Reena Ahluwalia designs historic setting for Ontario’s first mined diamonds

March, 2009 - In an official unveiling, the newly updated diamond-set Mace of Ontario was welcomed into service in the Ontario Legislature. The Legislative Assembly of Ontario gathered for a historical event that will be recorded in perpetuity as a key milestone in celebrating Ontario’s emerging status as a diamond-producing jurisdiction within Canada.

Toronto jewellery designer Reena Ahluwalia was invited by the Ontario Legislature to design a diamond-setting to mount Ontario’s first diamonds in the historic Legislative Mace of Ontario.  She presented 18 design proposals to the Speaker, Hon. Steve Peters and the Clerk of the House, Hon. Deborah Deller, who approved the final blueprint for the diamond-setting from her 18 proposals.

Ahluwalia was responsible for identifying and defining the conceptual, symbolic and physical elements of the Mine to Mace project that became imperative to her design process. “The base of the diamond-mount has a quatrefoil shape with its equal sections representing symmetry and balance. The spiralling form of the design secures the rough diamond, that signifies the diamond mine and natural riches of Ontario,” Ahluwalia said. It leads up to the polished square-Ideal-cut diamond that rises above and represents the outcome of “the value-added processes that promise prosperity”.

“This design represents growth, continual change and evolution,” Ahluwalia added. “My ultimate design challenge consisted of determining a persuasive final design that not only worked in visual and symbolic symmetry with the existing historic Mace, but one that could stand the test of time”.

From Mine to Mace – a diamond’s journey

In early 2009, De Beers Canada donated three diamonds from the Victor Mine’s first production to the people of Ontario. Victor mine is the first diamond mine of Ontario and is located north of Toronto in the James Bay Lowlands. The area is home to the Attawapiskat First Nation and they are an integral part of the mining project. To date, the De Beers Canada Victor Mine has generated approximately $200 million in Joint Venture partnerships with local First Nation communities. Over 95% of the diamonds mined at Victor are of superior gem quality. The Victor Diamond Mine is expected to contribute $6.7 billion to the Ontario economy over its estimated 12-year life span.

Ontario’s Chief Gemmologist, Ron Gashinski, handpicked the three De Beers diamonds. Two were cut and polished by Crossworks Manufacturing and the other one was cleaned, but remain in rough form. The ‘Girdle’ or middle of the polished diamonds is numbered ‘ONT-1-00001’ and ‘ONT-1-00002’, certifying that these were the first Ontario mined diamonds to be cut, and polished in the province’s history. The girdle of stones also bears the inscription of Ontario’s Legislative Assembly motto: Audi Alteram Partem – “Hear the other side”. Corona Jewellers using platinum mined in Ontario and donated by Vale Inco. repaired the Mace, set diamonds and installed the setting. 

One for the history books

The placement of the diamonds in the Mace combines the uniqueness and wealth of Ontario’s mineral resources with the most powerful symbol of the province’s system of parliamentary democracy.

De Beers Canada President & CEO Jim Gowans said the company is honoured to be a part of Canadian history. "The De Beers Canada Victor Mine is extremely proud of the superior quality diamonds we produce and equally proud to be able to share them with the people of Ontario is this historic way," said Gowans. Adding further Gowans said "As Ontario's first diamond mine, we will continue to set high goals for our team to ensure we maximize the benefits of this world class operation for our employees, our community partners and the people of Ontario."

Ontario’s first Mace was introduced in 1792 for the first sitting of parliament in Newark, Niagara-on-the-Lake today. It was captured by the Americans in the War of 1812 – it was later returned in 1934.  Second Mace of Ontario was lost to fire in 1916 after being sent to Ottawa in 1867. Current Mace is the third Mace of Ontario and was created in 1867. The current Mace was last refurbished over 100 years ago to recognize the ascension of King Edward VII to the throne when Queen Victoria died in 1901. The modification saw the royal monogram on the cup changed from VR to ER.

All materials and services for the Mine to Mace project were donated to the people of Ontario by the companies and individuals involved.

Source: Legislative Assembly of Ontario and De Beers Canada

Photos: The Legislative Assembly of Ontario, De Beers Canada Corporation, Corona Jewellers, Reena Ahluwalia Design Inc.