The Man & His Empire

Laurence Graff with the Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond.
Laurence Graff with the Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond.

The eponymous Graff empire had a less than auspicious beginning when at the tender age of fifteen Laurence Graff was apprenticed to a jeweler in Hatton Garden. Unable to please his employer with the menial tasks assigned Graff was let go after three months. Not to be deterred, young Graff took a job at another Hatton Garden establishment and enrolled in the Sir John Cass College of Arts followed by Central School. He learned, both on the job and in the classroom, the rudiments of the trade he would practice so successfully for the rest of his life. Building experience and confidence, by 1960 he was ready to open Graff Diamonds and his first London shops followed in 1962. Success begat success and he won the prestigious Diamond International Award in 1966. In 1970-he created a media sensation with the Hair and Jewel Coiffure, an Eighteenth-Century inspired tower of hair enhanced by diamonds valued at a million dollars.

As achievements piled up, Graff traveled the world seeking out the finest gems and in the process of spreading his passion for his product, he met some of the most fascinating people. Bringing the personal touch to the high-end jewelry business Graff’s clientele ranged from movie stars to crowned heads.

Experience and knowledge are the keys to Graff’s triumphs. Building on his penchant for showmanship, a compliment to his salesmanship, and his people skills, he developed a business plan that involved controlling the entire process. From finding to finishing the rare and exquisite diamonds Graff is known for, he built his empire to encompass every facet of the business. Commencing by employing experts able to judge a rough stone’s potential with the aid of a handheld loupe, finding the cutters who could see into the heart of the rough to sourcing the jewelers with the inspiration to create the perfect setting for these magnificent stones, he pursued his dream.

In order to further these ambitions, Graff needed to become a DeBeers sightholder. Through hard work and the strategic purchase of an existing sightholder’s business, he parlayed his efforts and became one of DeBeers’ leading sightholders. To top it all off Graff became the largest shareholder in Gem Diamonds which owns the Letšeng mine in Lesotho. In addition, Graff has a controlling interest in Safdico (South African Diamond Corporation) and a worldwide diamond-cutting network where the rough stones go to be cut and polished. Through Graff’s efforts, the Diamond Technology Park in Botswana came to fruition in 2009 linking the industry from mine to market. In furtherance of his business plan, Graff established a network of jewelry design and setting experts to mount the gems and distribute them to his growing international retail empire. Graff locations expanded beyond London with the 2000 opening of the Monte Carlo store and the 2001 New York Madison Avenue location followed by shops around the world.

The Diamonds

Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond.
Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond.

During the middle of the twentieth-century war and other factors made diamonds a popular form of portable wealth and due, at least in part, to the marketing efforts of DeBeers the colorless diamonds their mines produced dominated the market. Colored diamonds, including yellow diamonds, did not enjoy the popularity they now embrace.  Initially, Graff focused his technical acumen on colored diamonds acquired on the secondary market. New cutting styles, essential to enhance the beauty and brilliance of colored diamonds, were largely pioneered by Laurence Graff and his team. The first of the famous diamonds Graff would become known for was purchased in 1974. A large yellow diamond (undoubtedly a Golconda stone) came to Graff through a dealer acting on behalf of an aristocratic Indian Family. Graff had his magnificent acquisition repolished thereby creating the emerald-cut Star of Bombay, 47.39 cts. The ensuing publicity helped to arouse an enhanced appreciation for such stones. Graff purchased a further series of colored diamonds including, in 1987, The Windsor Yellows. Originally set in dress-clips for Wallace Simpson, this pair of pear-shaped yellow diamonds were recut to enhance their color and brilliance. Also, In 2001 he acquired the Empress Rose (the world’s largest Internally Flawless Fancy Light Pink diamond, 70.39 cts.). Through these and other acquisitions, Graff victoriously displayed his passion for colored diamonds on a world stage.

Known not only for re-cutting historic and established gemstones, Graff is notable for acquiring newly discovered rough diamonds. All of his vast resources are put to work creating gems that preserve as much of the rough stone as possible. Acquiring a 218 carat South African yellow rough he challenged his expert team of cutters to preserve as much of the precious diamond as possible. The resulting stones added up to a remarkable yield of 70% (the average is approximately 50%). The results include the Sarah a cushion-modified brilliant weighing 132.43 cts. graded Fancy Vivid Yellow by the GIA, and the Little Sarah coming in at 20.62 cts.

Graff Diamonds

ImageDiamondYear Found/Purchased/CutRough/Original WeightFinal WeightFinal Shape(s)Final Color & Clarity

Image: Wikipedia (rough)
The Lesotho Promise2006603 carats rough (15th largest diamond ever found)total 223.65 carats25 various diamonds in the Lesotho Promise NecklaceD Flawless

Image: AP
The Wittelsbach-Graff200835.56 carat historic cut.31.06 caratsCushionNatural Fancy Deep Blue, Internally Flawless

Image: Graff/The National
Light of Letšeng - The Graff Constellation2008478 carat rough51.20 carat Heart Shape
102.79 Carat Round
10 DiamondsD Flawless
D Internally Flawless

Image: Graff/The National
The Delaire Sunrise
2009221.81 carats118.08 caratsSquare Emerald-CutFancy Vivid Yellow, Excellent, Excellent

Image: Reuters/This is Money (rough)
The Letšeng Star550 carat rough168.73 Carats total 27 Pear-Shapes and 1 Round BrilliantD Internally Flawless, Type IIa

Image: Sotheby's (Prior to Graff Recut)
The Graff Pink201024.78 carats (auction purchase)23.88 CaratsEmerald-CutFancy Vivid Pink Internally Flawless

Image: Graff/The National
The Graph Sweethearts2013186 & 184 carats rough51.53 and 50.76 caratsMatch pair of Heart-Shapes plus 20 smaller stonesD Flawless Excellent, Excellent, Type IIa

Image: The Jewelry Editor
The Graff Perfection2014225 carat rough100.00 caratsPear-ShapeD Flawless

Image: Graff/The Jeweler Blog
The Golden Empress2015299 carats132.55 carat
21.34 carat
plus 8 other stones
Fancy Intense Yellow
Fancy Yellow

The Empire Continues

The House of Graff continues to prosper with more fabulous gems coming to market through new discoveries and the rejuvenation of gems already established. As of the date of this publication, the Graff empire includes sixty-three Graff Boutiques in twenty-four countries around the world. (3/14/2022) Graff”s FACET Foundation (For Africa’s Children Every Time) helps support the education, health, and well-being of children in Lesotho, South Africa, and Botswana. These countries compose the region where Graff discovers, cuts, and polishes many of their most famous diamonds. Succeeding generations of the founder are continuing the tradition of selecting each rare specimen personally and striving for perfection throughout the process of creating a magnificent gem.

Maker's Marks & Timeline

Graff Maker’s Mark
Graff Maker’s Mark
Full Screen







Categories: , Tag:


Specializes in the World’s Finest Diamonds:

  • Star of Bombay
  • Emperor Maximilian
  • Idol’s Eye
  • Wittelsbach


  • Menkes, S., Becker, V., Doulton, M., Hardy, J., Hald, N., Foulkes, N., & Harris, J. (2015). Graff. Rizzoli.
  • Traina, John. Extraordinary Jewels. New York: Double Day, 1994.
  • Graff Website: www.graff.com
  • Interview with Graff by www.thisismoney.co.uk
Close Menu