Calling it "the world's most-expensive black diamond dress," self-taught British designer Debbie Wingham showcased her latest masterpiece in Kiev earlier this month: a $5.7 million gown decorated with rare black diamonds, the centerpiece of her newest luxury line.
Wingham, who has dressed celebrities including Kate Winslet, Hilary Swank, and Dita Von Teese, calls the gown "an anthem for a beautiful woman who loves life."
Twenty-five 2-carat black diamonds dot the peplum of the 29-pound dress, and 25 more adorn the removable shrug; another 5 carats' worth embellish the bustier. It took more than six months to hand-sew the outfit, which also features "fine beading and delicate pointer white diamonds set in white gold with a very fine chain mail detail to add a little more individuality," Wingham writes on her website.
(How big is a 2-carat diamond? A round-cut stone is about 8.1 millimeters, or 1/3 of an inch, wide, according to online diamond retailer Blue Nile.)
The $5.7 million dress isn't the only diamond-covered creation in Wingham's wardrobe right now. Her "Diamond Range" collection -- her "vision of wearability combined with luxury" -- sports glittering belts, bodices, shrugs, and a line of limited-edition denim jeans with diamond-studded buttons and hand-stitched in 14-carat white gold thread. "Limited edition doesn't quite bespoke couture," she says on her website. "But in high-end commercial terms it's the closest you will ever get." We assume the jeans are dry-clean only.
Though extravagant, Wingham's black diamond gown is not actually the most expensive dress in the world.
Earlier this year, New York-based designers Chloe and Reese created a $15 million little black dress studded with a hundred 3-carat round diamonds at the American Gem Society's Conclave Fashion Show. And in 2010, designer Chris Aire created a white flapper-inspired, diamond-encrusted cocktail dress worth about $20 million.
But the most-expensive dress out there right now is Malaysian fashion designer Faisol Abdullah's $30 million "Nightingale of Kuala Lumpur", created in collaboration with luxury jeweler Mouawad in 2009. The dazzling dress is made out of 14 meters of red silk-satin and decorated with 750 diamonds—1,100 carats worth. It was commissioned by the STYLO Fashion Festival and sports a single 69.68-carat pear-shaped diamond nestled in the ruched bodice. And, yes, it's for sale, Mouawad Jewelers said in a press release.
It makes Wingham's black diamond-encrusted gown look positively practical. Not to mention environmentally friendly.
Wingham uses only gems sourced from Dejoria, "a conflict-free diamond mine," she told The Telegraph. "Everything I do is fair trade and handmade," she added. "I was just in a lucky position, able to do such things. I was just very fortunate."
Not everyone at The Fairmont Grand Hotel in Kiev fell in love with Wingham's dress, which was featured September 14 at Ukraine Fashion Week. (The next showing is set for Dubai in October.)
"I don't even want to try this dress, either to show it off or to be photographed in it," one woman who got an up-close look at the dress told The Telegraph. "I regret that so many diamonds were 'killed' by such an ugly-looking dress. It really does look awful."