Diamond cutting can be nerve-racking. So imagine doing it with a once-in-a-lifetime stone, while creating a brand-new cut, as dozens gawk at you.
Last week, veteran cutter Mike Botha ran that gauntlet when he cut the Esperanza diamond at Stanley Jewelers in Little Rock, Ark.
Colorado visitor Bobbie Oskarson unearthed the 8.52 ct. stone at the nearby Crater of Diamonds State Park in June. She named it Esperanza, after her niece.
For the last week, Botha has cut it at Stanley Jewelers, surrounded by TV cameras and curious locals, with his work broadcast live on the Internet.
Botha, president and CEO of Embee Diamond Technologies, admitted he was plying his trade in less-than-ideal circumstances.
“We had a few interruptions,” he says. “Fortunately, it’s all going to plan. I have the ability to concentrate on what I’m doing.”
Still, his most productive day was Sunday, when the store was empty.
Stanley Jewelers vice president Laura Stanley calls him a “real trouper.”
“He was cutting and polishing while fielding questions and posing for pictures,” she says. “I’m sure he’s tired, and I’m sure he’s glad it’s over, but he also seemed to have a really good time.”
The most common reaction, Botha says: “Wow, it’s big.”
The finished stone is likely to be around 4 cts. Botha feels confident that it will be graded a D color but is less certain about the clarity grade.
“We had three gemologists look for inclusions in it, and they didn’t find any,” he says. “I cannot see any reason why it cannot be internally flawless. You can never tell. There might be something that the labs can pick up.”
Making matters trickier was the rough’s unusual shape.
“I have never seen such a pristine diamond as far as color and clarity,” Botha says. “But the shape was horrendous. I could have forced an emerald cut. But then it would have been just another 4 ct. emerald.”
Instead, he came up with a new cut, which he dubbed the triolette.
“It is kind of triangular cut,” he says. “Three sides will face up. It is like a briolette, but it returns light.”
It will eventually receive a report from the American Gem Society lab and be set into a necklace by designer Erica Courtney. Heritage Auctions plans to sell it in Dallas on Dec. 7. In the end, the stone will have been found, cut, set, and sold in America.
Stanley says her store had an eye on the stone ever since it was discovered.
“We are two hours from the [Crater of Diamonds] so we try to keep up on what is going on down there,” she says. “[Mike’s son] Evert called me and said we have to get that diamond. It is going to be a really great diamond.”
She called the Crater and asked to be kept updated. As it turned out, she didn’t need to; the finder took it to Denver appraiser Neil Beaty, who like Stanley and Botha, is an AGS member. He referred it to Stanley.
The event garnered tons of media attention, which, in turn, drew around 500 people to the store, including its finder. (She told an Arkansas TV station she hopes to buy a house and pay down her debt with whatever money comes from it.) Some even drove hours to attend.
While the crowds don’t seem to have fazed Botha, he does have one more thing hanging over his head: a deadline. Heritage has wanted it done as soon as possible so it can grace the cover of its catalog.
But whether it’s because of all the fuss or just the quirks of the stone itself, the cutting has taken longer than expected. In one text message, reproduced on the stone’s Facebook page, Botha admits he “spent three hours on one hard facet.”
Still, he plans to finish his creation today.
“You can’t boil a five-minute egg in three minutes,” he says.
Courtesy Stanley Jewelers
Bobbie Oskarson the finder meets Mike Botha the cutter.