Amazing the bizarre stuff you find when surfing the web. Loved this story about the truly ginormous diamond floating about in space.
The boffins who discovered it have rather predictably named it Lucy – after the Lennon-penned Beatles classic, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds (amazing that debate still rages on whether or not the song was an ode to the trippy drug LSD or not).
All of which put me in mind of my favourite jeweller, Alistir Tait. OK, so Alistir’s a client, but that’s not the reason I like him so much.
Rather, the guy discovered a love of geology as a 12-year-old boy and quickly realised the that the most important rocks out there were of the precious variety. In the 38 years or so since then he has poured himself into the science, art, history – and sheer unadulterated passion – of the jewellery trade. He’s an accomplished gemmologist, goldsmith and jewellery historian.
Too few people realise that Scotland has rare reserves of gold, silver, freshwater pearls, sapphires, garnets – as well as other semi-precious resources including agates, rare marble, jasper. Alistir is one of the few jewellers who goes out into mountains, fields, rivers, beaches and caves to find his own precious and semi-preciouse stones. Show me another High Street jeweller who’ll do that.
Nor is Alistir’s shop in Rose Street, Edinburgh like any of the identikit, chrome-and-glass and achinlgy trendy jewellery shops (Lime Blue anyone?). Which means you won’t be served by some plooky girl who is dreaming of nothing more than a move to the Ladies department at Harvey Nicks.
If you should be lucky enough to buy a piece from Alistir’s shop, it won’t be some predictably trendy bauble mass produced in China. Rather, you’ll get something with an interesting history – and Alistir or one of his staff will have taken the time to learn about it and share it with you.
It’s that passion, knowledge and personal touch – undimmed after 25 years of trading in Edinburgh – that make Alistir my favourite jeweller.
Among the most interesting pieces I’ve seen in his shops were a set of cufflinks called the four vices (better than any I’ve been able to find on the net, inlcuding those in the link). The enamelled Edwardian (I think) pieces were adorned with tiny, beautifully hand painted images depicting dancing girls, cards, horse racing and drinking – decades before the Loaded generation thought they were the first to openly and publicly lay claim to such past times. If I’d had a couple of hundred quid spare, I’d have bought them on the spot.
Even when it comes to that timeless jewellery staple – diamonds – Alistir is a cut above the norm. As well as the usual High Street quality diamonds, he is probably unique in Scotland in keeping a stock of D-Flawless diamonds which customers can choose to have incorporated into jewellery designed exclusively for them.
Just to explain, diamonds are graded according to the four Cs – cut, clarity, carat, colour. The highest quality diamonds are D-coloured and flawless in clarity (which means they have none of the tiny internal flaws, known to the professionals as inclusions).
If I’d read this in a website, newspaper or a book I’d have forgotten it. But having it explained by Alistir brought the subject alive. As a true expert and aficionado he also shared with me the concept of perfect diamonds – stones so so stunningly beautiful and relatively rare that even lifelong gemmologist like him still get a genuine thrill whenever they are lucky to enough to get hold of one.
As well as being D-Coloured and flawless in Clarity, expert gemmologists agree the other ingredients in the perfect diamond are the optimum single Carat weight and the breathtaking round brilliant Cut. Indeed in hushed tones, Alistir was even able to produce such an exquisite stone: a single carat, round brilliant cut, D-coloured, flawless clarity – set in a simple platinum band.
It was mesmerisingly beautiful in its unadorned simplicity. Hence the £16,000 price tag. All of which leaves me unsurprised that some enterprising souls have already valued the ten billion trillion trillion carat diamond floating in space.
Apparently it is worth five million trillion trillion pounds. Is there anybody out there who can explain how many zeroes that involves?