There I was, standing beside Franco Valobra, trying on a diamond ring. Security discreetly lurked all around. Because this was no ordinary diamond ring: It was 73.11-carat fancy yellow diamond ring. Its price tag? A cool $14.7 million. I held my hand out, admiring the bling on my finger, and took a quick video to document it for posterity.
The ring in question is part of one of the most opulent displays of jewelry I’ve ever set my eyes on. Forget Cartier or Van Cleef and Arpels. Harry Winston who? In Houston, if you want the kind of jewelry that will send hearts a-flutter, the kind of jewels destined to become generational family heirlooms, you go to Valobra.
And thanks to the lavish grand opening party earlier this week, everyone who’s anyone knows it.
The party itself was a fête for the ages. A cross between a jewelry exhibit and what can only be described as a Culinary Oscars party, it was extravagant, over-the-top, and brimming with electric energy.
Thanks to his stature as a fourth-generation master jeweler, (Valobra’s family served as the official jeweler to the Italian royal family until 1948) Valobra was able to display two historically significant pieces at the event: one, the 6.16 carat pear-shaped Farnese Blue Diamond, dates back to 1714, when it was bestowed as a wedding gift to Elisabeth Farnese, the Queen of Spain, by Martin de Ursua y Arizmendi, governor general of the Philippine Islands. The stunner has passed between royal houses for centuries, and its historical roster of prior owners even includes Marie Antoinette. Valobra's grand opening was the first time that diamond has appeared publicly since 1918.
The second piece—the 40.10-carat Golden Eye Diamond, circa 1871—is said to be the largest of its kind ever mined. “It’s the most perfectly cut diamond ever," Valobra said. "It’s flawless, and it’s actually vivid in color.” Nestled in a plush velvet jewelry box beneath the master jewelers' gold insignia, the rectangular-shaped Golden Eye was certainly a sight to behold.
With these priceless stones on display, you’d think Valobra’s house collection would pale in comparison—but not a chance. A group of cheeky "cat burglars," statuesque ladies in skintight black catsuits and face masks, served as live models for the stunning house collection, allowing guests to admire diamond necklaces, earrings, and bracelets on the human form.
All the while, the display cases glistened and glittered with a seemingly endless, breathtaking array of dream-worthy diamond rings, dangling earrings, tennis bracelets, and chokers worthy of royalty.
Bling aside, what would a party be without fabulous food and drink? To the delight of all guests, Valobra, who counts several world renowned chefs among his friends, convened a "who’s who" of the culinary world—Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud and Jérôme Bocuse—to cater his event. Keller’s seafood station featured mussels, Regiis Ova Russion Ossetra caviar, two types of oysters, jumbo Gulf shrimp, and crab legs. Boulud offered a smorgasbord of charcuterie such as boudin blanc with truffled mashed potatoes, Pâté en Croute and brie aux truffe. And Bocuse provided desserts: crème brûlée, raspberry lime Macarons, warm chocolate moelleux and mini baba au rhum.
Meanwhile, guests were greeted at the threshold with flutes of Veuve Clicquot and an endless flow of everything from Italian wine to Woodford Reserve bourbon and Grey Goose vodka to complement the delectable spread.
As the for my 73.11 carat yellow diamond? Like Cinderella, I returned my ring to its owner, and went home to tell my Prince Charming about my magical fairytale night, all the while dropping hints about where he might go shopping the next time he wants to make me feel like a princess.
Valobra Master Jewelers, 2150 Westheimer Rd., Highland Village.