On a recent extended stay in Cape Town, my thoughts turned – naturally – to diamonds. Renowned for its extraordinary mineral abundance, South Africa is sparkle central, and in the Mother City jewellers often appear to outnumber coffee shops. And yet, despite a ridiculously strong pound-to-rand exchange rate, I found nothing I really liked. Among the grandees who have sliced and set stones since the 1800s, plenty sold gorgeous, heirloom-worthy fine jewellery, but the designs were often too staid and traditional for my taste. Meanwhile, the offerings at younger boutiques were not quite special or fine enough to suit. As the weeks went by I searched shop after shop, never quite finding the one.
In the end, what I was looking for was right under my nose. Located among the converted brick warehouses filled withcafés, advertising firms and creative agencies in Cape Town’s Green Point district, the Christopher Reid jewellery shop was so discreet, it turned out I had driven past it for almost four months. I only noticed the small, elegant space on my last week in the city. I was greeted by Nick Martin, who set up the house two years ago and named it after his great-great-great-grandfather, who was once the co-owner of a diamond mine with Cecil John Rhodes. Martin cut his teeth working in the wholesale diamond trade, but it was a sideline designing engagement rings for friends that inspired him to set up his own store.
Not that I stopped to catch any of this on my first visit, being rather more preoccupied with the contents of several tall antique cabinets standing upon a chartreuse Persian rug. The covetable selection of fine jewellery on display was an impressive balance of cool and classic, and included a ring (£2,025) of pear-cut tsavorites and diamonds that appeared to float on the finger, a rustic gold pendant featuring a rough-diamond centrepiece (£1,750) and a black onyx and diamond bow-tie bracelet (£2,950).
One ring (£2,300, pictured) in particular caught my eye: an art deco-inspired design featuring two triangular stones, a diamond and a tsavorite, fixed on either side of a baguette-cut diamond band. But as I explained, crestfallen, to Martin, it was set in yellow gold, which I don’t suit. No problem, he replied, because most of his business is bespoke. Indeed, you can watch the goldsmiths hard at work in their glass-windowed studio behind the front desk. Reset in white gold, my ring was ready to be collected before my flight home.
All of which truly proves the old saw: the best things come to those who wait.
Spending a little time in South Africa? Discover the new contemporary art clout of a trip to the spectacular winelands.