These may be the worst of times, as far as supply goes, for natural-color (a.k.a. “fancy”) blue diamonds. No one remembers it being quite so difficult to find fancy color diamonds with this much-coveted hue as it is now. And, worse, no one expects things to get better any time soon.
Oh sure, one can find stones with somewhat fanciful, rather than fancy, color that the Gemological Institute of America, this country’s chief pedigreer of diamonds, compassionately classifies as “faint blue” or “very light blue.” One may even locate stones with wishful tints that carry the lab’s next highest rating, “light blue.’
But just try to find true-blue stones that deserve any of GIA’s really meaty grades: “fancy light blue,” “fancy blue” or, on the rarest of occasions, “fancy dark blue.” Here the pickings are the slimmest in decades. And auction prices, easily more than $1,000,000 per carat for a five-carat “fancy blue” stone, reflect this nagging scarcity and hunches that it will linger.
“It’s been at least six months since we’ve had any blues in stock,” says a New York fancy color diamond specialist. “If we had known that availability would become this much of a problem, we would have paid premiums on blues just to have them to show our customers.”
Why is finding fancy-color blue diamonds proving so tough?
Earlier in this decade, it was considered a truism that, except for one-in-a-million greens and reds, fancy pinks were the rarest of all natural-color diamonds. Then when Australia’s gargantuan Argyle diamond deposits came on stream in the mid-1980s, miners unexpectedly found robust purplish pinks in something as close to abundance for this color as the gem world will probably ever know. As a result, blue has moved ahead of pink in the rarity rankings for fancy color diamonds.
Not that blue was terribly abundant to begin with. True, South African mines such as the famous Premier Mine had been known to produce this color- but never, it is believed, on the scale to which they were found in India’s famed Golconda Mine, which operated for about 2,000 years, until 1725.
Nevertheless, South Africa could be counted on for blues, until, as a response to 1970s glut and 1980s recession in the fine diamond market, output at the Premier Mine was tucked in a bit. As part of the same iron-willed market stabilization effort, begun in 1982, De Beers withheld from distribution many of the most valuable roughs coming from its own mines or mines with which it was affiliated. That program was still in effect late in the decade. Cutters in New York and Antwerp suspected the embargo on top-grade roughs applied to both fine fancy colors and whites.