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Diamonds are a girl’s best friend

October 5, 2012

A visit to Shimansky’s diamond and jewellery workshop in Cape Town will certainly make you realise that jewellery making is an art form in its own right. 

Even just polishing a diamond is a full time job, and as the tour shows you all about the jewellery making process, you discover that buying diamonds just on our doorstep in Cape Town is hugely fascinating.

Behind the scenes of diamond buying

On entering the sparkling world of Shimansky you find craftsmen delicately constructing settings out of platinum, an ideal medium for precious and semi-precious stones. Platinum is incredibly durable and doesn’t tarnish or corrode. The metal is polished by machine using a special kind of wax to give the metal its smooth shine.

So how long does it take to make a diamond ring?

A classic solitaire (a ring with one single diamond) may take six hours to make, whereas something more intricate may take up to 18 hours. Each of the jewellers at Shimansky’s train for three to five years, during which they work as an apprentice; many have even born into the industry.

In the cutting room master craftsmanship and intimidating machinery work seemlessly together. In another room, another member of the Shimansky polishes diamonds using a Sarin machine with copper blades and diamond dust. This process demands continuous monitoring, and it can take from six to eight hours.

You discover that cut, clarity, colour and carat, and the tremendous effect that all of these factors have on the value of a diamond; are important points to consider when buying a diamond.

What’s the point in a diamond if it doesn’t sparkle?

The cut of the diamond is the most important of the four C’s, and the benchmark-cut is based on the optics of a diamond designer named Marcel Tolkowsky. This Belgian engineer calculated the ideal angle at which a stone claims ‘its most vivid fire and its greatest brilliancy’, meaning that perfect cut with which the diamond retains its ability to reflect the most light. If it’s cut too deep or shallow then light escapes out the sides or the bottom, leading to a loss of brilliance.

Apparently, all diamonds are compared with a master set at internationally recognised laboratories. Diamonds are then classified and checked for inclusions and blemishes using a 10x magnifying glass.

As you leave the workshop and move into the jewellery showroom, the sudden sparkling culmination of all of these processes is so much brighter. You peer into a Scope viewer (magnifying glass) to observe a Shimansky Eight Hearts super ideal cut diamond, which displays a perfect eight-heart pattern when viewed from the bottom, and a perfect eight-arrow star when viewed from the top.

This is how you can tell that the diamond has been cut to perfect proportions. The spectrum of rainbow colours and the way that light shone from every angle was stunning.

A Shimansky workshop tour is well worth a visit – even if you don’t decide to buy your own sparkler.

Cape Town Diamond Museum

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