Laurence Graff is an English jeweller. He is best known as a supplier of unique jewellery and rare jewels to the wealthy. He recut the diamond, removing 4 carats and receiving criticism for altering the historic jewel.
Graff was born in Stepney (the London East End) in 1938 into a Jewish family, the son of a Romanian mother (Rebecca Segal) and 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. Around 1962, he married his wife Anne-Marie. The couple have two sons, Francois and Stephane. Francois works in the diamond business and Stephane is a photographer and painter. In 2009 they were in the process of divorcing but became reconciled and decided to stay married. At the time of their divorce proceedings, Laurence's mistress of nine years was pregnant with his child.
He left school and became an apprentice when he was 14. He was fired from that job after three months. His next job trained him to repair rings and create small pieces of jewellery. That jewellery shop went out of business. Graff began selling his jewellery designs independently to jewellers all over England. By 1962, he had two jewellery shops, including the first in Hatton Garden. This district is now famous for its cluster of jewellery shops. In 1960, he founded the Graff Diamonds company. By 1974, he had begun specializing in selling to newly rich buyers from the Middle East. In particular, he supplied many jewels for Hassanal Bolkiah, the 29th Sultan of Brunei. He is the founder of Graff Diamonds.
In 2008, Graff purchased the Wittelsbach Diamond for 16.4 million pounds Sterling, which was a considerable premium over the 9 million pounds Sterling 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 to 31. This action has been compared by critics to making the Mona Lisa prettier. The renamed Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond and the Hope Diamond will be on display together at the Smithsonian Institution beginning the end of January 2010.
Graff is one of Britain's richest men. His personal fortune is, according to the 2009 Sunday Times Rich List, estimated to be L1.2bn ($1.9bn, €1.4bn).
Laurence Graff has handled the most fabulous and treasured gemstones and diamonds in the world, including The Idol's Eye, The Emperor Maximillian, The Porter Rhodes, The Windsor Diamonds, The Hope of Africa, The Begum Blue, The Paragon, The Star of America, The Golden Star, The Wittelsbach-Graff and The Lesotho Promise, The Delaire Sunrise and The Graff Constellation to name but a few.
Symbolising the brand and the values it stands for, Laurence Graff oversees the finding and production of the unique and exceptional diamonds he has always loved. Having set an unsurpassed standard of excellence and innovation in the industry, it has been said that he has handled more important quality gemstones than any other Diamantaire. In 2007 Graff published 'The Most Fabulous Jewels in the World' a definitive coffee table book chronicling Graff's amazing journey and important jewels. All proceeds of this publication support the Nelson Mandela's Children's Fund. In addition to supporting an array of charities through the Graff Diamonds Foundation, Graff also established FACET (For Africa's Children Every Time), devoted to distributing funds for the education, health and welfare of children throughout Africa. The Graff Leadership Centre in Lesotho directly benefits from funding from FACET and acts as a training centre, hostel and home to 50 orphan girls, victims of the AIDS and HIV epidemic.
An avid collector of modern and contemporary art, Laurence Graff sits on the Executive Committees of the International Director's Council of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the International Council of the Tate Modern in London, the Berggruen Museum in Berlin and is an International Trustee and full board member of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.