of the first water

of the first water

Of the best quality; having the utmost skill or value. (An allusion to the old system of grading diamonds, the most brilliant of which were deemed "of the first water.") She is a lady of the first water: dignified, well spoken, and with unimpeachable integrity. The restaurant is renowned for serving food of the first water.
See also: first, of, water

of the first water

Fig. of the finest quality. This is a very fine pearl—a pearl of the first water. Tom is of the first water—a true gentleman.
See also: first, of, water

of the first water

Of the finest quality, as in That was a play of the first water. This idiom refers to a grading system for diamonds for their color or luster (compared to the shininess of water). The system is no longer used but the term, used figuratively since the early 1800s, has survived it.
See also: first, of, water

of the first water

OLD-FASHIONED
You can use of the first water after a noun to mean that someone is very good at something or is an extreme example of something. Jocelyn had proved herself to be a leader of the first water. He was full of energy, Janet recalled, an eccentric of the first water. Note: The brilliance of a diamond is called its water. Diamonds `of the first water' are of very high quality.
See also: first, of, water

of the first water

extreme or unsurpassed of kind.
The sense of water referred to in this expression is ‘the quality of brilliance and transparency of a diamond or other gem’: if a diamond or pearl is of the first water it possesses the greatest possible degree of brilliance and transparency. In its transferred use, however, the phrase often refers to someone or something regarded as undesirable, e.g. a bore of the first water .
See also: first, of, water
References in classic literature ?
glittering from head to foot with large diamonds of the first water.
The Crows and Blackfeet, upon the whole, are enemies worthy of each other, being rogues and ruffians of the first water.
In that sorry house it looked as out of place as a diamond of the first water in a setting of brass.
my friend, you are not only a herculean topographer, you are, still further, a dialectician of the first water.
It is a gem of the first water which Concord wears in her coronet.
Dave's just an all-round genius-- a genius of the first water, gentlemen; a great scientist running to seed here in this village, a prophet with the kind of honor that prophets generally get at home--for here they don't give shucks for his scientifics, and they call his skull a notion factory--hey, Dave, ain't it so?
To have painted the sordid facts of their lives, and they throughout invoking the death's head apparition of the family gentility to come and scare their benefactors, would have made Young John a satirist of the first water.
This was manifestly a prig of the first water, and there was no use arguing with him.
In so doing, however, she unintentionally let fall about five hundred diamonds of the first water, together with a thousand great pearls, and two thousand emeralds, rubies, sapphires, opals, and topazes, to which she had helped herself out of the king's strong box.
The man might have been a minor poet instead of an athlete of the first water.
He was the chief legislative analyst for the City Council at the time of the first water rate hike controversy.
The origin of the term is from jewellery where stones such as diamonds, are graded in waters first water, second water, etc with a stone of the first water being flawless.
TradeUsa and SSWM took delivery of the first water purification system.
Even Nixon, like Davis, an attack politician of the first water, understood that the public will respond to patriotic themes of economic sacrifice.
PSW issued a similar water quality report to its customers in 1998 -- a year ahead of the EPA regulation -- and was recognized then by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection as being one of the first water companies in the state to issue a water quality report.