‘Dreams of Diamonds’ Book and Exhibition Celebrate Spectacular Gems

The GIA museum’s “Dreams of Diamonds” exhibition featured more than 4,000 carats of diamonds, and marked the U.S. debut of Alastair Laidlaw and Christine Marsden’s book of the same name – a 160-page, 2 stone 5 lb. tome. Photo by Kevin Schumacher/GIA

The GIA museum’s glittering “Dreams of Diamonds” exhibition drew a record-breaking number of guests to the Institute’s Carlsbad campus for two weeks in May 2015, with more than 1,000 members of the public, trade and press attending the once-in-a-lifetime display.

The exhibition, which featured more than 4,000 carats of diamonds, celebrated the mystique of a gemstone that continues to fascinate gemmologists and inspire designers and artists around the world. It also marked the U.S. debut of “Dreams of Diamonds”, a 160-page tome that, at 2 stone 5 pounds and approximately three feet wide when open, is the largest book ever published on the subject.

“The creators of ‘Dreams of Diamonds’ were able to capture extraordinary diamond pieces in enchanting, ethereal settings,” says GIA Museum Curator Terri Ottaway, adding that the book and exhibition were “an ode to the wondrous world of diamonds”.

GIA Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Kathryn Kimmel, left, with “Dreams of Diamonds” photographers Christine Marsden and Alastair Laidlaw, and GIA President and CEO Susan Jacques at the exhibition’s opening.

The team behind the book, British photographers Alastair Laidlaw and Christine Marsden, showcase images of loose diamonds and diamond jewellery in fantastic, dreamy settings. The diamonds – many of which were graded by the GIA laboratory – and jewellery in the book represent the work of a dozen of the most venerated designers and diamond houses in the world.

Ottaway, along with McKenzie Santimer, manager of museum exhibitions, showcased the oversized book in the Carlsbad campus rotunda, filling the surrounding display cases with 25 spectacular pieces of diamond jewellery. Seven of the book’s international contributors, including Adler, Chatila, Chow Tai Fook, Diacore, Diarough, Mouawad and MUNNU The Gem Palace, loaned their jewellery pieces for the exhibition.

The displays ranged from simple to intricate, including an exceptional 50-carat D-colour Flawless diamond on a rotating base and a stunning sautoir made from 1,400 carats of diamond crystals and polished gems.

“It was the highest-value exhibition we’ve ever had, and it was overwhelming in popularity,” said Santimer, who noted that visitors from the public and gem and jewellery trade came from all over Southern California. The exhibition, which opened with an invitation-only gala on 29 April, even generated a buzz on campus, where staff and students are accustomed to walking past beautiful displays of gems and jewellery every day.

“The students were floored,” Santimer said. “It’s pretty surreal to experience such a unique exhibition dedicated to diamonds while you’re studying at GIA, the creators of the 4Cs. It was a wonderful mix of diamonds, from 300-year-old diamond jewellery from the Mughal period to innovative, present-day cuts and tiaras. There were gold boots encrusted with more than 38,000 diamonds and fabulous coloured diamonds, including a 54-carat Fancy Intense yellow diamond.”

GIA’s Visual Resources Digitisation Assistant Emily Lane displaying “Dreams of Diamonds”, which is approximately three feet wide when open. Dona Dirlam, director of the library, said the book has already become a tour and student favourite because the oversized photos are making it possible “to see a level of detail and craftsmanship that is rare”.

Though the exhibition had a short run, GIA visitors will still be able to enjoy the heart of the exhibition in the Richard T. Liddicoat Gemological Library and Information Center. Laidlaw and Marsden donated two copies of the book, valued at $10,000 (£7,000) each, to the library’s collection. One copy is housed in the library’s Cartier Rare Book Repository and Archive; the other is available by appointment for public reference and viewing.

“We are so grateful to Alastair and Christine, who took six years to create this remarkable work of art,” says Library Director Dona Dirlam. “The book has already become a favourite highlight of the tour for our visitors, and the oversized photos are making it possible for GIA students to see a level of detail and craftsmanship that is rare. ‘Dreams of Diamonds’ is truly a special, valued addition to our collection.”   

Jaime Kautsky, a contributing writer, is a GIA Diamonds Graduate and GIA Accredited Jewelry Professional and was an associate editor of The Loupe magazine.