In brief: The firm has created a proprietary diamond cut christened the Fred Leighton Round that is based on the proportions of an Old European cut yet displays the heightened brilliance—and contemporary faceting technology—of a modern stone. This important debut is presented within a collection of vintage-inspired engagement rings that offers bridal customers a luxurious “something old meets something new” option—and the unique thrill of wearing a bit of both iconic brands at the same time.
For those who have been anticipating a Kwiat x Fred Leighton collaboration for more than a decade, the wait is over. And yet there’s something interesting about the form it has taken, especially if you were expecting something splashier like a red carpet capsule or a traveling exhibition.
Below, a conversation with Kwiat CEO Greg Kwiat for a deeper understanding of what makes the Fred Leighton Round a unique, thoughtful addition to his family’s diamond-centric jewelry business.
JCK: Why did a bridal collection seem like the right approach for the premiere of a Kwiat x Fred Leighton collaboration?
Greg Kwiat: The Kwiat family have been diamond experts for more than 100 years. Overlaying that experience at Fred Leighton was a natural place to bring the two brands together. Fred Leighton clients and all lovers of vintage jewels have always been enthralled by the old-world charm of antique cut diamonds. Since our 2009 purchase of Fred Leighton, and after a decade of immersing ourselves in the world of vintage jewelry, we felt that bringing a refined Old European diamond to the market was a great way to leverage the expertise of Kwiat with Fred Leighton aesthetic.
Who took the lead on product development?
The development process for the diamond was led by [chief operating officer] Russell Kwiat, who has been intimately involved with diamonds from rough to polished for over 20 years. He studied the angles and proportions of the [classic] Old European to understand how to bring out the maximum charm while also maintaining quality and precision of the final diamond.
Russell, [Fred Leighton] creative director Rebecca Selva, and I worked together on the ring designs. Our goal was to take the antique charm of the Fred Leighton Round and place it in a focused group of rings that includes styles that harken back to the early part of the 1900s as well as styles with more minimal and contemporary design.
Is there something inherent to Old European cut diamonds that makes them difficult to cut anew using modern tools and tech?
There is a tremendous amount of nuance that goes into cutting an Old European. The GIA has very specific parameters that must be achieved in order to receive the Old European cutting style designation on a natural diamond grading report. On top of that, we wanted to ensure that Fred Leighton Round diamonds always look their proper size and are cut to modern standards for precision—excellent polish and excellent symmetry. Putting all of this together in an Old European was an effort of love and practice.
Where are the stones being cut?
All of the development work was overseen by Russell in New York. Now that the proprietary parameters are established, we have expanded the team to include skilled artisan cutters in both New York and in other major diamond centers abroad.
Besides this launch, what other news does Kwiat have to share?
We’ve been hard at work designing and creating beautiful jewelry. We’ve been focusing a lot on bridal, and have launched our Design Your Ring feature on our site to allow customers to create their dream ring by selecting a stone, cut, and setting. We’ve also introduced our Bridal Borrow program. When a client buys their engagement ring and wedding bands from us, we loan them a piece of jewelry to wear in their wedding. It’s our unique and special way of being there for our clients [during] their most important milestones.
Finally, let’s talk COVID-19. Since the Kwiat family has been in the business for so long, what can you tell JCK readers about business survival during tricky and uncertain times?
The only constant in life is change. Any organization needs to be nimble and forward-thinking or you risk irrelevance. As my grandfather used to say, every business is either moving forward or moving backward. And if you’re not sure which way you’re moving, then it’s backward. Our company has a culture of growth and evolution, [and] with every change comes an opportunity.
It’s likely that 2020 will go down as one of the most challenging years in our company’s history. In moments like these, it is critical to stay laser-focused on being the best at what you do, and to be sure that you add meaningful value to your [interactions with] clients.
Top: The Fred Leighton Round, in situ. Fred Leighton Round diamond engagement ring in platinum with crosshatch filigree and pavé diamonds, from $4,250 (setting only). A campaign centered on the diamond’s unique allure is set to release online and on Kwiat’s social channels this week.
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