The highly anticipated Brilliant and Black: A Jewelry Renaissance selling exhibition kicks off at Sotheby’s New York this Friday, and one of the headline acts has to be the In Bloom ring by Los Angeles–based designer Maggi Simpkins. The piece is very representative of her unique style of bespoke engagement rings, which tend to incorporate stylized botanical elements, glamorous art deco motifs filtered through a modern lens, and center stones adorned in lavish “headdresses” of baguette diamonds and colored gems.
But the In Bloom ring, with its explosion of petals and variegated pink gems, boasts something very special: an internally flawless fancy pink diamond as its centerpiece.
The rarity of this radiant-cut stone alone is a big part of what accounts for the one-of-a-kind jewel’s price tag: $1 million, according to Simpkins’ Instagram.
Because, you may have heard, pink diamonds don’t grow on trees. And the fact that a small, independent designer like herself—not a big-name diamantaire with generational wealth—was able to access a stone of this caliber is worth noting.
“I have been having this conversation a lot lately,” Simpkins tells JCK. “Specifically, the idea of gaining access to resources, capital, suppliers, and contacts, and how in this industry oftentimes this type of access is generational. This generally is not the case for Black designers. Pink diamonds of this size are really hard to get, which makes including one in this type of exhibition that much more important and powerful.
“I have been in this industry for a decade now—I like to say I snuck in the back door—and from the very beginning I made it a point to work with good people whose ethics I respect and trust. Over time, those relationships have grown into genuine friendships, and I have had some really extraordinary people take chances on me. The pink diamond came from a supplier who I work with, who I consider to be one of those extraordinary people.”
As for the design, the creative journey began the moment Simpkins laid eyes on the pink diamond. The ring is the star of an entire collection titled Permission to Shine that the designer has created for the Sotheby’s event. The In Bloom ring is intended to be a symbol of Simpkins giving herself “the permission to bloom and blossom into my fullest and most audacious form,” the designer noted on Instagram.
“Sometimes I find myself designing while I am asleep,” says Simpkins of her creative process. “When I take on a project like this, it completely consumes my brain, so to measure the amount of hours I’m thinking about it or working on it—it’s immeasurable.”
The amount of labor—and stone-selection skills—that the design required was also significant.
“Matching smaller stones is my least favorite task, but it is such an important part of the process,” explains Simpkins. “The sapphires came from one supplier and the rubies came from another. It is also always a little tricky matching stones when they are heading to be custom cut, because their color can change a bit after they have been cut down and you never know how the color will come out.”
“Usually my pieces go through a series of hands,” says Simpkins, who cast the mounting several times to get the intricacies of the design just right. “But in this case, my diamond setter—who happens to be the pickiest I work with—did all of the cleaning, assembling, soldering, setting, and polishing. Because he is so specific and particular, I trusted him to carry it through.”
The In Bloom ring will be on view at Sotheby’s New York galleries Sept. 17–26. All jewels in the Brilliant and Black exhibition will be available for immediate purchase online from Sept. 17 to Oct. 10.
Top: In Bloom ring with 2.43 ct. radiant-cut pink diamond center stone, 2.73 cts. t.w. rubies, and 0.77 cts. t.w. in 18k gold, $1,000,000; Maggi Simpkins. Available via Sotheby’s starting Sept. 17. (Photo by Karla Ticas)
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