Dec '08/Jan '09

An illuminating exhibit

Showcasing the Incomparable Diamond

By P. Diekmeyer

When the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) opened its Nature of Diamonds show last month, it was almost certain that it would attract a lot of attention. The highlight of the exhibit is a colossal 407.48 carat, flawless kite-shaped stone named the Incomparable Diamond, which is said to be the world’s third-largest. Naturally, the first question that comes to mind to anyone who sees it is: “How much could it possibly be worth?” The problem is that there are no ready answers.

“Pieces like the Incomparable Diamond are extremely rare,” said Derek Teevan, a spokesman for De Beers Canada. “Most fall into categories of their own, as they are…well, incomparable. Because they have unique properties, they are exceedingly difficult to evaluate. All I can say is that we are very happy to have the piece as part of the exhibit.”

The De Beers Canada-sponsored event, on display until March 22, 2009 at the ROM’s Garfield Weston Exhibition Hall, highlights the nature and uses of diamonds in Canada.

The Incomparable Diamond [left] is just one of a stunning array of jewels from around the world that comprise the museum’s walk-in “gem vault.” Other famous pieces include the Princess Mathilde Corsage — a 19th century floral design set with 250 carats of diamonds — as well as a spectacular array of brooches, tiaras and necklaces.

The Historical Galleries section illuminates the cultural and historical significance of diamonds, including their role in adornment. Meanwhile, an authentic recreation of a kimberlite mine tunnel gives visitors a sense of the conditions diamond miners face around the world.

“We wanted to give visitors a sense of the history of diamond activity,” said Teevan. “But we also wanted to demonstrate tangibly why diamonds have so piqued the imagination of our ancestors.”

He also said that it is the company’s way of giving back to the community. “The opening of two new De Beers mines in Canada — Snap Lake in the Northwest Territories and Victor in northeastern Ontario — has helped cement this country’s position as the third-largest global producer in value terms, behind Botswana and Russia,” explained Teevan.

Sponsorship of such a prestigious event represents a sizable commitment for De Beers Canada, which is only just starting to generate revenues from the more than $2 billion it has invested in its Canadian mining operations. “This initiative is designed to help position De Beers as the premier diamond company locally and internationally,” said Teevan. “It is also an opportunity to reemphasize our commitment to Canada and to our ongoing program for further diamond discoveries.”

Of course, the Nature of Diamonds show will almost surely generate significant additional benefits beyond the goals set out by De Beers. The irresistible allure of seeing these spectacular jewels up close and personal will almost surely stimulate additional demand for these sparkling gems and help boost Canada’s diamond industry.

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