Tiffany & Co.'s gemologist Melvyn Kirtley on how how the new Tiffany True is charming millennials
More than an engagement ring
What makes Tiffany & Co. jewellery different from other jewellery?
It's all what we put into our jewellery, from the gemstone selection to the design to the manufacturing, to the craftsmanship, that makes us different; It's a holistic view. We're a very vertical company, so all of this is being done within our own four walls. We are very much in control of every aspect: the sourcing, the development, the production, the creation of the piece. And that makes us different. We also have a very specific point of view with design. We're an American design house so we have a democratic aesthetic.
How is it democratic?
We are a very open luxury brand. We have open doors, big spaces, we allow everyone in. We have a breadth of products that span from entry price points to multi-million-dollar pieces. In that sense everyone can afford something from Tiffany & Co.
You have a deep understanding of diamonds and gemstones. Can you describe that educational journey to get to where you are now?
It began with total immersion. I always had this desire to work for Tiffany & Co. – I don't even know where it came from to be honest. I was born and raised in England where luxury is for certain levels of people and then coming to the US where everything is a lot more open and accessible, it really stimulated me. Once I got into Tiffany & Co. from a sales perspective, my interest in gemstones and diamonds started to grow pretty seriously. The next step was going to Gemological Institute of America and becoming a gemologist. From there, it took on greater emphasis.
What do you look for when you pick stones?
Lots of things. I almost audition them. I look for the best in class of all the varieties. I'm looking for the finest colour, cut, polish and finish. But then I am also looking for a gem that has personality and speaks to me and demands my attention.
Where do you go to find them?
Pretty much all over the world. We meet with the individuals that help us source some of the vendors. But the most efficient way is to attend the gem shows. I'm able to meet certain dealers that have particular specialisms and I get to know them over the course of several days and get a 360' perspective.
So, with the new engagement ring, Tiffany True, what makes it a new icon for the house?
It's a combination of cuts. It's got an emerald cut on the top of diamond, on the crown and the pavilion is cut with brilliant faceting, so it has a slightly more subdued but powerful sparkle to it. It's very energetic. The square outline and wide corners are very pleasing. This is quite popular now because it gives wonderful face up appeal. Now interestingly, there is a 'V' to the band, so when you look at it, the eye is taken straight to the diamond. On the actual basket, there is this lovely subtle branding with a 'T'. The slightly tabbed prongs give the diamond a floating feel. So, the important thing to note is that it is a very modern cut. And of course, it can be individualised with a line up of bands of various widths. You can build your own stack.
Can it be worn as an everyday ring?
Yes! The feasibility of changing it up and adapting it to exactly what you want is great for millennial customers in particular who want personalisation. Most importantly, what we offer, unlike any other brand, is provenance – the diamond's country of origin. That's very important to our younger customers who are interested in our CSR initiatives, because they want a story, purpose and meaning behind their purchases. They are a lot more holistic in their search for the right ring.
What are the key fine jewellery trends that you are focusing on?
Unique coloured gemstones are rife right now as is wearability (even in high jewellery). We want to produce pieces that are worn more than just once a year.
Out of everything you've ever produced, what has been your favourite cut?
Well, I worked specifically on creating the Tiffany True cut and that took several years, so it means a lot. It's a complex cut from the science side as it relates to yield from the rough and for us to get the right light return took a long time because we wanted that energy and power.
What is your vision for Tiffany & Co. for the future?
For my field, on the high jewellery end, it's to continue to find the most beautiful, special and rarest gems. For me it's more of the uniqueness of doing innovative things. For the last Tiffany Blue Book, I worked on a very special diamond cut for a beautiful necklace. We called it Cracked Ice – it was a very unique, flat cut which had irregular sharp edges. I want to be able to keep pushing the boundaries.
Now, you've got to see this super unique new jewellery brand.