Diamond Departures

On a January evening in Paris, at a gala reception at the Louvre museum, 29 talented individuals received one of the industry’s most prestigious honors—a Diamonds-International Award. Two American jewelry designers were among the honorees for the year 2000 Diamonds-International contest: Martin Gruber of Nova Designs in Van Nuys, Calif., and Kyriakos Somos of Somos Creations in Valley Cottage, N.Y. This is Gruber’s fourth time in the Diamonds-International winners’ circle. Somos has won prizes in 18 various international design competitions, including a De Beers Diamonds Today award, but this is his first Diamonds-International prize.

The Diamonds-International Awards, sponsored by De Beers, since 1953 have been the source of some of the most original and influential designs in diamond jewelry and jewelry in general. The latest edition of the biennial competition asked entrants to create special jewels for the new millennium. Designers rose to the challenge, using more than 47,000 diamonds in total, weighing in at more than 2,000 cts.

The 29 winning designs, from 16 countries, were selected by an independent panel of judges, all leading figures in the world of fashion and design. Included on the panel were Joan Juliet Buck, editor-in-chief of Vogue France; noted fashion critics Sergio Salerni of Italy and Andre Leon Talley of the United States; and American jewelry photographer Albert Watson. Five of the winners came from Japan. Italy, Brazil, and India each had three; France, South Africa and the United States each had two; and Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Korea, Mexico, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom each had one.

Looking to the sky. Gruber, whose signature is finding innovative new ways of setting a diamond, is one of America’s most clever designers. In his hands, diamonds often appear to swirl, float, or stand on end. Following his lead, diamond jewelry manufacturers have been inspired to go beyond the traditional setting techniques and establish a modern, fashionable aesthetic. Somos’s designs—even his largest pieces—maintain a distinctive delicacy in their proportions and in the intricate surface detailing he often uses.

Gruber’s award-winning inspiration came from both a futuristic image of outer space and the geometry of a diamond itself. “If you lay a [round] diamond on a flat surface, unless you lay it on its table, it will always lie at a 45-degree angle, with the surface as the plane,” he says. “I just look at the stone sitting there, and say, ‘How can I hold this?’ I let the stone ‘speak’ to me—I just follow it.”

Somos also found his inspiration in the cosmos, but he chose a star because it symbolizes a beam of light that can be seen all over the world. “I wanted to make a star that was unique but gave off a great deal of brilliance. Diamonds were the perfect way to achieve this,” he says.

Both designers feel that the past is an essential part of art of the future. “I think as we go into the next century, we will be influenced greatly by computers and technology, which will create new and exciting ways to acquire vast amounts of information. However, we have lost that personal touch of being able to interact on a human level, and I think people are hungry for that element,” says Somos. His many-pointed star embodies his love of both nature and romance. “I look forward to a bright new century,” he says.

“I’m enamored with looking back to see where we’re going,” says Gruber. “Lots is going on in the creative process today, but if you go back to ancient designs, you see a basic simplicity that worked then and works now.” His winning design, which evokes a feeling of space and orbit, does incorporate that love of basic, simple shapes—intersecting circles and a pear shape. And, of course, it incorporates a new technique of invisibly setting diamonds so that they appear to float in space.

Following the gala awards ceremony, which was held during haute couture fashion week in Paris, the collection will go on tour to 15 countries.