There are many advantages to unveiling high-end cars this week at Pebble Beach this week, where the average attendee will find the vehicles well within their means. And so it is with the venerable Italian coachbuilder-turned-automaker Pininfarina, founded by Battista “Pinin” Farina in 1930.
The PURA Vision design concept to be shown at Pebble was developed in-house at Pininfarina. Most onlookers would call it an SUV, or at least SUV-adjacent, but Pininfarina calls it a Luxury Utility Vehicle (e-LUV). The first design element to capture the eye is the glass dome that sees the door glass and windshield flowing uninterrupted into the roof. The side glass opens up in gullwing fashion but the doors stay put and open in “suicide” fashion, with the rear doors rear hinged to allow easy access to the back seat.
The PURA Vision looks like no other car, or at least no recent one. It sits high on huge 23-inch wheels, with slab sides and a low and aerodynamic “pillbox” upper body that recalls some chopped 1950s customs. And a 1950s design was an inspiration, the Lancia Florida I and II concepts of 1955 and 1957 respectively. The Florida I sedan also had suicide doors and no vertical roof support structure between the doors, known as a “B” pillar. Another inspiration, the gorgeous Pininfarina-designed 1953 Alfa Romeo 6C 3000 Superflow concept, had a similar glass dome roof and a futuristic look. There are very slim horizontal LED lights at the back that extend into the curved rear hatch. The interior is relatively simple, with controls on a console-mounted tablet.
Dan Connell, the chief brand officer for Pininfarina, describes the car as “beautiful, but in an unexpected form.”
Currently, Pininfarina offers the Batista, a US$2.2 million electric supercar based on the ultra-fast Rimac Nevera, and in the process of developing the PURA Vision, the company “kept the Battista owners and other admirers of the brand close,” Connell says. “We had a private showing for them, and some were skeptical—but their minds were blown by what they saw.”
The company’s second production vehicle, code-named B95, is the first Pininfarina to reflect the PURA Vision design philosophy, Connell says. Details will be revealed during B95’s formal debut at the Quail: A Motorsports on Saturday. It’s sure to be a very exclusive car with a big price tag.
Pininfarina will also have the Battista Edizione Nino Farina on its stand at Pebble. First shown at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England last July, it’s a special edition of the Battista presented as a tribute to the first Formula One World Champion, Nino Farina, who was Battista Farina’s nephew. Setting it apart are unique paint colors, special gold wheels, and body side graphics. An aluminium door plate celebrates the younger Farina’s racing wins. Only five of the high-end electric cars will be built. It’s the second limited-edition Battista, after the Anniversario model.
Pebble Beach is always a parade of new model reveals. The “House of Maserati” is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the GranTurismo (GT) model. Both the electric Folgore GT and the Trofeo versions, powered by a three-litre twin-turbo Nettuno V6, are to be sold in the U.S. Two one-of-a-kind GTs, the Luce and Prisma, will be on display at the Quail. Also seen will be the MC20-based Maserati MCXtrema, with 730 horsepower and a build of just 62 cars. Lotus will be giving rides in the 2024 Emira sports car, the final gas-powered Lotus with both four-cylinder and V6 power. Prices start at US$77,100. Rolls-Royce will show a one-of-a-kind car created for a customer.
Other cars to be shown at Pebble include: the Acura ZDX electric crossover, a “world-first new model” from Aston Martin, the Bugatti Chiron Super Sport Golden Era, the Hennessey Venom Revolution Roadster (with a 17-pound removable carbon fiber hardtop), the world premiere of the new Mercedes-AMG GT, the second Lamborghini electric concept, and the Infiniti QX Monograph Concept.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’
Couples find that lab-grown diamonds make it cheaper to get engaged or upgrade to a bigger ring. But there are rocky moments.
Wedding planner Sterling Boulet has some advice for brides-to-be regarding lab-grown diamonds, which cost a fraction of the natural ones.
“If you’re trying to get your man to propose, they’ll propose faster if you offer this as an option,” says Boulet, of Raleigh, N.C. Recently, she adds, a friend’s fiancé “thanked me the next three times I saw him” for telling him about the cheaper lab-made option.
Man-made diamonds are catching on, despite some lingering stigma. This year was the first time that sales of lab-made and natural mined loose diamonds, primarily used as center stones in engagement rings, were split evenly, according to data from Tenoris, a jewellery and diamond trend-analytics company.
The rise of lab-made stones, however, is bringing up quirks alongside the perks. Now that blingier engagement rings—above two or three carats—are more affordable, more people are dealing with the peculiarities of wearing rather large rocks.
Esther Hare, a 5-foot-11-inch former triathlete, sought out a 4.5-carat lab-made oval-shaped diamond to fit her larger hands as a part of her vow renewal in Hawaii last year. It was a far cry from the half-carat ring her husband proposed with more than 25 years ago and the 1.5-carat upgrade they purchased 10 years ago. Hare, 50, who lives in San Jose, Calif., and works in high tech, chose a $40,000 lab-made diamond because “it’s nuts” to have to spend $100,000 on a natural stone. “It had to be big—that was my vision,” she says.
But the size of the ring has made it less practical at times. She doesn’t wear it for athletic training and swaps in her wedding band instead. And she is careful to leave it at home when traveling. “A lot of times I won’t take it on vacation because it’s just a monster,” she says.
The average retail price for a one-carat lab-made loose diamond decreased to $1,426 this year from $3,039 in 2020, according to the Tenoris data. Similar-sized loose natural diamonds cost $5,426 this year, compared with $4,943 in 2020.
Lab-made diamonds have essentially the same chemical makeup as natural ones, and look the same, unless viewed through sophisticated equipment that gauges the characteristics of emitted light.
At Ritani, an online jewellery retailer, lab-made diamond sales make up about 70% of the diamonds sold, up from roughly 30% two years ago, says Juliet Gomes, head of customer service at the company, based in White Plains, N.Y.
Ritani sometimes records videos of the lab-diamonds pinging when exposed to a “diamond tester,” a tool that judges authenticity, to show customers that the man-made rocks behave the same as natural ones. “We definitely have some deep conversations with them,” Gomes says.
Not all gem dealers are rolling with these stones.
Philadelphia jeweller Steven Singer only stocks the natural stuff in his store and is planning a February campaign to give about 1,000 one-carat lab-made diamonds away free to prove they are “worthless.” Anyone can sign up online and get one in the mail; even shipping is free. “I’m not selling Frankensteins that were built in a lab,” Singer says.
Some brides are turned off by the larger bling now allowed by the lower prices.When her now-husband proposed with a two-carat lab-grown engagement ring, Tiffany Buchert, 40, was excited about the prospect of marriage—but not about the size of the diamond, which she says struck her as “costume jewellery-ish.”
“I said yes in the moment, of course, I didn’t want it to be weird,” says the physician assistant from West Chester, Pa.
But within weeks, she says, she fessed up, telling her fiancé: “I think I hate this ring.”
The couple returned it and then bought a one-carat natural diamond for more than double the price.
When Boulet, the wedding planner in Raleigh, got engaged herself, she was over the moon when her fiancé proposed with a 2.3 carat lab-made diamond ring. “It’s very shiny, we were almost worried it was too shiny and was going to look fake,” she says.
It doesn’t, which presents another issue—looking like someone who really shelled out for jewellery. Boulet will occasionally volunteer that her diamond ring came from a lab.
“I don’t want people to think I’m putting on airs, or trying to be flashier than I am,” she says.
For Daniel Teoh, a 36-year-old software engineer outside of Detroit, buying a cheaper lab-made diamond for his fiancée meant extra room in his $30,000 ring budget.
Instead of a bigger ring, he got her something they could both enjoy. During a walk while on an annual ski trip to South Lake Tahoe, Calif., Teoh popped the question and handed his now-wife a handmade wooden box that included a 2.5-carat lab-made diamond ring—and a car key.
She put on the ring, celebrated with both of their sisters and a friend, who was the unofficial photographer of the happy event, and then they drove back to the house. There, she saw a 1965 Mustang GT coupe in Wimbledon white with red stripes and a bow on top.
Looking back, Teoh says, it was still the diamond that made the big first impression.
“It wasn’t until like 15 minutes later she was like ‘so, what’s with this key?’” he adds.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’