If the measure of someone’s success is the envy and backbiting that accompanies it, Nirav Modi is well on his way to fame. Others in the business of fine jewellery claim he’s biting off more than he can chew, but the third-generation “old world cutter” of exceptional diamonds and chairman of Firestone Diamond has not shied away from setting some of the world’s rarest and most expensive diamonds and gemstones in pieces of jewellery that only a handful of people will be able to afford.
When I met him for breakfast in March last year, Modi casually slipped a 70-carat yellow diamond into my palm. When he told me its value — Rs.40 crore — I set it back gingerly on the table. At the time, he said he was looking for the perfect design in which to cast the diamond. With designers in Hong Kong, Geneva and New York working for him, it should have been a hoot for someone to create a setting appropriate for the Rising Sun. Yet, recently, when I asked him to furnish me with a list of the most expensive stones in his collection, the Rising Sun was still on it.
Modi claims that the rarest and most expensive gemstones — and by inference, jewellery — are finding their way into Chinese collections. Perhaps the Chinese are being more cautious with the world economy in crisis, but with only six other vivid yellow diamonds that are larger than it, the Rising Sun is clearly placed high in the pecking order. Will it sell simply as a gemstone or is Modi holding on to it to set it amidst a dazzling array of other diamonds, taking its value up exponentially? The only way we’ll know is if it moves off Modi’s inventory, or if he chooses to put it up for auction.
The last time Modi featured in an auction, the Golconda Necklace, with a 12-carat, pear-shaped Golconda diamond at the centre of a lattice-work of white and pink diamonds, which appeared on the cover of Christie’s catalogue in Hong Kong, fetched Rs.19.24 crore.
However, a month prior to the Golconda Necklace auction, a pair of perfectly matched round solitaires cut from the same rough, of 10.88 carats each, had featured in another — Sotheby’s — auction, also in Hong Kong, where the pair commanded Rs.26.19 crore at the drop of the gavel.
Modi might deal in expensive baubles but he’s also managed what no other Indian jeweller has aspired to thus far — patenting two of his cuts — Ainra and Enigma, the first one by fusing diamonds like a link, the latter by setting them sans visible clamps or claws. The result is a seamless construction of diamonds; that they are made up of top class diamonds doesn’t hurt.
Last year, Modi opened his first salon in Mumbai. The big talk at the opening was his Shalimar Ring. Created in the shape of a lotus, it has a fancy pink diamond worth Rs.8.5 crore as the centre-piece. Pink diamonds are extremely rare and the Shalimar is perhaps the most valuable of the six that are over one carat each.
He also champions the case of a pair of canary yellow cushion earrings. They comprise a pair of matching yellow diamonds (31.50 and 30.88 carats, respectively), surrounded by a ring of tiny pink diamonds, and are on offer for Rs.9 crore.
The most expensive piece of jewellery, though, is the Riviere Necklace, valued at Rs.30 crore, that uses 36 round diamonds ranging between 1.2 and 6.5 carats of type IIa, which consist of the purest diamonds in the world. Wonder whether the Chinese will get their hands on it before the Indians do.