Graff Diamonds: The Most Fabulous Jewels in the World
Laurence Graff, the British billionaire jeweler to the stars, has seen diamonds all the way from the rough to the ring for decades. Not since Harry Winston has a single man been so involved in every aspect of the world of diamonds. Graff's panache and success have earned himself and his company, Graff Diamonds, many accolades -- including a nomination for a Readers' Choice Award for Best Jewelry Line.
Things weren't always so peachy for the East London-raised Graff. He grew up in a single-room apartment with his mother, a Romanian immigrant; his father left to fight in World War II. The young Graff did so badly in school that his parents urged him to drop out and learn a trade at age 14, according to Forbes. He soon scored an internship with a London jeweler; Graff's duties included scrubbing toilets.
By the age of 24, Graff had made some inroads in the London jewelry scene, but he was getting restless. So in the early 1960s, he jetted off to the Far East, where he would gain expertise buying and selling diamonds out of his briefcase. Once ensconced, he made several connections that endure to this day, including a friendship with one of the princes of Brunei. When he returned to London to operate two small stores, his royal friends often visited him to schmooze -- and to buy his wares.
Today, Graff helms a vertically integrated diamond empire with two-dozen retail outlets in Monte Carlo, Dubai, New York and Moscow, to name a few. Graff's gems have adorned the necks of stars from Oprah Winfrey to Paris Hilton. He shows no signs of slowing down: on December 1, 2009, his five-carat Vivid Pink diamond set a world record for such a stone, fetching $10.8 million in a Hong Kong auction.
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