Adam Herzl spends his days around the most rare, most treasured, and most romantic of objects: diamonds. Believe me when I tell you he’s seen stuff that the rest of us never will, and to me this makes his job mysterious and exciting. In a sense Adam’s an explorer, a seeker, someone always on the lookout for what’s visually spectacular and special.
And now for the question on everybody’s mind: Are diamonds actually a girl’s best friend? Unfortunately, I can’t say that this interview answers provides a conclusive answer to that question, but it does tell a pretty interesting story about a guy and his family and the world of precious stones. Read on!
Your family has been in the diamond business for six generations. That’s a lot. What’s the story there?
We were based in Vienna. Most of my family was involved in the business in one way or another. We have paperwork as far back as 1856.
(Laughs.) How does it feel to carry the weight of that heritage in your daily life? Is it a lot of pressure?
It’s a lot of fun. I guess I’m privileged that I get to work around some really rare, unique stones. I definitely see things that most people never will.
That’s a leading comment. What’s an example of something that you’ve seen that no one will ever see?
Some remarkable fancy colored diamonds. Some large white diamonds of age, provenance…unique things.
What’s your favorite thing you’ve seen?
My favorite diamond that we ever owned was a 70-carat old cushion diamond from India that had been away for many, many, many years.
I’m having trouble even conceiving of how big 70 carats could possibly be.
This is a replica of the stone. The real one was a million times nicer, but this is a replica that we made for shipping purposes, so that the potential client could get an idea of what they were looking at.
So did the person who ordered this make a ring out of it?
I have no idea.
You just sent them the stone and that was it.
It was a purchased by a leading retailer and then disappeared.
Oh my god. Can you imagine wearing this? It would break your finger.
I’m sure it will resurface at some point.
Maybe you’ll get it back.
I doubt it.
So where did you guys find it? And how do you find things like that?
Some of the proceeds actually went to benefit a charity, and it came through our partner’s office in Zurich. That’s how it started to come to fruition. They heard that we had a very good reputation, that we appreciated stones of this caliber, that we were in the business for a long time, and that we were the right people to deal with.
You said that this was a replica…do you make replicas of all of your pieces?
No, just for certain high value pieces for shipping purposes, because the real one costs a lot of money to move around.
Right. The insurance must be insane. Wait…can you take insurance out on that, or does there literally have to be a person that travels with the item?
No, you take out insurance.
How do you ship a diamond?
Armored car. Armored air. There are logistics companies that specialize in the movement of high value items.
How do you feel about diamonds on men? We know they go on women, and we know the various purposes, but do you have strong feelings about men wearing them, and do you have suggestions for how one might successfully pull that off?
Everybody has their own unique sense of style, and my job is just to make the nicest stone. How people wear it is part of their artistic creativity.
Do people ever ask you for style advice?
In the traditional sense yes, but I’m not a designer, so what I might lean toward is more of the classic, minimalist metal, traditional settings versus making something more artistic or esoteric in design. That I would leave to the retailers’ visions and their interpretations of their style.
Do you have a favorite shape for diamond rings? I know nothing about diamonds.
Why is that?
They’re a little bit more unique, like a snowflake. We always had the old style ones that were cut even over a hundred years ago. I like things that are unique and stand out, where you don’t see yourself coming and going every minute. Of course, the round brilliant is a fantastic stone, but also one of the most popular stones. Second to a cushion would be an emerald cut. I like the classics. Cushion, emerald, pear-shape, ovals.
Do you ever wear diamonds?
I didn’t think so, but I thought I would just ask. What is a day in the life like for you? Are you handling gorgeous materials all day long?
A large part of my day I spend buying, selling, managing the factory and seeing how our production is coming along. I also supervise what we’re doing around the world with various jewelers, and make sure that I keep getting the material that they need.
Have you ever been to a diamond mine? Is that a bucket list item?
It definitely is. My father has been several times.
Wow. Is there a particular mine that you would like to visit?
I would have really enjoyed seeing the Premier mine when de Beers was operating it. They subsequently sold it some years ago, and I believe it’s be renamed the Cullinan mine after the Cullinan diamond. It’s now not running at full capacity, but they are still extracting some amazing stones, most recently a rare rough blue diamond that sold for well over $20 million.
What does that mean, a rough blue diamond?
It means a diamond that was just extracted from the earth. The free-form raw material.
What’s the most important thing one should know about stones when looking to buy them? What mistakes to do amateurs like myself tend to make?
I think that with all the information that’s available today, definitely doing your homework online, reading up. There’s so much transparency today in the diamond business. The stone should be certified, and of course you should have a reputable dealer first and foremost. You should know who the source is. I always use the Gemological Institute of America, the most respected grading agency in the industry. I would 99.9% of all of my diamonds are GIA-certified, and that of course helps.
What makes a perfect stone?
Table size, depth percentage…
Slow it down. What is table size?
When you’re talking about a round brilliant diamond, an ideal cut…
Even those terms…ideal cut…it’s like a fantasy almost.
So this is a round brilliant. This is a real one.
Can I photograph that? It’s not, like, top secret, is it?
No, it’s not top secret.
I’ve seriously never seen anything like this.
So, when I was speaking about ideal standards, beyond the color, beyond the clarity—the cut grade on this is an excellent. Why? Because it has a 62.3 depth. Ideal cuts generally have a 60 to 62.5 depth percentage. Table size. The table is the top facet on the diamond. That range is usually from a 55% table to a 59% table. Then there are angles on top of the diamond, on the crown. They have to be on a certain angle. Ideal proportions are 33 degrees and higher, or at least that’s where we like them. So this one has a 36.5 crown, so it’s got a nice high crown, and then the bottom angle is on 41 degrees. This is what leads to great refraction on a round brilliant stone. In addition to everything else, the stone has an excellent polish and an excellent symmetry and no fluorescents. Certain diamonds have fluorescent property to them—when exposed to UV light, they glow.
And that’s bad?
It is considered to be a detriment in the business. I have always argued that on certain stones, especially on darker diamonds, it actually helps them to look whiter. Traditionally speaking, it is a deterrent, and it is reflected in the value of the stone.
Do you have any advice for people buying diamonds for the first time, aside from the research? What’s the most important thing to know? Why are they so personal, and what should someone think about when buying a diamond for themselves or for another person?
Like everything else in life, when you see something that moves you, when something resonates inside of you…there should be some kind of gravitational pull to the stone that you’re going to be wearing hopefully for the rest of your life. The stone, incorporated with the design of the piece—it should be a meaningful purchase. I always say, buy the best diamond you can for your money. I’m hell-bent on quality, and nothing will ever deter me. When I see something beautiful, that’s what I want. I hate compromise. For a first time buyer who doesn’t have the biggest budget in the world, I think it’s important to find the nicest thing you can for your money.
Have you ever purchased a diamond for someone, and if so, how did you know it was the right one?
I tend toward making delicate, pretty, but extremely well-made jewelry. I always like to see diamonds float on women. I like the idea of something being painted on a person, being graceful and sitting there, unencumbered by metal. I particularly like vintage diamonds. Part of the romance for me, or the mystery, is, what could this diamond tell me? Where was it worn? What did it see? What did it bear witness to? What was the love affair behind it? The stories, the imagination are part of what I’ve always loved about this business. They’re so fascinating, and what’s even more fascinating is the person behind it who carried this thing as their personal treasure, the flagship of their jewelry chest. It makes for appreciating the beauty just beyond its intrinsic and monetary value.