The Australian pink diamond is among the most beautiful of fancy coloured diamonds and also truly rare. When set in a piece of jewellery it will enhance it and give it a very unique look. Those who have a keen eye and appreciation for all things precious and rare will choose to purchase it as an investment.
However, not a lot is known about this beautiful diamond; why is it so rare? How does it get its colour? And how can you be sure that the diamond is genuinely an Argyle Pink?
Origin & Rarity of Australian Argyle Pink Diamonds
Pink diamonds have been known to originate in India, Brazil, Russia and Australia among other countries. Ever since Australia’s Argyle Diamond Mine commenced its operations in the mid-1980s, it has supplied 90% of the world’s pink diamonds and they remain the best and rarest in quality.
The Argyle Diamond mine is located in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia, approximately 3,040kms from Perth. Owned by Rio Tinto, it commenced operations in December 1985 as an open pit mine. While the vast majority of the diamonds coming out of Argyle are industrial grade and low-grade gem-quality diamonds, it produces a very small quantity of high quality colourless (white) diamonds as well.
Argyle have supplied the world with the best natural fancy coloured diamonds including yellow, champagne, cognac, blue, and the most coveted pink diamonds. Argyle’s pink diamonds comprise only 0.1% of its total output, and that is the largest quantity of pinks coming out of a mine – anywhere in the world!
Argyle is able to produce the various beautiful natural fancy coloured diamonds due to one unique factor that differentiates this mine from almost every other mine in the world. The Argyle pink diamonds get their colour due to a naturally occurring defect in the molecular lattice structure of the diamond rough which gives it the pink colour. It is not a synthetic and will not fade over time. It is totally a rare feat of nature.
Grading a Pink Diamond
Pink diamonds are graded on the same 4C’s as a colourless diamond – carat weight, clarity, colour and cut. But there are different interpretations of the 4C’s in the case of fancy coloured diamonds. For the purpose of trying to keep this article simple and as non-technical as possible, I will only focus on two of the 4C’s – clarity and colour. Anyone wishing to enquire further about any of the 4C’s are welcome to contact us.
Refers to the size, position and visibility of naturally occurring inclusions inside the stone. Argyle pink diamonds tend to have lower clarity grades identified by large surface reaching ‘feathers’. Very often they follow the diamond’s natural cleavage planes and can be extended right through the stone if you bump it.
Therefore, the size and nature of these inclusions can also make Argyle diamonds susceptible to breaking under pressure from trying to set the stone in claws, prongs or bezels.
So yes, a diamond can chip or break if it is bumped at an angle where it hits a surface reaching feather that is along its natural cleavage plane. It then becomes imperative that the wearer appreciates that they are wearing something that is very rare and precious, so due care while wearing it is important.
However, the lower clarity grades do not reduce the price of a pink diamond as much as they do a colourless diamond because they are harder to see in a pink diamond and secondly, a pink diamond is bought more for its colour (as is the case with most other natural coloured diamonds and gems).
Argyle have developed their own colour grading system for their pink diamonds, while the GIA (Gemmological Institute of America), the world’s largest diamond grading organisation, have their own system that it applies to all fancy coloured diamonds. Why this is the case is a matter of conjecture for another time.
Grading colour in fancy coloured diamonds is harder than colourless diamonds because the grader needs to bear three factors in mind – hue, saturation and tone – as explained by the following Munsell colour wheel.
Around the ‘equator’ is the hue as represented by the overall body of colour. Through the centre is the tone being the darkness or lightness of a diamond. Saturation refers to the intensity of the colour.
There is another factor being the modifying secondary colour such as brownish or orangey. For example: ‘pinkish brown’ where the ‘–ish’ refers to the modifying colour (in this case pink) and the second colour ‘brown’ is the predominant colour. Hence, a ‘pinkish brown’ is less attractive than a ‘brownish pink’.
Following below is the colour scale from Argyle for their pink diamonds. The most sought after and valuable are the purplish pink and pure pinks.
It goes without saying that when you are considering the purchase of a pink diamond, the jeweller or salesperson should have:
(1) the ability to source pink diamonds that suit the needs of the customer and;
(2) has the intricate knowledge and understanding of the 4C’s as they apply to fancy coloured diamonds to be able to help choose the best stone. Therefore, the process that I go through on behalf of my customers is quite an involved and time consuming one.
When choosing a pink diamond, what assurances does the customer have to be sure that they are buying a genuine, Argyle pink diamond?
Rio Tinto, the owner of the Argyle diamond mine, are one of the founding members of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC). In view of establishing uniform standards across the supply chain, from mining, through to manufacturing and then to the retail sector, the RJC developed Principles and a Code of Practice which all members are obliged to adhere to.
In demonstrating their commitment to these governing standards, Argyle wish to ensure that their diamonds are secure and ethically sound through the entire supply chain. Hence, creating consumer confidence in these beautiful and valuable gifts of nature that are chiselled by man.
Every Argyle pink diamond over fifteen points (0.15ct) is laser inscribed with a unique Argyle Lot Number and issued with an Argyle Pink Diamond Gem Certification Document. This document certifies that at all times in the supply chain, the diamond has been in the care of Argyle Diamonds and its trusted trade partners. Additionally, most of the Argyle pink diamonds are also accompanied with GIA certification.
The Argyle Tender
The world produces approximately 130 million carats of diamond rough each year. Of these, less than 20,000 carats or 0.01 per cent are rough pink diamonds. And 90% of the world’s pink diamonds come from the Argyle diamond mine.
Over the past 30 years, the Argyle Pink Diamond Tender has become established as a unique and exclusive sale of the rarest of rare Argyle pink diamonds. Access to this tender is by private invitation only – to collectors and luxury jewellers who place sealed bids. The prices can run into the hundreds of thousands of US Dollars.
The Tender comprises a small selection of about 50 – 60 stones being the best, most vibrant and intense Argyle pink diamonds. They are showcased in Hong Kong, Sydney and New York. On certain occasions, they have also been showcased in Antwerp, Tokyo, Mumbai, Shanghai and Beijing. If a stone is not sold at tender, then it would be released to the normal wholesale and retail market in subsequent years.
In the early years of the tender, each Tender diamond was 1ct or larger in size; whereas in recent years the stones have become smaller in size – 0.25ct upwards – a testament to their rarity and depleting quantities.
Argyle Pink Diamonds: End of an era?
The underground mining operations of Argyle have ceased and the mine is anticipated to close permanently in 2020. Currently they are going through their ‘tailings’ (the sand, gravel and stone that is unearthed in the mining process) to see if there is any remaining pink diamond ore amongst them.
We are living at a time in history where an amazing natural resource is about to cease to exist. Those that are fortunate to own an Argyle will be pass it down the generations.
The Argyle mine closed permanently on 3 November 2020. Rio Tinto, the owners of the mine will now begin a 5 year process to decommission it before returning the land to its Traditional Owners. Thus ends the chapter of the largest supply of some of the rarest coloured diamonds in the world. It is expected that the prices of Argyle pink diamonds will skyrocket as a result of this.
Feature image: Copyright © 2017 Rio Tinto
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