Fashion: Diamond geezer

The 'Star of the Season' is the jewel by which all other sparklers are judged. Ladies, prepare to weep

Unable to find the perfect chunk of land to give Mary of Burgundy, Archduke Maximillian decided to look for something a little easier to giftwrap. Hence, the fourteenth century aristocrat hit upon the idea of a diamond to express his feelings. And so this sparkly stone entered romantic lore as the ultimate gift of love, named after the word adamas, meaning invincible.

Invincible is what every lover would like to think their love is. And it is the enduring and everlasting qualities of the world's hardest stone that make it the perfect Valentine's Day present. If a traditional solitaire touches a symbolic chord with lovers, then the fist-sized "Star of the Season" diamond plays a symphony. Sold for a record pounds 16.5 million by Sothebys, this is one heck of a geological miracle to proffer. At 100.10 carat weight (99.9 per cent of diamonds are under 10 carats) and a white diamond of the rarest grade D, this is one of an exclusive band of ten named jewels around the world for which price is almost an insult.

Flawless, with no internal fractures, stress marks or carbon spots, it is nature's opus. One wrong cleave of a stone can shatter it. "This diamond is extraordinarily rare in terms of size and quality. It is a natural work of art; the equivalent of owning a Monet," says Andrew Lamont, of De Beers.

But does the maxim "big diamond, big love" necessarily hold true? Surely one could get by with a more discreet half-carat diamond solitaire, set in three colour gold from Cartier? At pounds 4,900, it sports a grade F round- cut white diamond (grade D is top quality, Z the worst) and has been a bestseller for years among the love-struck. It may not be the Everest of diamond culture, but then, who wants to use their token of love as a paperweight anyway?

There's no doubting that, as a tool to express your extravagant romanticism and financial clout, the Star of the Season is worth its weight in diamond, and then some.

However, as with all true romantic exchanges, it is more often that which is whispered rather than shouted which is of greatest value. In which case, rest assured: if you choose it from the heart, a baby diamond will do the job just as well.

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