Deep in the outback of Australia, the local Aboriginals pass down a fable, through their oral history, as to how pink diamonds from the Argyle Mine get their color. The tale goes that a group of women were trying to capture a barramundi fish. In an effort to escape their nets, the fish jumped over the women and in the process, dropped some scales in the water and on the rocks. According to the legend, the scales turned into pink diamonds.
The story of the barramundi running is one of my favorite diamond narratives. It is grounded to the earth, yet magical, the same way that pink diamonds are a gift from the earth with a color and sparkle that is as enchanting as the story of their origins.
While the barramundi anecdote is truly delightful, gemologists have another view of how pink diamonds get their color. The scientific explanation is that pink diamonds get their color from a twist in the internal structure of the diamond that is created by the high-temperature, high-pressure conditions in the earth. The same holds true for red, purple and brown diamonds.
Most of the world’s pink diamonds come from the Argyle Mine located in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. The mine has been in operation since 1983. Each year about a handful or so of pink diamonds come out of the mine, which produces mostly brown diamonds. The pink diamonds tend to be under 2 carats but are particularly vibrant in color. Very occasionally a pink diamond will appear in a mine in other parts of the world, but the Argyle Mine is known to yield a steady, although small, supply of these treasures. Even with that steady supply of pink diamonds, however, there are only enough found at the Argyle Mine each year to fill a teacup.
The pink diamonds found in the Argyle Mine are treated like VIPs. They are separated from the pack and cut and polished in the specialized Argyle Pink Diamond facility in Perth, Western Australia. There, skilled diamond cutters coax out the best color. It is a very precise art, as one false move can destroy the color of the diamond. The artisan cutters face great challenges. Not only must they bring out the best pink in the diamond, but they also have to make sure that the pink diamond is cut for maximum sparkle. Throw in the fact that the unique structure of pink diamonds makes them harder to cut, and it is easy to understand how a trained eye is essential for cutting these unusual stones.
Each year, somewhere between 50 and 60 of the biggest and best pink diamonds are reserved for the Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender. These are the most impressive of all the pink diamonds that come from the mine. The most special of these pink diamonds are named, according to a specific theme each year. Worldwide, about 150 dealers, prestige retailers and serious collectors are invited to the tender, where they view the stones. It has been my pleasure to be at many of the tenders over the years to view the full collection. Going to the tender is one of the highlights of my jewelry year. Each time, I am awed by these very special gems. Seeing the year’s production displayed in one place reminds me of the rarity, uniqueness and value of these precious diamonds. However, the miner will never reveal the prices garnered at the tender.
This year’s collection of 63 diamonds is named the Magnificent Argyle to honor the mine’s role as the premier source of these amazing pink diamonds. The six most important named diamonds are sure to take their place in diamond history. Two of the hero diamonds in 2018 are The Argyle Alpha™, a fancy vivid purplish pink diamond, which at 3.14 carats is the largest to ever come out of the mine, and the Argyle Muse, a 2.28-carat fancy purplish red diamond. To put this in perspective, the 63 diamonds together have a total carat weight of 51.48 carats. Can’t wait for my invitation to this year’s tender.