13 June 1938 |
Stepney, London, UK
|Occupation||Businessman and jeweller|
|Net worth||US$5 billion (October 2015)|
Graff was born in Stepney in 1938 into a Jewish family, the son of a Romanian mother, Rebecca Segal, and a Russian father, Harry Graff. His father made suits off the Commercial Road while his mother ran a tobacconist and newsagents. His brother Raymond was born in 1947.
Graff left school and became an apprentice when he was 15. He soon went into partnership with Schindler, a jeweller, repairing rings and creating small pieces of jewellery in a small shop. That shop went out of business and so Graff began selling his jewellery designs independently to jewellers all over England. By 1962, he had two jewellery shops, including his first in Hatton Garden – the centre of London's jewellery trade since medieval times.
In 1960, he founded the Graff Diamonds company. In 1966 he commissioned the English jewellery-designer Robert Thomas to design a diamond jewel to enter into the De Beers Diamond International Awards competition. The ribbon bracelet created won the competition. By 1974, he had begun specialising in selling to newly rich buyers from the Middle East. In particular, he supplied many jewels for Hassanal Bolkiah, the 29th Sultan of Brunei, who became a lifelong client and friend. One day, Prince Turki bin Abdul Aziz walked into the shop and bought everything including a 14 carat diamond. Graff has expanded his company, with over 35 stores in US, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Re-cut of the Wittelsbach Diamond
In 2008, Graff purchased the Wittelsbach Diamond for £16.4 million, a considerable premium over the £9 million guide price. Almost two years later, Graff revealed he had had three diamond cutters repolish the stone to eliminate the chips and improve the clarity, reducing the diamond from 35.52 carats (7.104 g) to 31 carats (6.2 g). This action has been compared by critics to making the Mona Lisa prettier. However, according to gemologist Richard W. Wise, "At a cost of only 4.45 carats the recut and renamed Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond has been raised from a GIA grade of Fancy Deep Grayish Blue to a Fancy Deep Blue. Its clarity grade has been likewise elevated from VS2 to Internally Flawless (IF). This is a substantial upgrade." Further, the "Graff recut retained the original double stellate brilliant facet pattern thus retaining the overall look of the original stone."
- Forbes: "The World's Billionaires – Laurence Graff" October 2015
- Adams, Susan (13 August 2007). "King of Bling: Laurence Graff". forbes.com. Retrieved 11 March 2008.
- "The multifaceted Laurence Graff". Retrieved 23 July 2009.
- Barker, Godfrey (17 December 2007). "Billionaire interviews: Laurence Graff". ES Magazine, Retrieved 25 January 2010.
- Laurence Graff, chairman, Graff Diamonds, The New York Times, 8 February 2010
- The London Gazette: . 15 June 2013.
- "Bavaria considers bid to bring mysterious Wittelsbach diamond home". The Times, 7 November 2008. Retrieved 27 January 2010
- Emma Jacobs. (25 January 2010). "A diamond geezer made good". Financial Times. Retrieved 25 January 2010.
- "The Wittelsbach; All tarted up and ready to sell". Rwwise.com.