The Impossible New Diamond SettingDecember 16, 21
Back in 1886 Charles Tiffany introduced his game-changing six-prong solitaire setting to a diamond industry that was still in its infancy. Diamonds had, until then, been set in a bezel so that only the crown was visible, and much of the main attraction was obscured by metal. The Tiffany setting changed all that, exposing far more of the stone than ever before, while still retaining a firm hold. This was at a time when Cecil Rhodes had yet to launch De Beers (that was to happen two years later) and long before diamonds became the go-to gem for a gentleman proposing marriage.
Nonetheless the Tiffany setting has endured, and remains a popular choice 135 years later.
With all of that in mind, it will be interesting to see how future generations of jewelers and consumers judge the launch last week of a new solitaire diamond setting that appear to achieve "the impossible". It has no prongs, no clasp, no bezel, no visible support of any kind. There have been so-called floating diamonds in the past. They never truly floated. But this patented invention from New Zealand - Floeting Diamonds - does what no setting has ever managed before.
After almost 20 years of trial and error they have perfected a method of laser-cutting a micro-groove around the underside of the diamond, then securing it from below using a specialist high-tensile titanium alloy collet. The result shows off almost the whole stone - and has been proven to be significantly stronger than any traditional setting.
Veteran jeweler Ian Douglas invented the setting after countless customers asked if he could set the diamond without showing the clasps. "I imagined a hand, naked except for a loose diamond floating upon it," he said. "The challenge then was how to connect the two. This was thought to be an impossible dream. Every jeweler in the world has been asked by customers if it was possible to have a ring without the prongs, and until now the answer has always been 'No.'"
He developed the diamond design with Canadian master diamond cutter Mike Botha and with laser engineers, metallurgists, scientists, testing laboratories, and patent attorneys across several countries. They used titanium, which is seven times stronger than platinum, the strongest of traditional precious metals, with only one third of the weight.
"The most difficult challenge in creating the setting was the physics of the diamond itself," said Douglas. "The goal is always to maximize the light return and sparkle, but the geometry of a solitaire diamond is so specific that compromise was usually inevitable whenever anything new was attempted. To avoid compromise, we had to completely rethink the design of the setting and the cut of the diamond itself."
Two decades of research and development finally came to fruition last week when Floeting launched its debut collection of diamonds, priced from $1,600 to $30,000.
"It is exquisitely obvious when you see it, but it is in fact deeply complex," said Chris Benham, director at Floeting. "It has required precision down to the micron level, years of testing and R&D. The setting process is proprietary but does involve a completely different connection process than the way a traditional diamond is set into a piece of jewellery.
"It required us to design a whole new pavilion profile to accommodate the groove without affecting the light return and to think of different metals that could sustain the forces necessary to securely hold the diamond.
"We've brought in many experts from outside the industry with different specialist skills to develop these new processes, including a former Formula 1 process engineer to develop the technology around the connection system.
"Most jewelry designers creating designs for exceptional diamonds do their best to minimize the prongs so you can appreciate the diamond, so we know this technology with appeal to them."
So will Floeting's technology be made available to other players in the market? "We will actively collaborate with the designers and owners of special gemstone discoveries to cut them using The Floeting Diamond design and setting technology," said Benham. "We will be looking to do collaborations with designers and ultimately licence the technology to designers of larger global jewelry retailers."
Floeting Diamonds has combined new technology and its own ingenuity to offer something that has never previously been available. But the question, in a world of ever-changing tastes, is how much the consumer wants it.
Only time will tell whether the brides of 2156 - that's 135 years from now - are asking for Floeting, as those of 2021 are still requesting Tiffany.
Have a fabulous weekend.