Interview - Portrait

The incredible success story of Laurence Graff

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Laurence Graff was born and raised in London, starting as an apprenticeship with a jeweller in Hatton Garden jewellery district at an early age.Within a short space of time he began making his own pieces and by the time he was 24 years old he had opened two jewellery stores in London. He started travelling the world, creating more important diamond pieces as his clientele grew.

By the age of 30 Graff had built up one of the largest jewellery manufacturing businesses in Britain, and counted some of the world’s wealthiest individuals as his customers.

In 1973, Graff became the first jeweller to be presented with the Queen’s Award to Industry and Export, an award he would go on to win on three more occasions. In the same year he opened his first major retail establishment in London’s prestigious Knightsbridge. The Graff brand grew and the opening of the flagship store on New Bond Street signalled the beginning of a new era of exclusivity and global luxury brand expansion.

Today Graff is a preeminent diamond jewellery brand with over 30 stores around the world including New York, Monte Carlo, Gstaad, Courchevel, Kiev, Beijing and Taipei; 2012 has seen the opening of new stores in Dubai and Hangzhou and Macau, furthering Graff’s expansion in Asia. Graff has corporate offices in London, New York, Geneva, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Laurence Graff is the controlling shareholder in the South African Diamond Corporation (SAFDICO) a diamond wholesaler and manufacturer based in Johannesburg. Manufacturing operations in Johannesburg, Antwerp, New York and Botswana, cut and polish tens of thousands of Graff diamonds every year. These diamonds are then used to create Graff’s unique jewellery by the designers and master craftsmen based at the Headquarters in London’s Mayfair. Botswana is home to the SAFDICO Diamond Technology Park, the central hub for the country’s burgeoning diamond cutting industry, employing 500 people and using state of the art technology and skill. Graff Diamonds Group is also a shareholder in Gem Diamonds, a publicly quoted company, mining for diamonds worldwide.

Laurence Graff has handled the most fabulous and treasured gemstones and diamonds in the world, including the Idol’s Eye, the Emperor Maximillian, the Porter Rhodes, the Windsor Diamonds, the Hope of Africa, the Begum Blue, the Paragon, the Star of America, the Golden Star, the Wittelsbach-Graff, the Lesotho Promise, the Delaire Sunrise, the Graff Constellation, the Graff Pink and the newly unveiled Graff Sweethearts, to name but a few. Graff remembers, “When I came across my first diamond I was struck, mesmerized. I felt that I could see right inside the stone and could tell you what it contained. It was an inherent feeling which  turned into a lifetime passion. The hunt for diamonds goes on. We search on a daily basis for stones in the rough or polished. The best stones are rarer than anyone could ever imagine.”

Symbolising the brand and the values it stands for, Laurence Graff oversees the finding and production of the unique and exceptional diamonds he has always loved. Having set an unsurpassed standard of excellence and innovation in the industry, it has been said that he has handled more important quality gemstones than any other diamantaire. In 2007 Graff published ‘The Most Fabulous Jewels in the World’ – a definitive coffee table book chronicling Graff’s amazing journey and important jewels. All proceeds of this publication support the Nelson Mandela’s Children’s Fund.

A world leader within the diamond industry, Laurence Graff is equally devoted to philanthropic and humanitarian causes. In addition to supporting an array of charities through the Graff Diamonds Foundation, Graff established The FACET Foundation (For Africa’s Children Every Time) in 2008. FACET makes grants to charitable projects in sub-Saharan Africa within the fields of education and training, health, the relief of poverty and community development, focusing on charities which provide long-term, sustainable and comprehensive solutions for those in need, with a particular focus on children, youth, caregivers and communities. Since its inception, FACET has built two Graff Leadership Centres, one in Lesotho and one in Botswana. A third Centre is planned for the South African Winelands.

An avid collector of modern and contemporary art, Laurence Graff sits on the Executive Committees of the International Director’s Council of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the International Council of the Tate Modern in London, the Berggruen Museum in Berlin and is an International Trustee and full board member of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and on the Board of Governors for the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Graff says, ‘I am inspired by everything around me – art, buildings, people, natural elements, cultures, simple stones on a beach. Everything. But in the end it is when I have diamonds in my hand that shapes and designs come to mind. The diamond tells the story. I was born to be amongst diamonds.”

Laurence Graff acquired Delaire Graff Estate in 2003, and has since transformed it into an exceptional luxury destination located in the heart of South Africa’s Winelands. The Estate features an award-winning vineyard, two restaurants, lodges and a spa, all set in magnificent Stellenbosch Valley.

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