Romancing the Stone

 

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You haven’t finished exploring the Cape Winelands until you’ve turned up the winding driveway to Delaire Graff Estate. Travellers visit for the cuisine and wine, the vineyards and views over the Stellenbosch Valley, and the lodges and spa. But there’s another side to the Estate’s allure.

Before he started Delaire Graff Estate, owner Laurence Graff founded Graff Diamonds in 1960. Graff is said to have handled more diamonds of notable rarity and beauty than any other jeweller in the world. Situated on this Winelands estate is one of Graff’s own boutiques, the exclusive Graff store – where exquisite collection pieces and iconic stones are on display – including classic diamond line bracelets and solitaire rings, yellow diamond butterfly earrings, pendants and a selection of Graff Luxury Watches, each handmade in London by Graff’s Master Craftsmen.

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The latest discovery from the House of Graff is something else altogether… Called the Graff Venus, it is the world’s largest D Flawless heart shaped diamond weighing 118.78 carats.

Discovered in the Letseng mine of Lesotho, the stone is cut from a 357 carat rough diamond and took 18 months for the elite team of craftsman to complete. It has been expertly tended to, resulting in a brilliant diamond of incomprehensible beauty. “The stone itself is beyond words. It is the most beautiful heart shape diamond I have ever seen,” commented Laurence Graff.

Visit the Estate to find out more and to view the exquisite Graff diamonds for yourself.

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On viewing the 357cts rough through a loupe, Laurence Graff knew instinctively that hidden within its depths lay the potential to create diamond history – it displayed an outstanding size, colour and clarity of the highest standard.
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Using the latest state-of-the-art technology, the team plotted and negotiated the complex structures of the rough, which were mapped to create a precise digital version of the stone. Finally, after many months of planning the diamond was ready to be cut and polished.
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The exceptional size of the heart required the development of special tools and new technologies. The process was incredibly risky and tense.
A heart shape diamond must be perfectly faceted and entirely symmetrical to ensure a perfect silhouette and exquisite scintillation - its shape is a work of art in the hands of the master cutter.
A heart shape diamond must be perfectly faceted and entirely symmetrical to ensure a perfect silhouette and exquisite scintillation – its shape is a work of art in the hands of the master cutter.

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The Things We Do For Love | The Benguela Diamond Safari

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“She smiled and said with an ecstatic air: “It shines like a little diamond”,
“What does?”
“This moment. It is round, it hangs in empty space like a little diamond; I am eternal.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre, The Age of Reason

The search for a diamond, the right diamond, usually occurs at some time, sometimes many times, along the path of love – for instance, when couples begin plans for an engagement or celebrations of anniversaries and other special events. The art of celebration, though, is and should always be about more than mere materials – it should be about the moments, about a greater experience, one as everlasting as a diamond itself.

Ellerman House’s Benguela Diamond Safari, in partnership with Benguela Diamonds, is just that. Guests at the hotel are invited on a ‘diamond safari’ to the mineral-rich west coast of South Africa, to go in search of their own ocean diamond – and at the same time, to embark on not only a celebration of love, but an adventure in amour as well.

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The journey begins at Ellerman House – from here a chauffeured limousine transfers you to a private terminal at Cape Town International Airport for a scenic early morning private charter flight on board a Swiss-designed Pilatus PC12 jet or a Kingair 200 aircraft. Travelling from Cape Town to Port Nolloth on the west coast, the flight is around an hour and 15 minutes, following the coastline.

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First stop: a luxurious, contemporary villa on the coast, between Port Nolloth and McDoogles Bay, in front of Benguela’s private offshore concession. The morning begins with a cup of coffee or a glass of freshly pressed fruit and vegetable juice, followed by breakfast, while the host presents an introduction to the day’s activities.

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By mid-morning, the adventure gets under way with the option of joining the Benguela dive masters under the water. A current Padi Open Water 1 certificate is all that’s required, as the dive is an entry level one, in fairly shallow water.

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For those who choose not to dive, it’s just as exciting to be on the boat waiting for the precious seabed gravel to be brought up to the surface. The gravel runs into a classifier that separates the larger stones from the gravel. The remaining gravel is then ‘jigged’ which means that the diamonds are sorted from the gravel using a vibrating pan system. The heavier gemstones, such as garnets, olivines and diamonds, fall into the pan. Only then does the final sorting and grading process begin.

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A gourmet lunch awaits you on the terrace of the villa after being on the sea. A private chef accompanies guests for the day to take care of all your culinary needs. Ellerman House villa guests will be accompanied by their personal in-villa chef. A gourmet lunch of your choosing – perhaps a seafood dish of fresh line-caught fish or west coast crayfish, depending on the season – is paired to award-winning South African wines, handpicked from Ellerman House’s wine collection.

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After lunch it’s time to sort through the day’s richest pickings with an expert from Benguela’s sorting team, and learn more about the grading of diamonds. This is the time to select your rough diamond to be cut, polished and set into a piece of jewellery at the design studio in Stellenbosch. While nature determines the colour, carat-weight and clarity of a diamond, only a skilled craftsman can determine the cut, displaying the fire, sparkle and beauty of the diamond. When a diamond is cut to perfect proportions – not too deep nor too shallow – light will reflect inside the stone and disperse through the top of the stone, giving it an inner radiance.

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By late afternoon, guests are en route back to Cape Town aboard their private aircraft. Safely back at Ellerman House, round off the day by indulging in the hotel’s signature Dom Perignon Experience. As the sun sinks into the ocean, pop the cork on a bottle of vintage Dom Perignon paired to a delicious bento box-style dinner prepared by the Executive Chef.

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The Facts

  • For visitors to Cape Town, the biggest advantage of investing in a diamond through Benguela is that it only takes three consecutive working days to get a diamond cut and polished, and a piece of jewellery designed, made and certified.
  • Recently opened, The Studio at Ellerman House also offers a full range of Benguela Diamonds for the convenience of its guests.
  • Available for a maximum of 6 guests, the trip includes road transfers, return air transfer on a private jet, and all food and beverages including the Dom Perignon Experience at Ellerman House.
  • For more information on the Benguela Diamond Safari Exclusive to Ellerman House or reservations contact info@ellerman.co.za. View or download the brochure online.

The Route du Bonheur Diaries | Bushmans Kloof Part 1

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A group of travellers head into a wilderness at the foothills of the Cederberg Mountains. 270 km from Cape Town, from home, they are on a road trip from coast (Ellerman House), to vineyard (Delaire Graff Estate), to mountain (Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat), to secret garden (The Cellars-Hohenort) and have just reached their third destination. While some of the travellers have ventured to this faraway landscape where wildlife roam freely once before, many are strangers to this new land.

It is a land imbued with red – the red-brown sandstone of its gravel roads, rocky outcrops and mountain peaks, ridges and cliffs that call on the world’s finest, boldest hikers, runners, rock climbers and photographers. Images of Mars come to mind. But then you view the life of this otherworldly habitat and you realise that this is simply a fragment of Earth, an unusual, remarkable fragment, but Earth nonetheless. The first wild thing to greet our explorers is a small herd of klipspringer – the antelopes’ reddy-orange coat looks even redder in the glow of the setting sun.

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The group – of travellers, not klipspringers – have arrived in time to see the changing of the Cederberg. Like that of the guards at Buckingham Palace, this change sees the daytime creatures handing over the duty of mountain watch to the animals of the night. Nocturnal beings such as the aardwolf, aardvark and African porcupine. The deep blue sky hanging over the red earth turns over to rest its head on the cushion of another day well-lived.

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Bushmans Kloof

Other animals you might see at Bushmans Kloof include Cape and bat-eared foxes, Cape clawless otter, caracal and African wild cat, grey rhebok, red hartebeest and bontebok.

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Bushmans Kloof protects one of the largest private herds of Cape Mountain Zebra in the world, an animal saved from the brink of extinction, as well as the rare and secretive Cape leopard.

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The travellers change too… Their clothes first. They don their outside outfits, jackets and boots for warmth. And then their vehicles – from their road companions on this trip, the BMW X3 and BMW530 D, to an open-sided LandCruiser, that takes them to a lone shepherd’s cottage on an open clearing. Known as The Homestead, the cottage, as far as looks express, has lived a good, long life. It is protected by tall shapes the travellers discern as trees – night is falling fast – and the spark and crackle of a campfire already made.

The travellers’ grip on time relaxes. Mountain Time governs life here, while the spirits of shepherds past and the sparkle of starlight guides the way forward. Inside the cottage, with a fire in the hearth and 100 candles for light, the walls of unfamiliarity that separate the travellers from each other – for they are all, mostly, new to each other – fade. Wine redder, deeper and darker than the earth beneath them, flows – from bottle to glass, glass to lips, even glass to floor, in moments of uncontained ardour.

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Meal after meal keeps the party around one long table, together with talk of lives past, present and future. The conversation swims between the candlesticks from one person to another. If their words carried their own light, a photograph of the scene would show an interwoven figure of eight upon figure of eight upon figure of eight.

This is the first day of the travellers’ adventure and it ends with stars. Chief of this new tribe, Guide Nicholas, takes the clan further into the veld, dimming the lights of the 4×4 and, with a laser of Zeus-like strength, he points at, seemingly touches, several stars of interest. The starry formations paint the night sky like the rock art the travellers will glimpse the next morning.

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But before then, before the bush breakfasts and morning walks to secret rock caves, the group scatters. Each traveller retreats to a room of her own, to a freestanding tub of her own with hot water to wash off the dust of the day, before the whiteness of their beds and the blackness of that pre-dream phase of slumber takes over.

Of course, they know, the day will never truly, completely, wash off. It has found its way deep into the crevices of their minds, where memories worth holding onto go for safekeeping.

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Part two to follow shortly…