond. In May 2016, this exceedingly rare blue diamond set a new record of $50.6m (£34.7m). The 14.62-carat gem was sold after 20 minutes of phone bidding at Christie’s auction house in Geneva to an unknown buyer.
8) The Fancy Vivid Pink Cushion. Weighing approximately 16.08 carats, the diamond sold at auction in Geneva in November 2015 for $28.7m (£18.3m) It is the largest of its kind ever to come to auction, weighing in at 16.08 carats. The stone is set in a ring, and is surrounded by a double row of pavé white diamonds, a third row of small pink diamonds nestled underneath.
You may not have millions to spend at auction but for many women, a diamond or coloured gemstone ring will be their most expensive piece of jewellery and their most meaningful. If you are purchasing precious stones, the cut, colour, clarity and catat – the four Cs – are the most important attributes. Your jeweller should be able to give you a knowledgable explanation of each in relation to the gem you select.
If you are looking for something considerably less hard-going on the bank account, check out the Lily Blanche Luminous gemstone cocktail rings, in seven semi-precious stones and three precious metals. Wear them singly or in stacked in pairs for dramatic effect. Happy browsing!
It won’t have escaped your attention that pink is having a moment this spring, moving seamlessly from the catwalks to the sidewalk.
At Lily Blanche we often compile moodboards of our favourite looks/ inspirational images as we put together new collections or new jewellery combinations. This spring we are enjoing working with rose quarz and rose gold for a pink on pink intensity. To compliment our Luminous rings, we have designed a new range of earrings using the same quality and cut of gemstones which have made our cocktail rings such a great hit. These Luminous earrings will be on the website soon.
A dash of sherbert pink by way of a cocktail ring, earrings or bracelets is the perfect way to update a winter outfit for spring, be it navy cashmere, winter taupes and greys which need a pop of colour, or rich Christmas crimson. And while everyone knows pearls are a great way to brighten skin tones dulled by central heating, pale pink pearls add an extra something. Champagne pink pearls are the perfect way to overcome the formality of a pearl necklace. Whatever you are wearing this spring – think pink!
It’s already mid-way through January 2017 but it has been so busy in the Lily Blanche studio that I haven’t had time until now to reflect on the year that has just been. One thing is certain, however. It has been our most amazing and busiest year to date.
It started with a trip to Liberty London in January to pitch our designs to Julie Hassan, Liberty’s chief homeware buyer. You can read what happened on our blog. We managed to combine it with a fabulous stay at The Westbury Hotel, Mayfair – home from home for Jackie Onassis in the sixties and seventies – which boasts the best cocktail bar in London.
Our Liberty experience and the boost we got from it was just the start of a whirlwind year. We couldn’t have anticipated the huge success of the launch of our Memory Keeper Lockets in Gold and Rose Gold vermeil. These have been bestsellers in 2016.
Our Luminous gemstone cocktail rings were also a hit and prompted us to design earrings to match which will launch in a few weeks. Watch this space!
The graduation of Colette, great grand-daughter of the original Lily Blanche, with a first class honours degree in History was a fantastic occasion and we marked it with the Lily Blanche Vintage Key Pendant, the perfect way to mark key moments in life. You can see the video below.
Summer saw us on a trip to Zambia, emerald capital of Africa, and a wonderful place to go on safari. The kids bungee-jumped off Victoria Falls and I stood at the very edge of the falls and looked down into them – an unforgettable experience. And then there was the safari in South Luwanga Valley. So much inspiration came from this trip. You will see it played out in the collections we launch this year.
The fantastic success of Andy and Jamie Murray this year put mum Judy, an amazing woman and fantastic advocate for tennis, into the spotlight. Many of our eagle-eyed customers noticed Judy was wearing her Lily Blanche Birkin Locket during the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year Award and on the private plane with Andy when he became No 1 in the world. I was lucky enough to catch up with Judy at the fabulous Blytheswood Square Hotel in Glasgow for a quick interview which ran in the Sunday Times. (As many of you know I have a background in national newspapers and still write from time to time). Judy told me about the importance of parents in supporting their kids in sport. We’re big fans of her Miss Hits programme and Tennis On The Road. She’s a truly inspirational person and she has raised two sporting superstars with grace and modesty.
In October I was lucky enough to attend the Scottish Business Awards Dinner with Leonardo DiCaprio where I met up with Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill of Simple Minds. I first met Jim 10 years ago. It was great to hear their stories about family, friends and rock ‘n’ roll. They had the entire business community on their feet with a high-octane rendition of Don’t You (Forget About Me) during the dinner.
But the real highlight of the evening was catching up with Josh Littlejohn, founder of Social Bite – an incredible entrprise to help homeless people in Scotland. Josh and his girlfriend Alice not only allow people to pay ahead for coffee and sandwiches for people who need them at the cafes they run throughout Scotland, 20% of their staff are from the homeless community. Their latest venture is to build a village in Granton, Edinburgh to house people who have lost their homes. The Social Bite Village is the Lily Blanche charity of the year and we have given a proportion of our profits to the cause. We’re really grateful to all the customers who have made this possible.
As anyone running a thriving business knows – it’s not all fun and creativity. It can be lonely and exhausting and more evenings than I care to remember have seen me still in the studio, working at the bench or the computer, at 11pm. But in October I managed to grab a few days in New York.
We made the most of the time, staying on Park Avenue and enjoying shopping, the sights, the museums and the fabulous food in downtown Manhattan. I took my sketch book and found ispiration in the Faberge exhibit in the Met.
Did I mention the food? Here is Clementine, one of the orginal Lily Blanche’s great grand-daughters outside Nobu New York.
Back in Scotland we were invited to collaborting with the avant garde fashion magazine Fated and Fabled for the Eternity Feature in their Alchemy issue. It’s one of our favourite publications for the sheer creativity of their styling and photography. We were delighted with how they showcased the Lily Blanche collections and wove them into a story. You can see some of the images on our Instagram and Facebook feeds.
The team continues to grow, with Eva and Robbie joining. Our web guys, Tom and Toms have been fantastic and we’ve loved everything that Carlie our graphic designer has done. Marsaili has taken fantastic photography for us. Emma has made some beautiful pieces and we’ve had vital strategic help from Colette, Clementine, Alexander and Colin. We’ve been working one-to-one with Google and Facebook this year to develop our digital marketing strategy which has been fantastically exciting and we’re developing new collections which we will launch soon. Later this year we are planning a new model shoot.
It’s been an amazing and exciting year with our best Christmas ever and we’ve got to know some incredible customers. Thanks for sharing your stories with us and for shopping with Lily Blanche. We realy appreciate every one of you and the support you’ve given our business. I hope you continue to visit our website and social media pages in 2017.
Now all I have to do is ice the Christmas cake – just four weeks late!
USA & Canada and Europe order by noon on Wednesday December 14
Australia & New Zealand order by noon Friday December 9th
Rest of World order by noon Friday December 2nd
It does get very busy in the weeks before Christmas. We will all be working flat out to get your orders to you on time and we haven’t failed yet but the people who deliver your orders are only human – sadly, it’s an elf-free zone- so we really appreciate you ordering early for a stress-free, Happy Christmas.
It has been so busy in the Lily Blanche studio of late making and dispatching Christmas orders _ thank you to all our customers – that there hasn’t been much time for blogging but we thought you might like to read an interview we did recently with the jewellery website Jewel Street about our brand and the story behind it!
When did you fall in love with jewellery?
I’ve always been a jewellery girl as has my sister – we both love great design and fabulous craftsmanship – but we both married men who have no idea about jewellery. We always joke that we started Lily Blanche together because it was the only way we were going to receive beautiful pieces for birthdays and Christmas! In reality we are designers and creatives with very similar tastes, drive and ideas.
How do childhood memories influence your work now?
I grew up in a small town in Scotland and I was surrounded by incredibly creative people. My mother made all of our clothes and I learned to use a sewing machine at a very young age. My father made wooden toys for our Christmases – dolls houses and wendy houses and furniture for the dolls. My grandmother, Lily Blanche Sheridan, lived on the Hebridean Island of Skye and holidays were spent with her. She was an incredibly creative person and a fantastic cook. She even made her daughters’ and daughters-in-law’s wedding dresses when rationing was still imposed after the Second World War and gorgeous gowns were difficult to come by.
She introduced me to a wide range of craft activities, from knitting and crocheting to embroidery and even tatting. I was the first girl to take woodwork and metalwork at school and all my weekends were spent making toys and crafts.
My grandmother’s house was a tiny whitewashed croft on a loch. I remember being around the age of seven and playing on the waters’ edge and finding freshwater pearls. Scottish pearls are now conserved but it was a real eureka moment finding such precious stones in their natural setting at such a young age.
My grandmother had lived in India in the last days of the Raj and remembered the rise of Gandhi. My grandfather, whom I never knew, had been stationed in China in the 1920s and brought wonderful treasures back. My grandmother’s house was full of beautiful things – from big brass Buddhas to old photographs and lovely trinkets. In many ways, my grandmother was a sort of everywoman – so many people have someone like her in their family, coping during the War, learning to make do and mend, being inventive. She is the inspiration behind the brand and I often refer back to these childhood memories when designing new collections.
How did you start out?
I had wanted to do something creative after leaving school but there was pressure to pursue an academic course and so I studied prehistoric archaeology at Edinburgh University, keeping up my creative side fulfilled in my spare time. I was able to specialise in metallurgical techniques in the Central and Mediterranean regions during the Iron Age. This was when many beautiful items were made and I took a special interest in antique jewellery. It wasn’t long before the academic side of my nature and the creative side came together and I was trying out traditional techniques and materials.
I cannot begin to describe the thrill of finding a piece of jewellery on an archaeological excavation, of being the first to look at something for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years. There is something incredibly tactile and sensory about learning about the past from the artefacts and structures left behind by our ancestors. Everything has evolved but what has always struck me is how incredibly contemporary and beautiful much ancient jewellery seems.
The business was started with my sister, who is also a designer and who had already established her own Edinburgh design company. We developed and grew the business together, staying true to our family roots. However, 18 months ago, I bought my sister out and moved the business to my beautiful arts and crafts studio in Stirling. My sister’s design business had grown very rapidly and in a direction which meant she had less and less time for Lily Blanche so we came to a mutual decision which has allowed the business to flourish. She remains a great support and sounding board.
What are your values and how do they relate to your jewellery?
Family values are very important to me along with the sense of being true to yourself and your creative roots. I was given a very good piece of advice when I first started out and I pass it on to my daughters. It is this: Do what you love. Don’t worry about trying to make money. Concentrate on quality, design and great customer service and you will be successful. Get to know your customers – they are lovely people. Our business has grown exponentially because of this philosophy.
This may sound slightly cheesy but every customer is very important to us and they are parting with money which is hard earned. I always try to put myself in their shoes. What would I like in terms of service and communication? We go the extra mile for people. I try to answer emails and messages as soon as I get them even if it is late at night. If there is a special requirement we will try to meet it or find somebody else who can. Their lasting impression of the brand – whether they buy from us or not –is very important to us. It is the main thing we can do which big companies cannot and it is what distinguishes us in a busy market place.
What inspires your work and where is your jewellery made?
My understanding of history and prehistory is really important. I love visiting museums such as the V&A in London and the Met in New York. I always head straight for the jewellery section. I have a very keen sense of heritage and continuity, which imbues my work.
Here, at the Lily Blanche studio, there is rarely a single inspiration for a piece of jewellery. Ideas come together. But running through all of the Lily Blanche collections are the themes of sentiment and meaning, of celebrating life and expressing love. We love designing and creating pieces with hidden secrets.
Jewellery connects us with the past in such an individual and intimate way. Inheriting jewellery, even if it is not particularly to your taste or if it has gone out of fashion, is such a humbling thing. A piece can be worn every day by women of different generations. It can take on the patina of the life of the wearer. It will be smoothed and worn to fit them. When it comes down the generations to you, it is already pre-loaded with sentiment and meaning.
There is a reason that we mark important life events with jewellery and this is because of its endurance and durability. We want the occasions and people who matter to us to be represented, not by something ephemeral, but by something precious and permanent. This is the essence of our philosophy.
Our jewellery is made in our studio in Stirling and we also collaborate with small teams of artisans both in the UK and abroad for specialist techniques. These are all people we know personally and the collaborations have often developed from personal friendships.
Where do you source your materials and stones?
We use tried and tested suppliers for our raw materials, mostly UK based, who are, like us, members of accredited trade bodies. The Edinburgh Assay Office hallmarks our larger pieces using a hallmark they have designed especially for us. We also love collaborating with other artisan studios. For example, the glass we use in our Midnight and Dusk Pearl Heart Collections is made in Venice and shot through with silver and gold. It comes from a family of traditional glassblowers in Venice whom we visit whenever we can. If we see something beautiful and technically skilled and can incorporate it into our work, we will. It’s important to us that these skilled craftspeople survive.
What is your most treasured piece of jewellery?
It is a ring that my daughter now wear. It’s not particularly beautiful or especially well made. It’s not from a desirable or famous brand. It’s not particularly on trend but for my daughter and me it is our most precious piece because it belonged to my other grandmother –Agnes – who died before my daughter was born. Not many photographs of her exist. She wasn’t wealthy and the ring would not have cost much. The story of how she came by the ring has been forgotten but for my daughter, who studies history, the ring is a link with the past – her past, a very personal and precious symbol of life, love and continuity. In a funny way, it is why we do what we do at Lily Blanche.
Who are your clients?
All our customers are important to us and we have built up some lovely relationships with them over the years. We often hear the most wonderful stories – grooms who have presented their brides with one of our lockets full of pictures on their wedding day or older people who have been inspired to find a treasured charm bracelet.
We were absolutely delighted when Judy Murray chose to wear the Lily Blanche Memory Keeper Locket to a number of Andy’s main matches, including Wimbledon. Judy has bought a number of Lily Blanche pieces from our stockists and online, including the Lily Blanche Birkin Locket, she has tweeted to say Lily Blanche pieces are her favourite pieces. We met her recently and she told us she gets lots of compliments about the Memory Keeper Locket.
We feel our jewellery is special and we want people to feel special when they wear it. Much of our jewellery opens up and has a special secret inside, such as our Magical Charm Pendants. They are designed to surprise and delight and they do!
What have been the high points of your career?
We were delighted to be nominated in the highly prestigious Scottish Fashion Awards a couple of years ago and rubbed shoulders with Christopher Kane and Jonathan Saunders. Bringing on board some of our prominent stockists has also been great and being asked to pitch to Liberty London during their Open Call this year was such fun. We were delighted to get through. We’ve had a lot of support from Scottish Enterprise, the government agency, and knowing that they are backing us as a company with big potential has been incredible. But every day running your own business is pretty good, actually. It’s very fulfilling – even when the days are long and we are burning the midnight oil.
What drives you and what do you want to achieve with your work in the future? Do you feel like you have already ‘arrived’?
We want to keep fulfilling our customers’ expectations, designing great collections and growing the brands. I have lots of little milestones and goals for the company and it is great when we achieve these. I don’t think we’ll ever “arrive” – I hope not. We are enjoying the journey too much!