The story begins with the 1994 Guinness Book of Records that diamond master Gabi Tolkowsky1 presented to his friend, Ran Gorenstein, then takes us back to a dagger, a finjan, a tray, coffee cups and a child's dress that King Abdullah of Jordan presented to Ran Gorenstein's maternal grandfather and ends with 55 facets, weighing 555.55 carats, recorded in the 2006 Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest cut diamond. The story, as told by Ran Gorenstein to HaYahalom editor Shira Ami, of the black diamond with a metallic appearance offers us an opportunity to learn about a diamantaire, the son of a diamond cutter who was born in Israel and lives in Belgium, who is a qualified attorney and studied accountancy and has become a creative master of diamond cutting.
According to Ran Gorenstein, the idea of cutting a diamond inspired by the concept of the hamsa - the palm-shaped amulet widely used to symbolize luck and ward off the evil eye in Middle Eastern cultures -began with his grandfather, the late Bernard Crohn. The grandson noticed a dagger, finjan, and a set of coffee cups. It probably wasn't the first time he'd seen these items, but evidently it was the first time he asked his mother to tell him their story. And this is what she told him: "When I was a young child my father and I went to Jordan to visit his good friend, the Jordanian King Abdullah, grandfather of Hussein Ben Tallal, who would later rule Jordan. King Abdullah ordered a dress to be made for me - I have kept it to this day - and he gave your grandfather a finjan, cups and a dagger." "My mother sighed with nostalgia and expressed the hope that one day our relationship with the royal family would be renewed," Ran Gorenstein tells us. "Many years later, I was sitting in a restaurant near Christie's in Paris with my youngest daughter, Elinor, who was then working as deputy manager of the Daniel Swarovski Company.2 Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Prince Hassan, then the Crown Prince, who was expected to inherit the throne upon King Hussein I's death, entering. The prince, who was not accompanied by security men, sat down with his guests at one of the tables.
I hesitated for just a moment before I approached him and told my story. We spoke for a long time. Prince Hassan was attending a peace conference that he had initiated, and that gave me the idea - to cut the huge rough diamond I had in the spirit of the hamsa, sell it at an auction, and contribute 20% of the income to a peace foundation. The road from the dream to its realization was long and packed with challenging adventures.
For instance, when we began cutting the coating we found holes, which required us to revise our plan with great precision in order to reach a smooth polished surface. It also took exceptional creativity and extraordinary technical skill to process the special black stone and render a polished diamond where the digit 5 appeared in all measurements (in accordance with the hamsa concept). For this purpose, we employed professional craftsmen as well as physics professors." Ran Gorenstein reveals that "the weight of the rough was so tremendous, and we could have cut a much larger diamond than we did, but I focused on the final outcome. In the end, we presented a diamond that has 55 facets and a precise weight of 555.55 carats. This result was reconfirmed by the American GIA as well as the Swiss Gubelin Gem Lab. Reaching identical weight results is not an easy matter, as the different laboratories often differ very slightly in their measurements." Smiling, he adds that the stone also achieved another record - the length of gemological certificate (3 pages) and the price paid for it (which is based on the size of the diamond).
Gorenstein also tells us, "according to laboratories, this diamond was evidently formed close to the surface of the earth, in a process involving natural chemical pressure created by the collision of a meteorite with the earth, and/or it is made of material from space that reached the earth as a special sort of meteorite. Whatever its origin, the gemological certificates describe it as a Fancy Black Diamond." Elinor Gorenstein adds that the gemological reports indicate the high quality of the cut, and note that the surface luster creates an almost metallic appearance, which is very rare. "Those who worked on processing the diamond were surprised to find that both reports recognized the existence of red diamonds within the huge diamond - an amazing phenomenon in its own right," she says.
The process of polishing the stone took several years. Ran Gorenstein kept the achievement to himself until he met the kabbalist known as "the Milkman," who recommended that he publicize the special story of the diamond. In 2006, Gorenstein's wife, Sarah, told him that for his grandchildren's sake, he should submit the diamond for registration in the Guinness Book of Records. Ran accepted the suggestions of the kabbalist and his wife, and decided to reveal the diamond to the world. The Guinness World Records registered it as the world's largest cut diamond, outweighing the two record-winners known at the time - the Great Star of Africa (530.20 carats), which was cut from the Cullinan and is kept by the Queen of England in the Tower of London,3 and the brownish-yellow Golden Jubilee Diamond (545.65 carats), which belongs to the King of Thailand.4
Gorenstein's large black diamond is still unnamed, leaving that decision to its eventual owner. However, Ran Gorenstein has registered several related trademarks: the name Putin Diamond, in case the stone is purchased by an oligarch who wants to donate it to a museum, the model of the diamond for a perfume bottle, and the name of the future perfume -Black Diamond - which he also registered as the name of a vodka, since diamond powder can be used to distill vodka. And while he was at it, Gorenstein also registered the model of a diamond to be created for producing a Faberge egg.
From One Generation to the Next
The metallic-like appearance of the large fancy black diamond is not new to the Gorenstein family of diamond cutters. However, before we tell you about the metallic-looking spherical diamonds created by the Gorensteins, let's stop for a moment to make our acquaintance with the family members.
We'll begin with the founding father and Diamond Industry Dignitary, the late Eli Gorenstein. Eli was born in Egypt in 1922, to parents who had immigrated to Palestine from Russia in the early twentieth century, were deported by the Turks to Egypt and returned to this country in 1933. In 1940 he began work as an apprentice in Carol Pickel's factory and later he took a managerial post with Sam Mo'ed and Sons, alongside the head manager, the late Arie Moldawsky. Like many workers in the Israeli diamond industry, he became self-employed as a result of the major crisis that hit the local industry in 1946, when Belgium resumed activities as a diamond center. With the establishment of the state, he enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces, but during his service the Central Union for Cooperative Initiative and the Tel Aviv labor council called upon him to set up a diamond plant in Tzefat, in order to train the many new immigrants arriving in the country. After setting up the factory, he returned to the army, completed his service and then resumed work as a self-employed diamond manufacturer. During the 1960s he set up a factory in a building constructed by the late Arie Moldawsky. At its peak, his business employed 180 workers and hundreds of subcontractors. In the 1960s he became a sightholder and remained so until he decided to concede the sight.
In 1977 he closed the factory and continued manufacturing with groups of subcontractors. Throughout his years of activity in the Israeli diamond industry, Eli Gorenstein was a member of the IsDMA Executive Committee. In 1996 the IsDMA awarded him the title of Diamond Industry Dignitary.
The late Eli Gorenstein, who passed away in 2004, was the uncle of IsDMA honorary president, Yigal Hausman, who presided over the IsDMA from 1995-2001: "My dear uncle, the late Eli Gorenstein, had a full and fascinating life; he brought joy to those around him and imparted great knowledge to the younger generation," says Hausman. "His professional skill was so great that he didn't need any instrument to determine, with great precision, how to get the most out of a rough diamond. In all aspects of diamond engineering, he was a walking encyclopedia. His drafting ability was extraordinary and the accuracy of his 3D vision never ceased to amaze me. The expertise of many members of the diamond industry can be credited to Eli's teaching skill."
A year after Eli passed away, his son, Ran-David Gorenstein donated a Torah scroll to the Israel Diamond Exchange synagogue in memory of his father. Speaking of the home where he grew up, Ran (born 1950) says, "My sister, the late Iris, and I were weaned on diamonds. When I was in the army, I would run to the factory between shifts, and when I was studying law I would rush off to the university at five in the evening after a full day of work in the factory. I was qualified as an attorney in 1974. I learned accountancy at the same time, but in those days one couldn't be a member of the Israel bar association and the CPA institute at the same time. When I joined the company after completing my studies, my father told me 'now you can forget everything you learned.' Nowadays, even though we still welcome our children into the diamond business, we also hope they remember what they learn in school."
In 1977 my father closed the factory and I moved to Belgium with my wife Sarah (nee Goren, former Israeli beauty queen) and our one-year-old daughter, Hilit. I continued to work with my father until 1982, when I founded RDH Diamonds (R for Rona and D for Dana - my sister Iris's daughters – and H for Hilit, my eldest). Hilit is a graduate of the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design. Avishai, her husband holds an MBA from the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, and before joining the business he was involved in marketing management of a public computer firm. My younger daughter, Elinor, 29, is a world-class expert in vintage jewelry. She worked at Christies and Sotheby's, served as deputy manager of Daniel Swarovski in Paris and managed a private business in New York before her recent immigration to Israel."
The Metallic Look
Together Ran Gorenstein and Hilit Gorenstein-Gendelman have developed a very unique product: a shiny spherical diamond, patented in most countries, including Israel, of course. The diamond is manufactured from industrial rough, becoming gem quality when set in jewelry.
Hilit Gendelman explains: "The idea for the sphere diamond is to use very inexpensive rough, as the manufacturing process involves very low utilization rates (40%). In principle, this is industrial rough that is transformed into a gem diamond. Marketing these diamonds is not easy, as we need to persuade consumers that the large round stones in the jewelry are genuine diamonds (which is not always obvious at first glance). Ran Gorenstein adds that in the past, the special manufacturing process was applied to expensive rough, reaching up to $20,000 a carat, at all grades of clarity. "You never know what color you'll get," says Ran Gorenstein, showing us grey diamonds with a metallic look, orange-pink diamonds and a fairly transparent white. "Diamond cutters look for the sparkle in the stone. We look for the opposite," he says. "The main idea behind these stones is the spherical model and, most important, the smooth and brilliant surface, without facets." As a few other diamond cutters have been attracted to the idea, it is important to Ran Gorenstein to mention that all jewelry set with spherical, shiny diamonds like those he designs have been removed from the auction catalogues worldwide. Similarly, all pieces of jewelry and diamonds resembling his model have also been removed from the displays at the Basel show.
With apparently endless enthusiasm, Ran Gorenstein continues to seek out new ideas. We hope that the Milkman will continue to tell him to publicize them. •
1The world's largest polished diamond at the time was the Golden Jubilee, cut by Gabi Tolkowsky, a world-renowned master of diamond cutting. Born in Israel and a resident of Belgium, Tolkowsky, who comes from a long line of diamond cutters, also polished the De Beers Centenary Diamond, with a final weight of 273 carats and D Flawless quality (the world's fifth largest diamond) and developed special cuts such as the Gabrielle, the Zoe and others.
2. Daniel Swarovski is an exclusive subsidiary of the international Swarovski Company. The parent company's roots reach back to the days of Daniel Swarovski I, born in 1862 in Bohemia, Austro-Hungary, an important center of glass and crystal manufacturing, to a father who specialized in hand cutting crystals. At the age of 21, Daniel Swarovski began working on a machine to cut crystals, a project he completed in 1892. In 1895, financiers Armand Kosmann and Franz Weis founded the Swarovski company, originally known as A. Kosmann, Daniel Swarovski & Co., and later shortened to K.S. & Co. The company established a crystal-cutting factory in Wattens, Austria, which employed the grinding processes that Daniel Swarovski had patented. Today Swarovski specializes in fashion accessories and various crystal-based ornaments, and Daniel Swarovski specializes in jewelry, handbags, accessories and interior design objects.
3The Cullinan, the world's largest rough diamond ever found, weighing 3106 carats, was discovered in 1905 at the Premier Mine in South Africa. It was named for the mine director, Sir Thomas Cullinan. The South African government purchased the diamond and presented it as a gift to King Edward VII of England. The Asscher family, a renowned firm of diamond polishers and traders from Holland, appointed to do the cleaving, which resulted in three large pieces, nine smaller pieces and 92 small diamonds. The cutting process took about a year, and yielded the world’s two largest polished diamonds at the time -the Great Star of Africa (530.2 carats) and the Lesser Star of Africa (317.4 carats). Talking Diamonds, by Shalom Lissitzky, published by the Israel Diamond Institute, 2005 (Hebrew).
4In February 1995, during the jubilee celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the coronation of the King of Thailand, De Beers presented what was then the world's largest cut diamond (weighing 545.65 carats) at the BOI fair. The diamond, which is a brown-yellow color and was cut from 755.50 carats rough, was discovered in 1986 at De Beers' Premier Mine in South Africa. The legendary diamond cutter, Gabi Tolkowsky, worked on cutting the Golden Jubilee for over two years. Because of ?aws in the stone, he did not attempt to clean it. Talking Diamonds, by Shalom Lissitzky, published by the Israel Diamond Institute, 2005 (Hebrew).