Royal Asscher Diamond Company
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The Royal Asscher Diamond Company (Dutch: Koninklijke Asscher Diamant Maatschappij) was founded in 1854 by the Asscher family. The company is responsible for cutting some of the most famous diamonds in the world. Its headquarters still stand at its original location Tolstraat 127 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The company also has regional headquarters in New York City (Royal Asscher of America) and Tokyo (Royal Asscher of Japan).
Royal Asscher is still owned by the Asscher family, a renowned diamond dynasty with a 157 year old legacy. The Asscher Diamond Company, made famous at the turn of the 20th century by Joseph and Abraham Asscher, became the Royal Asscher Diamond Company in 1980 when it was bestowed with the honor of a Royal Prefix from Queen Juliana of the Netherlands in recognition of the company’s stature both in the Netherlands and across the world. In 2011 Queen Beatrix perpetuated the Royal Prefix for another 25 years.
The establishment of the company
In 1854 Joseph Isaac Asscher, a known artisan in the diamond industry, established the I.J Asscher diamond company, named for his son Isaac Joseph Asscher, who followed in his father’s footsteps and entered the diamond industry. He passed down his expertise to his two sons, Joseph and Abraham, who become two of the 20th century’s most prodigious diamond experts. Under Joseph and Abraham, the company is known as the Asscher Diamond Company.
The Asscher Cut
In 1902 Joseph Asscher upheld his father’s reputation for skill and innovation by designing the original Asscher cut. This emblematic cut was the first signature cut to be patented. The Asscher Diamond Company held its exclusive patent until the Second World War and saw strong sales internationally.
The Excelsior diamond
In 1903, at 997 carats (199.4 g), the Excelsior diamond was the largest diamond ever found. The gem required expert handling to be properly carved: inclusions within the rough diamond prevented it from being polished as a single stone. Abraham Asscher was charged with cleaving the Excelsior; to minimize flaws, he carved the stone into ten diamonds which were primarily sold to anonymous purchasers. Rumor and myth abound regarding the location of the diamonds.
The Cullinan diamond
In 1907 the Cullinan diamond was discovered. At 3,106 carats (621.2 g) it was a legendary find, and achieved instant notoriety across the globe. The diamond was presented to King Edward VII, and he invited the Asscher brothers to London to discuss cleaving the diamond. It was decided that Joseph Asscher would cleave the Cullinan into three parts, necessitated by inclusions within the rough diamond. Nine large stones were cut from it, the largest being the 530.20 carats (106.040 g) Cullinan I.
In February 1908 a notable audience gathered to watch Joseph Asscher cleave the huge stone. In order to yield large, beautiful diamonds he needed to hit the Cullinan in exactly the right place. On his first strike his blade broke, while the stone remained intact. He dismissed all present and set to work creating larger, stronger tools.
The following week, armed with new tools, Joseph resumed his work, allowing no one but the notary public in the cutting room. Urban legend recounts that Joseph fainted after striking the Cullinan diamond with a tremendous blow. He later commented that the adrenaline surging through him the moment the stone split was so strong all he could think to do was to examine the stone and check his workmanship over and over again before rushing to the next room to share the good news. Later, the Cullinan diamonds were polished, ready to take pride of place in Great Britain’s Crown Jewels.
World War II
During the Second World War's battle of the Netherlands the Nazis entered the Asscher Diamond Company’s Amsterdam headquarters and seized its diamonds. The Asscher family's members are Jewish, and were thus subsequently deported from the Netherlands and interned in concentration camps, along with nearly all of the company’s polishers. During the war the patent on the original Asscher cut expired. With no one to renew the patent, other companies started to utilize the Asscher cut, leading to market confusion about the origin of many Asscher cut diamonds. Some companies chose to call their Asscher cut diamonds square-emerald cuts instead. Many of these diamonds were cut for yield and did not necessarily follow Joseph Asscher’s original proportion calculations for the Asscher cut, which specified parameters for the diamond’s crown height, table size, and facet alignment.
After the war
In 1945 the war ended; only ten Asscher family members and fifteen of the five hundred polishers survived the Holocaust. There was no company to return to: although Amsterdam was once the world’s diamond polishing capital, the diamond industry there was wiped out. Antwerp subsequently emerged as a major diamond polishing center.
In 1946 Joop and Louis Asscher were invited to utilize their expertise and start a new company in New York. However, they chose to remain in their home of Amsterdam and to rebuild the Asscher Diamond Company.
In 1980 Her Majesty Queen Juliana of the Netherlands granted the Asscher Diamond Company a royal title in tribute to the leading, century-old role the company and Asscher family held in the diamond industry. With this honor, the Asscher Diamond Company became the Royal Asscher Diamond Company.
Royal Asscher Cut
Edward and Joop, Louis Asscher’s sons, continued the family legacy and researched the possibility of enhancing Joseph Asscher’s original Asscher cut. They took the design and proportion calculations and used computer modeling and simulation to look at how light would perform within the diamond if certain adjustments were made during the cutting and polishing process.
Almost 100 years after Joseph patented the original Asscher cut, Edward and Joop introduced the Royal Asscher cut in 2001 (named for the company from which it hails). The Royal Asscher cut has an extra break on the diamond’s pavilion, giving the diamond 74 facets, compared to the original Asscher’s 58 facets. It is known for superior light performance when compared to other step cut diamonds (in 2009 the AGS Laboratories launched an independent light performance grading certificate for the Royal Asscher cut). The Asscher family secured an international design patent so the Royal Asscher cut could not be legally imitated; Royal Asscher is also trademarked and the company owns exclusive rights to the name. To further guarantee authenticity each diamond is laser inscribed with the Royal Asscher logo and an identification number belonging to a single diamond only. The number is logged with the Royal Asscher Diamond Company in Amsterdam and a Royal Asscher certificate accompanies the diamond.
The fifth and sixth generations of the Asscher family are at the helm of an international company. The reigning president is Edward Asscher, co-creator of the Royal Asscher cut. His daughter Lita Asscher is President of Royal Asscher of America, and his son Mike Asscher is in charge of the development of the Far East business.
In 2011 Royal Asscher opened a number of boutiques in China.
The Golden Book
The company keeps a ‘Golden Book’ of visitors, who have included Emperor Hirohito of Japan, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, and Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. Royal Asscher gems are often seen at red-carpet events.
The Royal Asscher cut was featured in Sex and the City.