Call it either grace or irony. But scattered throughout western Australia’s mammoth but so far mediocre diamond output, comprised mostly of industrials selling for under $10 per carat, are a few fancy pink stones that have commanded up to $400,000 per carat at auction. “We’re talking pink with a capital ‘P,’” says a New York fancy color diamond specialist.
Before 1985, few pink diamonds deserved even a small “p.” So dealers settled for faintly colored stones, believing darker hues too much to expect from nature any more than once or twice in a century.
The discovery of diamonds at the Argyle Diamond Mine in Australia gave diamond dealers new hopes. Although hearty pink diamonds from Down Under probably don’t add up to more than a few thousand carats (in the rough!) of its millions of carats in annual production, this trickle is a flood when compared to output from Australia’s past and present rival sources for fancy pink diamonds such as India, Brazil and South Africa. Indeed, some diamond people act like Australia is the first meaningful producer of true pinks.
This explains why the company that markets the vast majority of Australia’s diamonds, Rio Tinto Diamond, combs through its caratage with fine-tooth thoroughness, singling out the pinks for preferential treatment. As a result, few of these precious roughs wind up on the open market.
Instead, the company cuts them in its own factory in Perth, then sells the very best of them at annual invitation- only auctions (called “tenders”). At the third of these sales in November 1987, London jeweler Laurence Graf paid $3.5 million for all 30 lots, nearly double the $2 million aggregate of all the second- highest bids!
Given the dramatic sums that Argyle’s pinks bring in behind-closed-door sales to dealers, it seems safe to conclude that trade professionals are convinced these covetables are likely to remain needles in huge haystacks- at best once-in-a-while rather than once-in-a-blue-moon affairs. What is it about Australian pinks that stirred up such a commotion in the first place?
Argyle pinks possess sterling attributes, chief among them, deep body color. This attribute is no accident. Gemologist Stephen Hofer, one of the first to study Australian pink diamonds in depth, noted unique concentrations of minute pink grain lines inside Australian stones that were so dense they could not be told apart unless observed under extremely high magnification. While fancy color pinks from other localities also had pink grain lines, they were invariably fainter and sparser. Hofer therefore concluded that these gain-line congestions imparted very saturate color to Australian pinks.