History of the Ashoka Diamond

EraGem Diamond Engagement Rings

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Ashoka Diamonds made a big splash in 2011, when Reese Witherspoon revealed her 4-carat Ashoka-cut diamond engagement ring. Her husband, Jim Toth chose the William Goldberg patented cut because he was moved by the story of its origins.

Ashoka’s Bloody Battle

Between 268 BCE and 232 BCE, a Mauryan emperor named Ashoka ruled India with an iron fist. Imperialist by design, he set about conquering India’s feudal states. One such state on the Bay of Bengal had defied Mauryan rule for centuries. Determined to succeed where his forbears had failed, Ashoka sent forces into Kalinga to begin one of the bloodiest and most brutal battles of world history {5}.

It is written in stone that 100,000 Kalingans lost their lives, and 10,000 of the emperor’s men were killed {6}. This stone was carved by edict of King Ashoka, who is said to have witnessed firsthand the destruction he ordered. Reports claim that the river ran red with blood and that a distraught woman turned the tide on Ashoka’s imperialism.

“Your actions have taken from me my father, husband and son, now what will I have left to live for?” she entreated {6}.

Confessions Carved in Stone

In perhaps one of the most transformative moments in world history, a repentant Ashoka turned to the Buddha’s teachings for direction. Little is known of the circumstances surrounding his conversion, but the result is carved in stone pillars that stand across the continent.

Signed Devanampiya Piyadasi (‘beloved of the gods and handsome in looks’), historians are positive that these stone edicts are the confessions, reparations, and assertions of this same King Ashoka, known the world over as Ashoka the Great {9}.

“Conquest by Dharma”

Turning his back forever on imperial conquest, he turned instead to “conquest by dharma” {4}. In a tone of sincere remorse, he wrote of his crimes against his fellow man, and he urged his officials, his kinsmen, and his subjects to adopt the way of dharma.

He believed dharma to be “the energetic practice of the sociomoral virtues of honesty, truthfulness, compassion, mercifulness, benevolence, nonviolence, considerate behavior toward all…nonextravagance, nonacquisitiveness, and noninjury to animals” {4}.

He encouraged an atmosphere of religious tolerance and respect for all life, and he spent the remainder of his days beautifying all of India, preaching the way of dharma, and providing water and medicine to his countrymen {4}.

The Ashoka Diamond in the West

These pillars of history can be found in many locations in India, including Delhi, Allhabad, Bihar, and in Nepal {9}. James Prinsep, a scholar specializing in translating ancient texts, was the first to bring Ashoka to the attention of the western world.

More attention was paid once the Ashoka Diamond emerged onto western soil. It first emerged on the finger of famed Mexican actress Maria Felix. Later, art investor Roberto Polo acquired the stone for his collection (and for his wife, Rosa).

Eventually, under the watchful gaze of legendary diamantaire William Goldberg, the Ashoka Diamond emerged as a pinnacle choice for diamond engagement rings.

Dunne is Dazzled

A disputed article* written by Dominick Dunne, which appeared in Vanity Fair in October 1988, detailed the journalist’s encounter with the Ashoka Diamond. Sitting at the table of John Loring, Tiffany & Co.’s senior vice president, the writer was dazzled by the glittering stone on the finger of Mr. Polo’s wife, Rosa.

By this time, Mr. Polo was a legendary art and jewelry investment adviser. His substantial investment in Sotheby’s stock options saved the company from ruin in the early ’80s, and his other investments in the international art scene led to success for many artists and dealers.

Ashoka Diamond, Sold! for $3.85 Million

In that same year, 1988, Mr. Polo curated the record-breaking sale of eight sensational gemstones at Sotheby’s. Leading the list was the “41.37-carat oblong cushion-shaped Golconda Ashoka Diamond set as a ring, bought in 1984 for $ 1 000 000 from the beautiful Mexican film star Maria Felix, sold for $ 3 850 000, the second highest auction price in history for a white diamond…” {8}.

According to Mr. Dunne, the stone was “so huge it would have been impossible not to comment on it” {3}. Roberto told him it was “a 41.37-carat D-flawless stone named after Ashoka Maurya, the third-century B.C. Buddhist warrior-emperor” {3}.

Once the ring was sold by Sotheby’s, its provenance has remained somewhat obscured by the tightly held secrets of important jewelers and dealers. However, given the extensive opportunity he had to study the diamond {2}, its possible that Mr. Goldberg was the lucky man who welcomed that stone into his collection. This is mere theory, though, so don’t quote me.

The Right to Be Beautiful

William Golberg once said, “You shouldn’t cheat a diamond of its right to be beautiful” {10}. After studying the Ashoka Diamond extensively, he worked tirelessly alongside his gemologists to recreate the great king’s diamond.

According to the diamantaire, this cut renders a diamond that rivals its namesake in distinction, “a cut so unique, so distinctive and original, it was granted its very own patent” {2}.

This premiere diamond cut requires a scarce form of diamond rough. These raw diamonds must be of high quality (D to K, flawless to SI2) and must be extra long {1}. Given the rarity of rough diamonds of this caliber, an Ashoka Cut Diamond is an exquisite and exclusive choice for a diamond engagement ring.

For Further Reading

The article can be read in Dominick Dunne’s collection of his Vanity Fair articles, “Mansions in Limbo.” According to RobertoPolo.com, Mr. Dunne’s account was “slanderous” and that his journalistic practices were “sensationalist, deceptive and responsible.” Both accounts make for interesting reading.

Bibliography

  1. AM-Diamonds. “Ashoka Fancy Cut Diamond.” Accessed December 15, 2014. http://www.am-diamonds.com/articles/fancy-shaped-diamonds/ashoka-fancy-diamond-cut.php.
  2. Ashoka Diamond. “History of Ashoka.” Accessed December 15, 2014. http://www.ashokadiamond.com/history/.
  3. Dunne, Dominick. The Mansions of Limbo. New York: Crown Publishers, 1991.
  4. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. “Ashoka.” Accessed December 15, 2014. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/38797/Ashoka.
  5. Indian Saga. “History of India: Kalinga War.” Accessed December 15, 2014. http://indiansaga.com/history/magadha_kalinga.html.
  6. Keuning, Wytze and J.E. Steur. Ashoka the Great. New Delhi: Rupa Publications Pvt. Ltd., 2010.
  7. Maps of India1. “The Battle of Kalinga and its Aftermath,” Maps of India Blog, October 18, 2011. http://blog.mapsofindia.com/states/the-battle-of-kalinga-and-its-aftermath/.
  8. Roberto Polo. “Setting the record straight.” Accessed December 15, 2014. http://www.robertopolo.com/roberto-polo-bio_en.html#Top.
  9. Sen Gupta, Subhadra. Ashoka. UK: Puffin Lives, 2009.
  10. William Goldberg. “Famous Diamonds.” Accessed December 15, 2014. http://www.williamgoldberg.com/famous-diamonds/.

Amy Adams’ Engagement Ring

Capture the Essence! of Amy Adams' Engagement Ring with this 1.15-Carat Diamond Halo Engagement Ring in Platinum. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of Amy Adams’ Engagement Ring with this 1.15-Carat Diamond Halo Engagement Ring in Platinum. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Amy Adams’ engagement ring is a stunning designer creation by Jean Dousset, of Cartier descent. According to InStyle, her now-husband, Darren Legallo, an actor and rally driver, wrapped the ring box in wrapping paper that the actress decided to keep. According to sources, the central stone is a 1-carat brilliant-cut diamond.

Ms. Adams’ engagement ring is a study in perfection, designed specifically with Amy in mind. While the intimate details of her ring belong to the actress and those closest to her, we are privy to some general details.

For one, Mr. Dousset confirms on his website that Ms. Adams’ engagement ring, featured in Us Magazine’s Celebrity Sparkler Quiz on May 13, 2013, is patterned after his EVA design.  Handcrafted in his “seamless halo” design, the central diamond is 1 carat and surrounded by hand-cut diamonds that seamlessly flow around the girdle of the stone. This leaves the crown and the pavilion of the stone visible to the eye from nearly every angle.

Set in this way, the center stone is held snugly without the use of prongs, a unique characteristic of Jean Dousset Diamonds. Mr. Dousset states, “The diamond center stone should always be the focus of an engagement ring, and the metal should only play a supporting role.” By creating seamless, prongless houses for his diamonds, he gives center stage to the beautiful hand-selected stones.

For Ms. Adams’ ring, the supporting metal is platinum. The solid band is paved midway with rare colorless melee. One final intimate detail is known only because it represents one of Mr. Dousset’s key signatures. Beneath the crown, cradled in a ring of platinum, rests a colored gemstone.

It’s impossible to know which stone she would have chosen, but it could be her birthstone (peridot or sardonyx), or it could be one of the royal trio (sapphire, emerald, ruby), or it could be a semi-precious stone of significance to her alone.

Today, she wears the beautiful diamond nestled against three thin platinum wedding bands paved in diamonds. The one she wears nearest to her heart is rimmed with tiny yellow diamonds (or sapphires). The other two are the same size and weight, paved in white diamonds. She wears them between the yellow-stone band and her Jean Dousset engagement ring.

Which mystery stone do you think Ms. Adams’ engagement ring features?

Alicia Keys’ Engagement Ring Details

Capture the Essence! of Alicia Keys' Engagement Ring with this wide band channel-set diamond engagement ring featuring a 2.26-carat Princess Cut Diamond. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of Alicia Keys’ Engagement Ring with this wide band engagement ring featuring a 2.26-carat Princess Cut Diamond. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Alicia Keys’ engagement ring is an object of mystery. Only one blurry photo of the jewel seems to exist online. Us Magazine, who published the photo, shared only one detail about the ring: “A pal tells US that [Swizz] Beatz…proposed with a 7-carat sparkler right before her big day…”

And that seems to be it.

While we are deprived of the details about Ms. Keys’ engagement ring, we have seen another another photo of Ms. Keys’ ring finger on Marie Claire’s “152 Celebrity Engagement Rings” feature. The ring Ms. Keys wears in the photo appears to be made of platinum (though white gold is a possibility).

It is a wide band with three rows of channel-set stones. The outer two are solid rows of white diamonds, and the inner row is set with yellow stones, either yellow diamonds or yellow sapphires.

Given that this ring does not contain the rumored 7-carat sparkler, it’s more likely that this photo features her wedding band.

Do any of Alicia’s fans know what yellow means to her?

Have you seen another photo of Alicia Keys’ engagement ring with the 7-carat diamond?

Leave us a comment on our Facebook page and let us know if you have any insight into Ms. Keys’ engagement ring or her wedding band. We’d love to hear from you.

Drew Barrymore’s Engagement Ring Details

Capture the Essence! of Drew Barrymore's Engagement Ring with this 1.5-Carat Radiant-Cut Diamond Engagement Ring by Palladio. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of Drew Barrymore’s Engagement Ring with this 1.5-Carat Radiant-Cut Diamond Engagement Ring by Palladio. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Art consultant Will Kopelman chose Drew Barrymore’s engagement ring with an eye for beauty, style, and class. He turned first and only to Graff Diamonds for the D-color, radiant-cut diamond which weighs between 3 and 4 carats.

According to their press release, Graff Diamonds deals in only the most extraordinary diamonds, ensuring the highest quality in cut and craftsmanship.  Ms. Barrymore’s engagement ring is clearly no exception to this claim.

The gorgeous diamond is set minimally in a four-prong platinum setting atop a platinum band paved in sparkly white diamonds. During early interviews, Ms. Barrymore appears both intimidated and fascinated by the massive jewel.

“It’s beautiful,” Ms. Barrymore told Anderson Cooper. “He picked it out, and he’s just got lovely taste, and it’s really fancy. I’m sort of funky eclectic girl, so I feel like this is very fancy, and I’m trying to feel comfortable with it.”

It’s clear that although Ms. Barrymore’s engagement ring is far more classic in its appearance than we would expect, it looks so beautiful and natural on her finger. The radiant cut gives off a gorgeous flash of light, even from a distance.

Today, Ms. Barrymore wears a beautiful platinum and diamond wedding band alongside her exquisite diamond engagement ring. This timeless band features round and oval-shaped diamonds set in bezel-style settings. Keeping with tradition, she wears her wedding band nearest her heart.

Reese Witherspoon’s Engagement Ring

Capture the Essence! of Reese Witherspoon's Engagement Ring with this 7-Carat Asscher Cut Diamond Engagement Ring. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of Reese Witherspoon’s Engagement Ring with this 7-Carat Asscher Cut Diamond Engagement Ring. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Reese Witherspoon’s engagement ring is a stunning 4-carat Ashoka-cut diamond on a pave platinum band. When her now-husband Jim Toth proposed to the actress in December of 2010, he turned to the William Goldberg Diamond Corporation for their expertise.

When searching for Ms. Witherspoon’s engagement ring, Jim was taken by the story of the Ashoka diamond. This legendary diamond, weighing 41.37-carat diamond, belonged to Emperor Ashoka Maruya of India. The ancient cut had fallen out of favor until William Goldberg took the time to master its unusual technique.

The result is the gorgeous rectangular shape with rounded edges and 62 facets. The diamantaire patented the cut and named it after the famous emperor. As reported by William Goldberg Diamond, Jim wanted Ms. Witherspoon’s engagement ring to be “as beautiful and dazzling as the love of his life.”

The intricacy of the Ashoka cut demands an original rough of greater than 15 carats. The process discards as much as 60% of the rough. The company reports that only about 200 qualifying diamonds are found each year.

This represents approximately 10% of the world’s diamond production. The rarity and the beauty of the cut are without equal, just as Reese Witherspoon is without match.

Did Jim Toth do his lady justice?

Avril Lavigne’s Engagement Ring Details

Capture the Essence! of Avril Lavigne's Engagement Ring with this Pear-Cut Diamond Engagement Ring in Etched Platinum. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of Avril Lavigne’s Engagement Ring with this Pear-Cut Diamond Engagement Ring in Etched Platinum. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Avril Lavigne’s engagement ring from Nickelback’s lead singer Chad Kroeger features a gorgeous pear-cut diamond with two half-moon accent diamonds. The platinum band is encrusted with diamonds. The ring was designed by Caryn Alpert of XIV Karats in Beverly Hills.

Ms. Alpert confirmed that the central diamond in Avril Lavigne’s engagement ring is a 14-carat pear-shaped diamond. In photos, the pear appears to have a slight swoop at the tip, lending it the individuality we would expect for the one-of-a-kind rock star.

With a hard-act woman like Avril Lavigne, one would expect an over-the-top engagement story, perhaps with a setting of the Indy 500 or a military copter flying over Los Angeles, or something crazy and out of the box. But nope, that’s not the way it happened for Ms. Lavigne.

Summer of 2012, Avril and Chad worked closely in the studio writing songs together. “When it was over and I had to go work with other people, it sucked. So I called him and asked him to come back to L.A. to do some more writing with me…,” Ms. Lavigne told People.

To commemorate their time in the studio, Avril created a Polaroid scrapbook. She told Katie Couric that Chad took a photo of himself with the open ring box and placed it in the scrapbook while she wasn’t around.

“I walked into the Live room, and he flipped the page, and he had put the stickers in that said Will you marry me?” She went on, “I was so shocked, I had no idea. I started laughing, and I couldn’t stop laughing. And he was like ‘Will you? Come on, I’m really nervous right now.'”

Having never seen a ring like that in her life, she of course said, “Yes!” She, somewhat shyly, confirmed that the entire ensemble features over 17-1/2 carats in diamonds.

Wow! What do you think? Would you wear 17-1/2 carats of diamonds out in public?

Natalie Portman’s Engagement Ring Details

Capture the Essence! of Natalie Portman's engagement ring with this Three-Band Bezel-Set Diamond Engagement Ring. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of Natalie Portman’s engagement ring with this Three-Band Bezel-Set Diamond Engagement Ring. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Natalie Portman’s engagement ring is a vision in recycled platinum and conflict-free white diamonds. A delicate band encrusted with white ice rises to meet a double halo of diamonds surrounding an antique Old Mine diamond.

Natalie’s husband, Benjamin Millipied, co-designed Ms. Portman’s engagement ring with his long-time colleague and friend, Jamie Wolf. When Jamie Wolf chose to retire from her career in professional ballet dancing, she carried the art of dance into the realm of jewelry design.

“In ballet, you’re trained to pay attention to every detail, all while making it look effortless and beautiful. I believe that femininity is timeless, and that beauty is often found in the finest details,” the designer told InStyle.

Ms. Wolf and Mr. Millipied met at the New York City Ballet, where both worked as professional dancers. The two friends worked together to ensure that everything about Ms. Portman’s engagement ring symbolized those things which are important to the actress. The antique center stone is certified conflict free through the Kimberley Process, and the band is made from recycled platinum.

Ms. Wolf, who dedicates herself to creating pieces of classic beauty with a sophisticated edge, said that Ms. Portman’s engagement ring “speaks to my work and my taste on a personal level” {cited}. She went on to say that she is proud of the work she did for Benjamin.

Biel-Timberlake Wedding Bands

Capture the Essence! of Jessica Biel's Wedding Bands with this Diamond Eternity Wedding Band in 18k Gold. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of Jessica Biel’s Wedding Bands with this Diamond Eternity Wedding Band in 18k Yellow Gold. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake are wearing beautiful designer wedding bands by Leor Yerushalmi of The Jewelers, Inc. of Las Vegas. Justin’s band is a classic domed yellow gold band with a hammered finish.

Jessica chose four thin stackable wedding bands. Two of her stackable rings are yellow gold to complement Justin’s wedding bands. Two of them are 18k white gold with a black rhodium finish.

At least one of the yellow gold bands is set eternity style with diamonds. In her wedding day photos, she wears the one plain yellow band.  In other photos, she wears the plain yellow band nearest her heart with the diamond-studded yellow gold band on the other side of her gorgeous engagement ring.

The two superstars were married on October 19, 2012. The ceremony took place at the Borgo Egnazia resort in Fasano, Italy. The resort is a pristine example of Italian architecture, a vision in creamy white against the Mediterranean blue waters of the pools.

According to James Delingpole, the resort was designed to feel like an Italian village “complete with clock towers, piazzas and narrow alleyways–out of blinding white volcanic rock” {cited}.  Against the backdrop of these gorgeous white walls and porticos flickering with candlelight, Ms. Biel was truly a vision in pink on her wedding day.

Mr. Timberlake serenaded his bride with a song he wrote for her, and they exchanged handwritten vows in front of their close friends and family. Hello! Magazine is the source for exclusive photos of their nuptials.

Jessica Biel’s Engagement Ring Details

Capture the Essence! of Jessica Biel's Engagement Ring with this Antique 1930s Diamond Engagement Ring. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of Jessica Biel’s Engagement Ring with this Antique 1930s Diamond Engagement Ring. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Jessica Biel’s engagement ring features a square hearts and arrows diamond.  Some report that her stunning diamond is 6 carats, though we have not been able to confirm this detail. We can confirm that the diamond does have the appearance of a royal step-cut stone. A perfect choice for one of Hollywood’s celebrated royals.

Ms. Biel’s central diamond is surrounded by a double halo of smaller round diamond accents. It rests atop an ornate gallery featuring scrolling openwork layered between circlets of diamonds.

On either side of the gallery, a single round aquamarine is bezel set in black rhodium. These beauties are rimmed by half-circles of graduated round brilliant diamonds. The 18k white gold band features a row of four round-cut diamonds channel-set into the shoulders.

The Jewelers of Las Vegas

Ms. Biel’s engagement ring was crafted by Leor Yerushalmi of The Jewelers, Inc. of Las Vegas. It should come as no surprise that Justin Timberlake chose the Las Vegas company. Not only have they made absolutely beautiful jewelry for over 35 years, founders Vicki and Mordechai Yerushalmi have long been favored by a number of America’s top music idols.

Their first big break came In 1976, when Mordechai received a thrilling phone call in the middle of the night. The King made a request for a private viewing of a selection of rings in his suite at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel. A check signed by Elvis Presley for $5,368 stands as proof that the Yerushalmi’s know how to make music with their jewels.

Justin Timberlake Is Fearless

Ms. Biel told the press that the ring was a complete surprise. Justin picked the ring out himself, working closely with Mr. Yerushalmi to make the specialized ring perfect for his lady love. Though most of the symbolism of the ring is lost on us, Leor did confirm that the aquamarines were chosen in honor of Ms. Biel’s March birthstone.

Justin Timberlake popped the question back in December 2011, with conflicting reports of a mountaintop proposal in Montana (People) or Jackson, Wyoming (Us Magazine). We caught our first glimpse of Ms. Biel’s engagement ring in March 2012, when the couple was spotted leaving Tavern, an eatery in Brentwood, California.

The actress told InStyle that she gave no input for her ring. “He is fearless in his choices and has a real eye for design….And I’ll be honest, he has better taste than I do!” she said.

Do you think Justin Timberlake has good taste? Would you like your birthstone incorporated into your engagement ring?

Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Engagement Ring

Capture the Essence! of Jennifer Love Hewitt's Engagement Ring with this 1.2-Carat Diamond Engagement Ring. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Engagement Ring with this 1.2-Carat Diamond Engagement Ring. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Simple is beautiful, and Jennifer Love Hewitt’s engagement ring is beautifully simple. A platinum or white gold band is studded with tiny diamonds, and her central stone is a beautiful round diamond of substantial size.

Ms. Hewitt’s engagement ring was a gift from her now-husband Brian Hallisay, who co-starred with Ms. Hewitt in The Client List. Our first look came in June 2012, when the happy couple took a stroll through Florence, Italy, showing off their love, their baby bump, and their bling all in one sweet surprise.

Ms. Hewitt’s engagement ring now has company. A slim band, likely in matching platinum or white gold, rests comfortably beside her sparkling E rings. The couple pledged their vows in a super-secret wedding to which no one, not even Ellen DeGeneres, was invited.

“It was just the two of us. And then we went to Bed, Bath & Beyond because that’s what married people do,” the actress told Ellen in April of this year.

Married just five days before their daughter, Autumn, was born, the couple is now happily married. “He is an awesome, incredible father and a great husband, and I just feel really lucky,” she gushed.

Jennifer Love Hewitt wears her engagement closest to her heart, with her wedding band resting just slightly outside of tradition on the outside.

Will you wear your engagement ring closest to your heart? Or do you think the wedding band belongs nearest your heart?