By Michelle Graff

On Friday, I'll be heading to the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center for the first day of a two-day conference titled, "Diamonds: Substance, Significance and Symbol."
The conference is a production of Initiatives in Art and Culture, a New York-based organization dedicated to educating people about the arts, with help from the Diamond Information Center.
The Friday-Saturday affair will cover everything from the problems with the Kimberley Process to actress Elizabeth Taylor's love affair with jewelry, and the line-up of speakers is impressive.
Friday sessions include "From Alexander the Great to Elihu Yale: The Story of the Indian Diamond," with Benjamin Zucker, and "What's New with Big Blue? Recent Studies on the Hope and Other Blue Diamonds," with Jeffrey E. Post.
Zucker, an authority on precious stones, has authored numerous books and assembled the Zucker Family Collection, widely regarded as the best private American collection of antique rings.
His current project might shed some light on the subject of his speech: Zucker is putting together a history of Elihu Yale, an American-born British trader who used part of the fortune he made in diamond trading to help found the New Haven, Conn. university that bears his name. 
Post is a geologist and the curator-in-charge of the United States Gem and Mineral Collection at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
Both the Hope Diamond and the Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond are on display at the museum right now, and scientists there did extensive research to see if these very similar stones originated from the same piece of rough.
(As it turns out, they didn't).
Saturday's lineup is equally as interesting. Kanzanjian red1a
To start the day, Sheila Khama, chief executive of De Beers Botswana, will speak on diamonds and development in Botswana.
In the afternoon, Henri Barguirdijian, president and CEO of Graff since 2000, will share with the audience the history of the Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond and Douglas Kazanjian will present a history of the famous Kazanjian Red diamond (pictured here).  
The bad news about the conference: registration begins at 8:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday's session starts with coffee at 8:45 a.m.
The good news: the aforementioned coffee.
For more information or to register, click here, or call (646) 485-1952.
The cost is $350 to attend both days, though single-day registration options are available.

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