From Rough Diamond to Finished Jewelry: How Graff Cut the 299-Carat Rough Fancy Intense Yellow Diamond into the 132-Carat Golden Empress Diamond

The 299.35-carat rough diamond that later became the Graff Golden Empress.
The 299.35-carat rough diamond that later became the Graff Golden Empress.

We do a lot of writing about diamonds and gemstones in our Haute Jewels columns, but now we take a different turn. With the help of famed diamond house, Graff Diamonds, we bring you on a journey that tracks a famed diamond from its rough form, through cutting and polishing, to its final place as a center stone in a stunning piece of jewelry. In fact, the largest fancy intense yellow diamond cut from the 299-carat rough we are tracing was unveiled to the world this time last year. Now we bring the untold story of the Graff Golden Empress to light.

Born in the Earth’s crust millions of years ago when the exactly perfect combination of heat and pressure mixed, diamonds are a rare and tantalizing gem that have stolen the hearts of men and women around the world since they were first discovered. As rare as a clear or colorless diamond is, the colored diamonds are even rarer, with just one in every 10,000 diamonds offering a painter’s palette of hues.

Graff Golden Empress 132.55 carat Fancy Intense Yellow diamond
Graff Golden Empress 132.55 carat Fancy Intense Yellow diamond

It was several yeas ago that Graff discovered an opaque 299-carat rough diamond from the Letšeng Mine in Lesotho (the mine adheres to the Kimberly diamond process – a requirement of Graff for all stones it acquires). The family owned and operated company couldn’t resist the temptation to purchase it and try to turn it into a world- famous stone that could join its roster of legendary diamonds.

Graff Golden Empress set on a necklace.
Graff Golden Empress set on a necklace.
Before the rough jewel was cut, Graff’s Senior Gemologists spend many months meticulously studying the nuances of the stone, and the risks involved in cutting it. With the study complete, imagination, exceptional skill and intense precision came into play. It was determined that one large-sized diamond could emerge from the rough, with additional smaller stones also being cut.

Colored diamonds are cut differently from white diamonds to ensure the cutter gets the fullest color saturation. This means that Graff’s top cutters and polishers have to work a difficult balance of adding enough facets to let the light in, but not too many that the stone loses its fire and depth of hue. The cutting is a mathematical formula of angles and surfaces, while the painstaking polishing expertly lets the light shine through those cuts.

In addition to the Golden  Empress, the rough diamond yielded 8 additional stones.
In addition to the Golden Empress, the rough diamond yielded 8 additional stones.
Through this balancing act, the 132.55-carat Fancy Intense cushion cut diamond — known now as the Golden Empress — was born. The rough stone also yielded another eight smaller, satellite diamonds: six pear-shaped Fancy Yellow stones, with the largest at 21.34 carats, and two brilliant round stones.

Graff’s expert team of designers has since set the Golden Empress as the key pendant stone in a stunning yellow-diamond necklace.

Graf's  expert cutter s and polishers use special tools for the precision work.
Graf’s expert cutter s and polishers use special tools for the precision work.

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