Till recently, the most one could hope for color-wise from a pink diamond was a shade reminiscent of cotton candy or bubble gum—and then only as long as the gem stayed loose. Once mounted, stones usually went from pink to pinkish. Because fancy pinks tended to lose their looks when set in jewelry, they were of interest mainly to collectors.
All this changed in the early 1980s when Australia started to produce deep pinks that held their color when used in jewelry. Suddenly, the diamond world was seeing fancy diamonds with hues that inspired comparison to raspberries, even red grapes—whether set or loose. In no time at all, pink diamonds became a jewelry, as well as a collector’s, item. As they did, the color-strength standard for this gem rose considerably.
But here’s the rub.
Since Australia’s diamonds tend to be small, the new color ideal applies only stones of two carats, or generally, far, far less. When it comes to diamonds over two carats, pastel pinks are still pretty much the best one can expect. As a result, says a prominent Fifth Avenue precious stone dealer with a soft spot for fancy color diamonds, “The trade now has a double standard for pink diamond beauty.”
That double standard has baffled dealers asking, “Why do Australia’s small pinks look so much darker than everybody else’s big pinks?” While final answers to this question can’t be given yet, some gemologists think they lie in the unique composition of Australia’s diamonds.
Australia vs. Elsewhere
Imagine for a moment you are peering through a microscope into a conventional pink diamond typical of those found in Brazil, the Central African Republic and South Africa, the prime sources for these gems prior to the discovery of Australia’s mammoth diamond deposits. As you look, you’ll begin to notice random subtle lines running parallel to each other which colored diamond expert Stephen Hofer of Colored Diamond Laboratory Services, Miami, likens to “pink needles in an ice cube.” These lines are known to gemologists as “graining,” evidence of structural deformities (similar to knots in a piece of wood) that are common to a diamond’s crystal structure.
Now gaze harder and you’ll see pink emanating from these grain lines. Indeed, the diamond’s inside will appear as distinct pink-pulsing grain lines separated by areas of colorlessness. “The cutter’s job is to position the facets relative to these grain lines so that they will impart the maximum amount of color to the stone when looked at in the face-up position,” Hofer comments. “Unfortunately, that’s a difficult task with most conventional pink diamonds.”
Next, suppose that you have replaced the conventional pink diamond with an Australian stone. Instead of distinct and widely spaced grain lines, you’ll find a profusion of them so dense that it is hard to tell them apart. Hofer compares their bunched-up appearance to that of “a tightly packed box of toothpicks,” then continues, “There’s such a broad blending of grain lines they almost seem like brush strokes.”