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The resurgence of vintage hasn’t been limited to clothing and design: jewellery design also seems to be harking back to the styles of years past, says Karl Schwantes from Brisbane’s Xennox Diamond World. “The trend in the last three to five years has been towards finer, more delicate vintage-inspired design. The use of diamond halos and very fine claws is certainly very popular, and very thin bands and knife-edge styles are also in demand.”

And yellow gold is being trumped by the softer tones of white gold. “White gold typically appears more delicate to the eye, and tends to disappear against the diamond. White gold tends not to influence the colour of the diamond it surrounds, something that can sometimes be an issue with yellow gold setting.”

A cut (and colour) above

It’s not just the settings that are subject to change, however: the traditional round brilliant cut is back in the look books. “In the last year or two we’ve seen a shift away from princess cut diamonds back to round brilliant cut diamonds,” says Karl. But although the shape and setting preferred for a diamond is undergoing a shift of sorts, couples remain quite consistent in their love of diamonds of certain colours: namely white, pink and yellow.

Karl is a pink diamond enthusiast, admiring the stones for their rich colour and elegant appeal. “Pink diamonds are amazing,” he says. Already a rare diamond, however–the Argyle Mine in West Australia is the only supplier of consistently deep pink diamonds in the world–they are becoming increasingly hard to obtain. Their genuine rarity makes them not just an eye-catching purchase, but a solid investment as well: with each passing year a pink diamond will increase in value by twenty per cent.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean that pink diamonds are out of the reach of the everyday person. “You can incorporate pink diamonds into your ring without making them a major stone. You might consider having a series of small pink diamonds set into the band, for example.”

Black and cognac diamonds have made waves recently, but tend not to be the preferred choice for an engagement ring. “Diamonds in those colours are usually used in designs where the client is looking for something quite different. They’re often seen as something more appropriate to a dress ring rather than necessarily as an engagement ring. They’re also nowhere near as valuable as a pink diamond.”

There are, however, persistent misconceptions about coloured diamonds, particularly those of lighter hues. “Sometimes people confuse fancy coloured diamonds, such as canary diamonds or champagne diamonds, with an off-colour white diamond. This isn’t the case at all. True fancy coloured diamonds are an entirely different class of diamond altogether: in fact, they have their own separate grading system.”

They are also distinct from stones such as yellow sapphires, which are much lower on the hardness scale and will scratch and wear over time. There seems to be growing awareness of these stones, however. Karl notes that yellow diamonds, alongside pink diamonds, are the most popular coloured diamond he sells.

Wedding your rings

It’s not just the stone itself that couples need to consider when purchasing an engagement ring. One issue that Karl comes across regularly is clients struggling to pair an engagement ring with a wedding ring.

“Nine times out of ten it’s that the engagement ring has been made incorrectly, and it’s almost invariably a question of the skills of the manufacturer. Bending and manipulating the claws used in a setting so that they come to a perfect point is very difficult to do, but it’s what’s needed for a ring that can be paired with a straight wedding band.”

Karl ensures that all Xennox designs can be tidily paired with a straight band. “It’s very easy to take a setting and simply pair a band with it–which is what a lot of shops, and particularly chain shops, will do–but at the end of the day it isn’t enough. We see a lot of clients whose rings need to be reset in order to properly fit a straight wedding band.”

Are straight wedding bands the only option? “We only used curved bands where the setting entirely prohibits having a straight band,” says Karl, noting that most clients prefer the look of a straight band over a curved band. “And of course what you do to one side of the band influences what needs to be done to the other: using a curved band will affect your options when it comes to selecting an eternity ring.”

It’s worth getting things right the first time, then. “We do say to clients that it’s worth going through a little bit of pain now to guarantee that you’ll have a ring whose look you’ll enjoy for the rest of your life.”

And form is essential to this enjoyment. “Rings should be carefully designed not simply to hold a diamond, but to show off the stone in its best light.”

The design team

“Nine times out of ten we end up customising the ring to some degree,” says Karl. For example, a ring for a small hand may need to be redesigned so that the height and size of the diamond is in proportion to the wearer’s finger. The proportions and angles of a design are essential to achieving that all-important ‘wow’ factor.”

But design is a joint effort. “I work with clients to prepare a three-dimensional sketch using specialised design software, and this allows the design process to be quite fluid: I can erase or refine on the spot. We also get clients to try on rings with different heights, widths and so on to get a feel for what they like.” And Karl is exacting when it comes to documenting these proportions. “We measure to within a tenth of a millimetre,” he says.

Because Xennox uses a traditional approach to jewellery making, clients can come in at any time to see the progress on their ring. “They can come and have a look at the ring when it’s in pieces to examine the individual components and give them their stamp of approval or to ask for further refinements.”

But not all of Karl’s work is commissioned. How does he go about coming up with his own designs? “I try to think outside the box when I design, and there is an art to it. After all, how do you take something so simple and classic as a six claw solitaire and put a new twist on it?”

Karl strives to create something that brings together both the unusual and the elegant. “I don’t like designing gaudy jewellery that you might only wear once. I like to design jewellery that you’re going to love just as much in twenty years’ time. It will have a classic feel to it, but will be different: maybe I’ll pair two diamonds together but invert one to create an hourglass shape, for example.”

Diamonds are forever


Karl’s passion for his work is evident in his fond memories of the jewellery that he has designed. “They’re like children,” he laughs. “I think I remember pieces of jewellery better than I do people. I’ll look at a ring and say, ‘oh, I remember that ring’.”

There are some in particular, however, that stick in Karl’s mind. “I made a ring once that had three fancy-coloured diamonds in it: it had a green diamond, a pink diamond, and a yellow all surrounded by white pave diamonds.”

Another favourite is a ring that travelled across half the world as part of a proposal. “It was a three-carat emerald cut diamond with baguette cut diamonds running around all the way around the band. The client gave me a week to make the ring as he was flying to France–where he wanted to propose to his girlfriend.”

A week, however, was not enough for such a beauty: this highly elaborate ring took two and a half weeks to complete, and the couple was already in the City of Lights. Fortunately, Karl’s assertion that Xennox provides a full design service is no empty boast: “When the ring was finished, we sent a staff member on a plane to Paris to meet him at his hotel.”

Contact Xennox Diamonds

Visit Karl and his team online at DiamondWorld.com.au, or follow their tweets at @xennox 

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