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Diamond Portraits – Tolkowsky Family

 The Tolkowsky name is legendary in the diamond business, and synonymous with expertise and precision. The firm bearing its founder's name is still active today, run by the seventh generation of this illustrious family. Over the years, various family ancestors have been responsible for major breakthroughs and innovations in the craft, and have been a part of cutting some of the most important diamonds in the world. The Tolkowsky dynasty began in the early 1800s with Abraham Tolkowsky, who was a talented diamond and precious gem cutter and dealer. He was well connected, and became a recognized diamond dealer to European nobility. He moved his family from Bialystok, Poland to Antwerp to work in what had already become the center of diamond trade in Europe at that time. Several of his nine children would work with him in the family business. His sons Samuel and Maurice would establish themselves as professional diamond cutters, and would eventually carry on the family's growing legacy.

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Diamond Portraits – Lodewyk van Bercken

Exactly when humans discovered that diamonds were the only material that could be used to polish other diamonds is in dispute. However, we do know that early attempts to polish diamonds were crude, and often relied on simple tools. Hand driven bow drills and leather straps dipped in diamond powder were the only tools available, and the time-consuming effort of polishing a diamond was often a task given to slaves and servants. Not surprisingly, the earliest examples of diamond jewelry mostly featured rough diamonds, perhaps with just a small amount of polishing to smooth out surface imperfections. This all changed with the invention of the scaif, credited to the legendary Lodewyk van Bercken. His invention gave cutters a practical tool to begin faceting diamonds, unlocking their hidden beauty. Today's modern polishing still uses the same concept van Bercken developed more than 500 years ago.

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Diamond Portraits - Cecil Rhodes

The diamond industry has a storied history. It has been built by influential people, both past and present, who have left their indelible marks on a business that captivates consumers around the world. Over the next several weeks, we will highlight some of the achievements of these people, people from all walks of life, who have helped to lay a foundation for all of us. Perhaps we might learn something from their accomplishments that might help others to shape the industry moving forward. For an introduction to our list of famous people in diamonds, we will start with Cecil Rhodes, the founding chairman of De Beers. 

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1971 Hits

Diamond Portraits - Ernest Oppenheimer

 Ernest Oppenheimer was the first of the Oppenheimer family to prosper in the diamond industry. He and his descendants would continue to play an integral role in shaping the industry for more than a century. He was born in 1880 in Freidburg, Germany, the son of a cigar merchant. At the age of 17, he began his working career as a diamond broker in London as diamonds were just becoming widely available with the early South African diamond rush. By 1902, he had impressed his employers so much that they sent him to South Africa to represent them as a diamond buyer in Kimberley.

At the same time, the massive Premier Mine was put into production. Its owner, Thomas Cullinan, had refused to join De Beers Consolidated mining, and instead began selling his production to two independent diamond dealers from London, Oppenheimer and his brother Bernard. This massive production undermined De Beers' sales, but Francis Oats, the successor to Cecil Rhodes as Chair of De Beers, was dismissive of the threat. However, production from the Premier Mine would soon eclipse the production from all De Beers mines combined. Oppenheimer was appointed as the local agent for the powerful London syndicate, much to the angst of Oats.


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Beneficiation in the Diamond Industry: Russia

Sergey Ivanov, President of ALROSA, said that diamond manufacturers in Russia would not be able to survive without government subsidies. The abolition of a 6.5% export tariff in September 2016 is a major contributing factor, he said, but so too are declining polished prices and increasing rough prices, which have driven much of the midstream to the brink. Diamond beneficiation in Russia has a history almost as long as mining itself, and some regions of the country are entirely dependent on diamond polishing for their economy. 

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