x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

A cut above the rest

q&a David Bennett works with the biggest and the brightest in the business, the best-known jewels in the world.

David Bennett holds the Lesotho 1 diamond which will be on display in Geneva on Wednesday.
David Bennett holds the Lesotho 1 diamond which will be on display in Geneva on Wednesday.

David Bennett works with the biggest and the brightest in the business, the best-known jewels in the world. As the chairman of Sotheby's Jewellery Department for Europe and the Middle East, Bennett recently visited Emirates Palace to preview his latest treasures, two rare coloured diamonds which will hit the auction block in Geneva on Wednesday.

When I was young, I wanted to go into filmmaking - not as an actor, but as a director. Then my father, who at the time thought that was not really the right thing for a young man to do, had a friend who was a director at Sotheby's; this was 30 odd years ago. I was talking to this chap and he made it sound so interesting. He said, "Well come and do this course with us." The last real recession was in 1974 and everybody was without jobs. It was terrible. This friend of my father's said, "Look, there's a job in the jewellery department and I think it would be good for you; take it." I said, "I don't know anything about jewellery!" and he said, "Fake it." Straight after that, the whole thing began - I did two years of gemmology and I just learned.

Anybody can educate themselves about anything, the question is how much you want to do it. We all have time, it's just that we choose to use it differently. But if you're passionate, you'll learn. I firmly believe that I was going to spend my life doing one thing, and let's face it, we do spend most of our lives working, I felt like I wanted to know all about it because otherwise, why would I be doing it? Then, 20 years ago, I wrote a book with a colleague that has become a sort of classic. It's called Understanding Jewellery. It's been as much used by private people as the trade and for me, it's wonderful having a jeweller say, "Oh I love your book and I use it a lot."

Yes. I've been coming here for jewellery for some years. The first time I came was about eight years ago, but we've been having exhibitions since 2004 in Abu Dhabi. We have a lot of important collectors here in the region and we're determined to build that. I sometimes give talks about the jewellery, so there's also a sort of educational aspect.

Most people think of diamonds as being white, and they are. But the really rare diamonds are the ones that are coloured, particularly blue and red. They are some of the rarest objects in the world. Then you get a combination of over 10 carats like the blue one on display: fancy, deep blue, flawless, and the cutting is excellent - then you're into the Rolls-Royce of coloured diamonds. The other one is a fancy red diamond, and it is pure red, which makes it beyond rare. This stone weighs just under two carats but it's estimated at $2.5 million (Dh9.18 m). To give you an idea, in May last year, we sold the three carat vivid blue diamond for around $1.3 m (Dh4.8m) per carat. I calculate that it makes it certainly the rarest object by weight in the world, rarer probably than weapons-grade uranium.

The blue diamond, the red diamond - they're one-offs, which I think is what makes them special and really why auctions are the great treasure houses where you're going to find these things. Even for people who maybe aren't going to buy now, the pre-sale exhibition is a great way of learning, comparing and so on. I mean, where else are you going to see these?
swolff@thenational.ae