Tolkowsky, king of the diamond cut


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Ask a diamond connoisseur about cut, and they’ll probably mention “Gabi,” otherwise known as Sir Gabriel Tolkowsky, master diamond cutter. So, it was no surprise that the glitterati showed up earlier this week to meet the man himself and to get a peek at his namesake, the Gabrielle diamond jewelry collection, at posh jewelry purveyors Black, Starr & Frost at South Coast Plaza.

The Gabrielle has an intense fiery sparkle, even at first glance. Diamonds cut in this manner also have a dazzling price tag and are comparatively more expensive than other cut diamonds with the same carat and clarity. The Gabrielle collection is cut in Belgium, entirely by hand, adding to the gems’ rarity.

What Paris is to fashion, Antwerp is to diamonds, and that’s where legendary diamond cutter Tolkowsky calls home. His job is more like that of a surgeon than a lumberjack as the crude word “cutter” may imply. The only things rough are the rocks he starts with.

“The first thing I do when I hold a diamond, is I look at it and ask it, ‘what would you like to become?’ It answers: ‘the most beautiful.’ I answer: ‘you will be.’ That is the challenge,” Tolkowsky said.

When De Beers discovered a 599-carat diamond rock in the Premier Mine, they turned to Tolkowsky. This enormous stone, which Tolkowsky polished into a heart shape, would later be named the Centenary Diamond. It took him three years to complete the arduous task, cutting the old-school way: Cut to 273.85 carats it is considered to be the most flawless modern-cut diamond in the world. But who could wear a diamond that size? “I created it so it would be worn on a turban. I went back to the east, where diamonds first came from. A diamond fit for a sultan or a maharaja,” Tolkowsky said. The diamond’s current owner is unknown.

Holding a replica of the rock that would become the Centenary Diamond, he explained that the Gabrielle cut “is the result of all the information, all the diamonds I have polished: the Centenary, the Golden Jubilee and all the files behind my eyes. With the Gabrielle I’ve added a new dimension in the journey of light.”

Black, Starr & Frost is located at South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa. (714) 549-2522, or visit:

-- Sabrina Azadi

Photos: Sir Gabriel “Gabi” Tolkowsky, master diamond cutter, (top) looking through his loupe at a replica of the Centenary Diamond in its rough form. Credit: Sabrina Azadi. Bottom photo: Adrienne Brennan of Corona del Mar, wearing a necklace from the Gabrielle collection. Credit: Sabrina Azadi