Over­com­ing tragedy to build di­a­mond em­pire

Out­back woman sur­vives grief to forge new busi­ness sell­ing iconic pink di­a­monds syn­ony­mous with re­mote and rugged Kim­ber­ley land­scape

Central and North Rural Weekly - - RURAL PROFILE - AN­DREA DAVY An­drea.davy@ru­ral­weekly.com.au

THERE is an old say­ing “pres­sure cre­ates di­a­monds”, and it’s a phrase that, quite lit­er­ally, sums up the tragic and tri­umphant life of out­back woman Frauke Bolten-Bosham­mer.

Within three years of up­root­ing her young fam­ily in Ger­many to shift to Ku­nunurra in Western Aus­tralia, her hus­band Friedrich died by sui­cide.

In strength she drew from her “stub­born Ger­man blood”, Frauke stayed on farm­ing in the Kim­ber­ley and bravely pur­sued an en­tre­pre­neur­ial ca­reer sell­ing rare pink di­a­monds.

Her first sale, a neck­lace, was sold on her back porch. She then se­cured a dis­play cab­i­net in a gift shop and later opened her own store.

Today, she runs Kim­ber­ley Fine Di­a­monds from a 400-square-me­tre shop.

From deep de­spair, she built her­self a di­a­mond em­pire.

Her goods fetch thou­sands and have been sold to the likes of ac­tress Ni­cole Kid­man, who browsed in-store dur­ing the film­ing of Aus­tralia, and Hugh Jack­man.

It’s a tale wor­thy of a book, and now it is.

Work­ing with writer Sue Smethurst, Frauke put mem­o­ries in mo­tion and her life story A Di­a­mond in the Dust is now on sale.

This week the Ru­ral Weekly chat­ted to 71-year-old Frauke, just be­fore her lunch break at the Ku­nunurra busi­ness.

She has held on to her Ger­man ac­cent and over the phone she had a warmth matched by a strength.

In one breathe she could gush about her celebrity sales, then within an in­stant be just as quick to men­tion th­ese stars are tough ne­go­tia­tors and didn’t get any “spe­cial treat­ment” in her shop.

Even now, af­ter the lengthy process of writ­ing her book, the mother-of-five be­came emo­tional when speak­ing about why telling her story was vi­tal.

“I also lost my son (Peter),” she said.

“He died by sui­cide 15 years af­ter Friedrich.

“The main rea­son I wanted to get the book out there is be­cause there was a chance I could save one fam­ily from go­ing through the pain we had… My son was 20, he was young – hope­fully, hope­fully peo­ple get the mes­sage to talk more.”

GER­MANY SHIFT

Frauke moved to Ku­nunurra in 1981 af­ter much per­sua­sion from her hus­band.

“He was al­ways in­ter­ested in good land and good farm­ing and he had wanted to do some­thing on his own,” she said.

The fam­ily had a harsh start to the Aus­tralian agri­cul­ture in­dus­try.

They bought three farms off the mark and be­gan the hard slog pre­par­ing the prop­er­ties for crops.

“The first year we had to do so much work. The farms hadn’t been in use for a few years af­ter the cot­ton failed so there was a lot of weeds,” she said.

“The first crop was mung­beans and af­ter that we grew soy­beans. We tried some peanuts and then, in the end, be­fore he died, we had mel­ons: wa­ter­mel­ons and rock­mel­ons.”

The fam­ily moved to Western Aus­tralia with their chil­dren, Fritz (then aged 11), Mar­gret (then aged 10) and Peter, who was just a baby.

Soon enough their fourth child, Maria, was born. She was just 20 months old when Friedrich died.

Frauke found it hard to put in words how she over­came the tragedy of sui­cide.

“It was so very dif­fi­cult,” she said.

“I didn’t know what my fu­ture was and money was sparse.

“The grief was there and the shock was there – I didn’t know he would do that, that he had thought about it.

“But I had to get on. I had four kids, they needed to move on in life and I needed to be the strong one.”

Mov­ing home to Ger­many was an op­tion, but her chil­dren were set­tled and do­ing well in school.

“They en­joyed it here, and that’s why I didn’t go back,” she said.

In hind­sight, she says that was the right de­ci­sion to make.

In her book she shared fam­ily photos, in­clud­ing snaps of her kids catch­ing mas­sive bar­ra­mundi and pos­ing with caught crocodiles.

HER EM­PIRE

Frauke had the idea of sell­ing di­a­monds many years be­fore she started her busi­ness.

When she moved to Ku­nunurra, the Ar­gyle Di­a­mond Mine had not long

❝ I had four kids, they needed to move on in life and I needed to be the strong one. — Frauke Bolten-Bosham­mer

opened in the Kim­ber­ley.

She can re­mem­ber the buzz the mine caused, as new peo­ple moved to town and more houses were built.

She had a friend in Perth who owned a jewellery store and there was a chance to buy into that busi­ness, which she did.

Af­ter se­cur­ing a cab­i­net in the gift shop, her ven­ture was

an “in­stant hit”.

“Of course there is a risk when you start some­thing,” she said.

“But I told my­self if it is not run­ning well I would close.

“I would swal­low my pride and find some­thing else.”

A book-keep­ing course, com­pleted be­fore mar­riage in Ger­many, taught Frauke not to “spend more money than you have”.

It’s ad­vice she stuck to. “I learnt that you need to be able to pay the bills be­fore spend­ing more money. It’s hard when you start as you often spend more than you bud­get for,” she said.

Ar­gyle Di­a­mond Mine was once the big­gest in the world and it is Aus­tralia’s only di­a­mond mine – at the mo­ment, it’s sched­uled to shut in 2020.

Not sur­pris­ingly, Frauke didn’t fore­see this as be­ing a chal­lenge for her busi­ness.

“The (mine’s clo­sure) will have an im­pact on the pink di­a­monds.

“That’s why, when I can find good stock, I buy it. So I have stock for a few years.

“But for the whites and cham­pagnes, it will not have much of in­flu­ence for Aus­tralia.”

She joked her big­gest hur­dle start­ing out was learn­ing to deal with peo­ple.

“Jew­ellers have their own ego. They are like chefs or hair­dressers, you know, they are not al­ways the eas­i­est,” she laughed.

STAR SALES

Her sales to Os­car win­ner Ni­cole Kid­man and much-loved ac­tor Hugh Jack­man were a high­light for the town, and shop.

“The first time Ni­cole came in she was with her body­guard,” Frauke said.

“She must have felt quite safe in Ku­nunurra af­ter that be­cause she came on her own the next few times.”

The celebri­ties were good cus­tomers, who stood in line when they were wait­ing for their cof­fee, she said.

Dur­ing pro­mo­tion for the movie Aus­tralia, Ni­cole and Hugh men­tioned Ku­nunurra di­a­monds dur­ing an in­ter­view with Oprah Win­frey, a move that put the jewels and small town on the map.

“The sales caused a boost, but I can as­sure you they wanted bet­ter prices too. Like a lot of peo­ple do, they didn’t pay the price we had on the ar­ti­cle.”

Now in her 70s, Frauke gets back to Ger­many about once a year.

She said the long flight was worth it to catch up with friends and fam­ily and en­joy some of the things she had missed out on in liv­ing in out­back Aus­tralia, like go­ing to the opera and vis­it­ing art gal­leries.

How­ever, she still loves busi­ness.

“The most re­ward­ing thing is that peo­ple still say thank you,” she said.

“They spend thou­sands of dol­lars, and that can be a lot of money for some peo­ple, and they still say thank you, isn’t that won­der­ful? That gives me a kick.”

MOV­ING ON

Frauke found love again and re­mar­ried in 1986 to Robert Bosham­mer, a farmer.

When she was 42 they had a child, Ka­t­rina, who now lives in Ku­nunurra work­ing as an art teacher.

In her book’s ac­knowl­edge­ment, she said Robert had “weath­ered ev­ery storm with her” and “made her smile when she least ex­pected it”.

The fam­ily still have three prop­er­ties that span over about 2000 hectares in the Ord River Val­ley.

“Un­til re­cently, we grew chia – that’s why peo­ple in Aus­tralia could get Aus­tralian chia, my hus­band and his two part­ners started it.

“Now we grow maize, chick­peas, mung­beans and have hay on ro­ta­tion.”

Frauke re­calls her first flight com­ing in to Ku­nunurra and look­ing out the plane win­dow think­ing “not an in­tel­li­gent soul could live in that place”.

Clearly, her views have changed.

“There are peo­ple from the city that think if you live out here you are dumb, but we are not,” she said.

“I have met so many won­der­ful and bright peo­ple, it’s just un­be­liev­able.

“When we had the fu­ner­als for my hus­band and son, I didn’t have to do any­thing. The food was do­nated, every­thing was do­nated and done – you wouldn’t find that in the city.”

PHOTO: ISTOCK

NEW START: Frauke said it was a cul­ture shock to move to the re­mote Kim­ber­ley re­gion in Western Aus­tralia from Ger­many.

RIGHT: Fish­ing trip for Peter's 10th birth­day.FAR RIGHT: The farm in Ku­nunurra when the fam­ily ar­rived.

PHOTOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

ABOVE: Friedrich worked tire­lessly plough­ing the con­crete earth get­ting it ready to sow.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

Kim­ber­ley Fine Di­a­monds owner Frauke Bolten-Bosham­mer has told her life story in a book.

PHOTOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

ABOVE: Friedrich sur­vey­ing the vast ex­panse of the Kim­ber­ley. RIGHT: Fritz and Peter on the farm, six months be­fore Peter died.

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