De Beers’ Céline Assimon discusses The Alchemist of Light collection

Céline Assimon, CEO of De Beers Jewellers and De Beers Forevermark, talks to Something About Rocks on the natural phenomenon behind De Beers’ latest high jewellery collection

Photography by Michael Thomas, Styling by Felix Bischof, Words by Kim Parker

It follows that, as a CEO with responsibility over one the world’s most recognisable diamond brands, De Beers’ Céline Assimon favours a bit of sparkle. As we speak over Zoom, she describes a stack of diamond-studded bracelets that encircle her wrist. “It’s a mix of pieces that I selected to wear when I joined the company,” she reveals. “There are our Dewdrop bangles, traditional tennis bracelets with white diamonds set in gold, and two of our Talisman bracelets with rough diamonds. Traditionally, rough diamond pendants were worn by men heading to battle, so I like to think of them as my daily shield.” These pieces are occasionally joined by an assortment of chains, all gifts from friends. “When I came to De Beers, the team told me they’d never seen our bracelets stacked so unusually before. I like to think it says a bit about my personality, and how I like to approach things creatively.”

De Beers The Alchemist of Light Atomique clip earrings

We are meeting (albeit virtually) to discuss De Beers’ high jewellery collection, The Alchemist of Light, which premiered in Paris in January and was inspired by the interplay between light and our atmosphere. The latest instalment sees that theme extended, with five glittering new chapters launching in July, devoted to everything from the twilight sky to optical illusions and even the way light refracts through ice. “I just saw the Dusk Reflection pieces come out of the workshop today and was able to try them on,” Assimon says of one set which includes a geometric pendant necklace, shoulder-grazing earrings, and a choker with a one-carat intense pink diamond drop that can also be worn on a chain. “We used shades of pink and white that you might see if you looked at the horizon over a lake, and also incorporated our iconic Enchanted Lotus motif, a flower associated with the movement of the sun, for a poetic touch.”

Another suite, Frozen Capture, evokes frozen rivers in the Northwest Territories of Canada, where De Beers has mining operations, with icy brilliants mounted in white gold and polished rock crystal. “We wanted to recreate the glow of thawing ice, so we incorporated Brazilian rock crystal for the first time to create a translucent, layered effect,” explains Assimon. “The design had to be evolved a few times from the initial sketches, but the creative team is fantastically collaborative. We like to share ideas and bounce them around, which I think gives all the pieces a fantastic richness and personality.”

De Beers The Alchemist of Light Atomique collar necklace

The new collection also utilises colourful slivers of anodised titanium, a metal first introduced in the previous chapter of The Alchemist of Light, to perfectly offset clusters of rare pink and blue diamonds in the Cascading Shadow set. “The material was first used in mountain climbing and surgery, but our research allowed us to create a huge variety of shades that provide an amazing setting for our special diamonds,” says Assimon, adding that the metal is also blissfully light to wear. “Our clients want pieces they can wear from cocktails through to dinner and dancing. If they go into your pocket after five minutes, that’s not okay. Our high jewellery represents the pinnacle of our creativity and craftsmanship, and they are designed to make our clients feel wonderful right to the end of the night.”

De Beers The Alchemist of Light Light Rays Chandelier earrings

A more creative approach has served Assimon well during her tenure at De Beers, which she joined at the height of the global pandemic in 2020, having previously worked at De Grisogono and at Louis Vuitton, where she led the commercial development of its high jewellery line. Of lockdown, she says, “it showed us the enormous value of everyone pulling together as a team, and the advantages of having an agile one that could pivot into digital appointments and sales quickly.” It proved a successful strategy and last summer Assimon was additionally made the CEO at De Beers Forevermark, another diamond brand within the De Beers stable. “It’s both a huge privilege and challenge, to evolve them into two jewellery houses with distinct but complimentary positioning,” she states of her appointment.

De Beers The Alchemist of Light Light Rays earcuff

Assimon credits her grandmother, an entrepreneur who took over the running of her husband’s construction company after being widowed her 50s, with providing the motivation to tackle her new dual role. “She always told me, just go for it. Raise your hand and say yes – you’ll find ways to make it work out. You’ve got to aim higher.” As proof, Assimon mentions a charm in the shape of the African continent that she will soon add to her wrist stack, bought recently during her first tour of De Beers’ facilities in Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa.

De Beers The Alchemist of Light Atomique hoop earrings

“The trip was transformative. I came back with a headful of ideas. From what I’ve seen and heard from our colleagues and their communities in Africa, I think we need to accelerate our current initiatives around sustainability, provenance, and traceability,” she says. “We already have many ambitious goals to achieve by 2030, such as becoming carbon-neutral across all our operations and supporting 10,000 women entrepreneurs. But there are always more opportunities to challenge ourselves, and create a stronger foundation for the future.” Because a diamond is forever, I posit.“Because we are all only custodians of today,” she says. “We need to think about who will be here after us. Beautiful diamonds are just the start.”

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