Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI, and WGBH Boston. The Pink Star, the world's largest pink diamond went up for auction today in Geneva. Sotheby's says it went for a world record 83 million dollars. Wow. Few people have even held the Pink Star in their hands, but one who has is John Hatleberg. He's a conceptual gem artist in New York who makes legal counterfeits of diamonds for companies like De Beers. I asked John to explain what makes the Pink Star so valuable.
John Hatleberg: Well there's nothing in history like this particular diamond. Historically the finest color diamonds in the world came from India in the 1600s, but 12 years ago or so when the diamond was unearthed by De Beers, they found this 132 karat crystal and nothing like it had ever been discovered that had the potential to not only be flawless, but to have a vivid pink color.
Werman: And so when that diamond comes out of the mine, you see its roughness, but you know that somewhere in there is a beauty waiting to be cut?
Hatleberg: Well you hope there is. I mean, there's- It's a combination of science and art and physical and optical properties, but they found a 132 karat crystal and they could have hoped that they would create a flawless diamond from it, but to obtain to a pink like this was something that no one really had any idea they could really achieve until the cutting was complete.
Werman: And John, you've held this Pink Star, you've had it in your hand. How much does it weigh? What does it look like?
Hatleberg: Well it's an incredible experience. It was, I think, exactly 10 years ago and I first held the Pink Star in the inner vault of the Smithsonian and I have to tell you that, for me, these gems are such wonders of the world. My reaction was frankly that I thought I could see all the way to Pluto when I held it.
Werman: Wow. You almost sounded on the verge of tears there for a second.
Hatleberg: Well, these diamonds in this very significant, small category such as the Pink Star, the Hope Diamond, or the Dresden Dream, or the Centenary Diamond are such rare objects. They are certainly wonders of the world, but the Pink Star is a great example of it could only become a wonder of the world really with the artistry of, in this case, the new who cut it. When they cut the Pink Star, it took them about 20 months and what these cutters did- And I could not have cut the original Pink Star. There's probably only about three men here in New York who are able to do it and only because of their genius were they able to achieve what's called in the trade the fancy, vivid pink color.
Werman: So you had it in your hand. Was there heft to it? I mean, did it weigh like a lot for a diamond?
Hatleberg: It's not really so much the heft, but diamonds, I believe, are perfectly designed containers for meaning and again in part because of the optics of it. And at a very primitive level, people are attracted to them. The way the light refracts. They can get lost inside it as if it's a crystal ball.
Werman: Does that experience happen with you from time to time?
Hatleberg: So- Often. Always. I can talk about the optics of diamonds at length.
Hatleberg: But with the Pink Star, certainly, again a primitive aspect of it is that size does matter and so it was not the heft but the fact that when you're staring into the pink diamond and the last time I saw it was a week ago at Sotheby's, you do become transfixed and I really didn't want to leave its gaze. It was- I felt I was looking at it and it was looking at me.
Werman: Well diamonds do connote romance, but I would say that this Pink Star probably has very little in common with the average engagement ring.
Hatleberg: Well the average engagement ring is very powerful. Everyday, as you said, I am a conceptual gem artist and everyday I turn to the power that an engagement ring has and try to bring that to my other work, but the Pink Star is phenomenal. There is nothing like it in history.
Werman: John Hatleberg, he's a conceptual gem artist in New York. Thanks so much for your time.
Hatleberg: Thank you very much.