An Interview with Diamond Specialist Henry Pruwer
Diamond jewellery specialist Henry Pruwer is based in London and creates beautiful, bespoke pieces of jewellery, including diamond engagement rings. In this interview, Henry tells of his family’s long history with the diamond industry, the importance of trust when buying diamonds and how he finds the finest quality stones in the world for his pieces.
My fascination with diamonds started when I was around 7 years of age. After World War II my father had moved from Belgium to London to marry my mother who hailed from the East End, and he set up a menswear manufacturing business, producing cotton collared shirts. In those days most men still wore shirts with paper collars! The rest of the family stayed in Antwerp, Belgium’s diamond capital of the world, and my uncle Oscar went on to build one of Antwerp’s leading diamond companies.
Once a month without fail, a huge black Austin Princess limousine would pull up outside our house and out would hop uncle Oscar- on the way to the regular De Beers Sight, an exclusive event where a select group of diamond dealers from around the world were invited to London to purchase a package of rough diamonds. It was De Beers who chose who to sell to, the quantity and quality of diamonds, and the price. If you opted out of buying these ‘boxes’ once too often, it was on the clear understanding that you would no longer be invited to buy. In this way, De Beers controlled the diamond industry for decades.
Through these visits from my uncle and trips our family took to Belgium in my childhood years, I had a window into the captivating world of diamonds. In Antwerp, it was quite normal to see diamond dealers meeting in local cafés examining small piles of glittering diamonds, sealing their trades with a handshake and I became used to seeing family members jetting off to Africa and around the world to source diamonds. The one thing that shone through for me was that with diamonds, there is the potential to take something rough and turn it into something beautiful.
A career in the diamond industry seemed inevitable, yet my parents were keen for me to study law or accountancy which they perceived as being more professional at that time. I studied accountancy but it wasn’t for me and I moved to Germany where I learnt the fundamentals of the jewellery trade, visiting jewellery factories in Italy, interacting with retailers, manufacturers and wholesalers, extracting and recycling precious metals and, for the first time, seeing a glimmer of an idea brought to life as a piece of jewellery.
My journey eventually took me back to Antwerp where I worked with my brother Marcel, who was president of the Antwerp Diamond Bourse. I became active in the ethical side of diamonds, advising governments on employment creation through diamond mining, polishing and manufacturing and working on the Antwerp Diamond Masterplan 2020 for the future of the industry. Being at the world centre of the diamond industry in Antwerp, I also took the opportunity to become a certified diamond grader with the HRD Antwerp Diamond Centre, sorting and evaluating polished diamonds. There was no better place in the world to learn my trade.
The 15 years I spent in Antwerp reinforced how important trust and reputation are in the diamond industry. Unless you are a diamond specialist, when buying a diamond you are completely reliant on the expertise of the person you buy from. When I set up Henry Pruwer in London to specialise in bespoke diamond jewellery, I knew that trust, quality and respect would be my core values. Whether a client is investing £2,000 or £200,000 in a piece, my job is to hunt down the very best ethically sourced diamonds, creating a bespoke item of jewellery that is of the finest quality for their particular budget. Every client receives that same high level of service.
Even after all of these years in the diamond trade, I still feel that delight and excitement at sourcing just the right diamond. Just before lockdown, I worked on a piece featuring a 6-carat fancy yellow diamond. The diamond was larger than a thumbnail and particularly beautiful. To source the right diamond or stone, I look at stones from all around the world, sift through them and find the best. I’ll have perhaps three securely couriered to me so I can show my client the options. It is only when comparing different diamonds next to each other that you can really appreciate the subtleties in each stone.
Once a customer comes to me, they tend to become a client for life and the majority of my business comes through referrals. After the engagement ring, a pair of weddings bands naturally follow, then perhaps a special anniversary gift and so it continues. Maintaining that relationship over time is far more important to me than a single quick sale. My clients know that I will use my worldwide diamond sourcing contacts to find them the perfect diamond at a competitive price, buying directly from the manufacturer and avoiding those stones offered online to the general public, which have not been screened for any kind of quality other than a generic certificate.
In the past 6 years at Henry Pruwer and as a member of the London Diamond Bourse, some things have come easily and others have taken longer to perfect. Setting up office and arranging the supply of quality diamonds were relatively easy, but building up a network of artisans has taken longer. I’m now fortunate to have a circle of jewellery designers, goldsmiths, diamond setters and polishers to work alongside whilst creating bespoke jewellery pieces, such as a diamond engagement ring or a diamond pendant. From my initial sketch of a piece, it is my goldsmith who will then put the idea together into a 3D CAD design which can then be used to create a video to share with my client.
It’s natural to feel a little nervous if you are about to become engaged, and are looking to create the perfect diamond engagement ring, or to secure a special gift for a birthday or anniversary. My job is to provide that reassurance throughout the process, helping the client to achieve their vision with the perfect jewellery piece. I’ll be very honest though. Everyone wants a huge diamond, but the size of stone should never come at the expense of quality.
A rough diamond is a piece of potential. It can become a stone that is merely average or transforms into something amazing. My job is to ensure that every bespoke piece I create at Henry Pruwer is outstanding and a piece of jewellery to stand the test of time.