So this is the story as it happened. I am got permission to write about it, but there will be no names and no pictures.
I was futzing around with princess cut citrines at D’s booth in one of the exchanges on 47th Street, when one of his friends came downstairs from the office. “They’re cutting a natural green diamond. You should come up and see it.”
A green diamond? “That’s a natural color – no treatment?” I wanted to know. “It exists, but they are extremely rare,” was the answer. So when it was time to close, D. quickly shoved his trays into the safe and we headed upstairs, to the 15th floor of the building across the street. We rang the bell. D’s been using the office for nearly 30 years, but still, we had to get buzzed in.
The diamond cutters place was tiny. The front “office” just fits the desk and some rickety chairs, the dirty windows face the back alley and there’s dust and grime everywhere from all the cutting. Two Italian guys that I’d never seen before were lazing on the chairs, smoking cigarettes.
The cutting room next door was even smaller. There were three cutting wheels crammed next to one another, two of them constantly whirring around, the third one occupied by the guy who fixes the wheels, and who uses the space because he doesn’t one of his own. The three high chairs for the cutters just fit into the narrow space, wheels to be fixed were lining the wall behind them. D’s friend was sitting at his wheel, letting it shave away at a morsel of green glitter that was tightly fastened onto a grip.
The mood seemed relaxed, and I started chatting with the Italian guys. Or tried to – one of them know only a few words of English (names of gemstones, mostly), the other managed complete sentences here and there. They traveled the world, they said, looking for diamonds and gold, going into mines and finding places to dig. “Not very safe,” they claimed, there was always a chance of getting malaria or some other disease. The green diamond, they had found on their latest dig somewhere in
. To have it cut, they stopped in Brazil on their way home. Then they were going to try to sell it. New York
Meanwhile, the cutter had completed the bottom facets and much of the top of the stone. D didn’t take his eyes off of it. “You need to always be sure where the diamond is,” he said to me quietly. “If it falls, we’ll be looking for it all over.” That’s when I first realized that things were much less relaxed than I had thought. The cutter, too, didn’t take his eyes off the stone. He checked the facets every minute or so. He told me that he usually just did just the back facets, which was his specialty, but the brilliandeer, the guy who does the front facets, was away in
, so he had to do those as well. “Haven’t done this in ages,” he said, “but it all comes back. It’s just in how the hands move.” India
By now, my eyes were fixated on the stone as well. That was a good thing, it turned out, because at one point the cutter tried to pick it up with his tweezers to loupe it, and it fell on the table. My eyes followed it automatically, so I spotted it first. “There.” “Thank you,” he said, followed by a sigh of relief. Meanwhile, D joked around to break the tension, skipping his 6 o’clock
Long Island train.
So what was so special about this piece that we had to keep the cutter calm, and never taking our eyes off the stone? The gem, once it was finished, turned out to be miniscule, maybe .25 carats and just 5x3mm diameter. So surely it wasn’t the size. I was trying to figure out how to ask. “Have any of you ever seen a natural green diamond before?” I looked around the room. “No, never,” was the answer. Not the cutter who’s been cutting for 30 years, not his friend who fixed the wheels, not D., and not of the Italian guys. Nobody. Not that color. It was emerald green, more grassy green from the side and a little more bluish green from the top. I didn’t even know diamonds could look like that.
D and I stayed for another hour, until the stone was done, which took two or three hours in total. For this “once in a lifetime” job, the cutter got paid $200. The stone didn’t have a ton of facets, and it had a tiny hole somewhere which, upon mutual decision, didn’t get polished out because it would make the gem even smaller. My parting question to the Italians: “how much will you try to get for this stone?” The answer? “Between $25,000 and 50,000.” Presumably, I will never see a natural green diamond again.