Coloured diamonds outshine whites as top mine’s sparkle fades

Jamie Smyth in Sydney of Financial Times

Pink and violet stones surge in value amid uncertainty over site where 90% are found

Over a quarter of a century Larry West has scoured the globe looking for some of the world’s rarest coloured diamonds. This week he secured a big prize, the Argyle Violet, which he bought along with 15 other coloured stones for more than $10m. 

“At 2.83 carats, this is the largest and most valuable violet diamond ever recovered from the Argyle mine,” says Mr West, founder of New York’s LJ West Diamonds. “You could fill a garbage truck with the rough diamonds produced from the mine every year, an ashtray with pink diamonds but only a half teaspoon of violets,” he says. 

Rio Tinto’s Argyle mine, which is based in the remote north-west of Australia, produces about 90 per cent of the top-quality red, pink and violet diamonds dug up worldwide. The stones are extraordinarily rare, accounting for 0.1 per cent of the mine’s annual output with the remainder made up of more affordable champagne and cognac stones used in the fashion jewellery sector in the US, China and India. 

The Argyle Diamond Mine in Western Australia

The Argyle Diamond Mine in Western Australia

Uncertainty over the Argyle mine’s future, as well as growing appreciation for rare pink diamonds among the super-rich, is prompting a surge in the value of these coloured stones even as the price of traditional white diamonds falls on world markets. 

A 9.14 carat pink pear-shaped diamond is expected to realise $16m-$18m when it is auctioned at Christies in Geneva next week.

“Pink diamond prices have tripled over the past 15 years and on average would be at least 25 to 30 times the value of white diamonds,” says David Fardon, chief executive of Linneys, one of 35 ateliers mandated to buy coloured diamonds from Argyle. 

By comparison, global sales of diamond jewellery fell in 2015 for the first time in six years, declining 2 per cent to $79bn. Sales of rough diamonds fell 30 per cent.

Mr Fardon says the scarcity of coloured pink, red and violet diamonds mined at Argyle has enabled them to buck the downward trend in diamond prices. He says they have become a collectable item, with some of his clients buying the stones to include as part of their retirement savings fund. 

Prices are rising 15 per cent a year because of increasing awareness of rare coloured diamonds, growing demand from China and India and the fact production at the Argyle mine is only guaranteed until 2020, says Mr Fardon.

In 2013 Rio said it was extending Argyle’s life until 2020 by building an underground extension to the existing open-cut mine. But it is uncertain whether Rio will sanction any new investment to extend the Argyle mine’s life beyond that date, in part because the valuable pink diamonds make up a small fraction of the mine’s total output.

“The odds are the mine will close a year or two after that, which means these stones will become more and more valuable,” says Mr West, one of the world’s most prodigious buyers’ of Argyle pinks. 

Mr West says he plans to show the Argyle Violet in an exhibition at the Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles to raise awareness of coloured diamonds.

“It’s important to let the public see them and get the word out. That can only add value to the market,” he says.

The Company that Bought the Violet Diamond

By Michelle Graff - National Jeweler

So is violet the rarest hue of diamond there is? “There’s no question about it,” said Larry West of L.J. West Diamonds, the company that placed the winning bid on this 2.83-carat violet diamond from the 2016 Argyle tender.

New York--It’s the biggest violet diamond ever found at Australia’s Argyle Mine, and it now belongs to a New York company that’s been in the colored diamond business for nearly 40 years.

L.J. West Diamonds Inc. placed the winning bid on the 2.83-carat “Argyle Violet,” the centerpiece of this year’s Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender, Rio Tinto’s annual sale of the top diamonds to come out of its Argyle mine.

Company President Larry West said the Violet, a diamond that generated a lot of interest and excitement, was a stone he “really wanted to possess.”

“There’s such a huge disparity between this size and the next biggest violet stone that’s ever come out of the (Argyle) mine,” he said, referencing the 1.41-carat Ocean Seer from the 2008 tender. “It’s such a rarity that I felt it was worth bidding on.”

West is not saying how much he paid for the stone, which is being set in a ring and surrounded by smaller Argyle pinks, though he did reveal that it will be available to purchase next year.

But he won’t be taking the violet diamond to Christie’s or Sotheby’s to sell it.

Rather, L.J. West Diamonds will offer the Argyle Violet through its network of retail partners after it is featured in the “Diamonds: Rare Brilliance” exhibition slated to run from December to March 2017 at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

“I am glad to have it shown,” West said of the violet’s inclusion in the exhibition. “It’s so rare. Nobody’s ever seen stones like this, and I think it’s important for them to be out there in the public domain. It makes it more real for people; it’s not just a story.”

This year, a total of 63 pink, red and violet diamonds--collectively dubbed “The Chroma Collection”-- comprised the Argyle tender, which was 100 percent sold by lot.

Collectively, the stones represented the highest quality, size and color composition in the tender’s 32-year history and, consequently, achieved the highest average price per carat ever.

Beyond L.J. West Diamonds, Rio Tinto did not reveal the names of any companies that purchased a diamond from the tender, nor did it share prices.

Read the full article here

Blue Belles

Joyce Kauf of Rapaport Magazine

Blue diamonds have been stealing the spotlight as prices skyrocket.

Blue Diamonds have become celebrities on the auction scene with all the attendant fame. The fan fare continues this month with an 8.01-carat fancy vivid blue diamond ring by Cartier, named The Sky Blue Diamond, set to be auctioned at Sotheby’s Geneva. But what accounts for the soaring interest and stratospheric prices that these diamonds command in today’s market? From gemologists to diamond brokers to the heads of jewelry sales at the two major auction houses and an industry expert, the answer can be summed up in two words: extremely rare.

A rare Natural Intense Blue Diamond set in a white diamond necklace by Scott West by L.J. West Diamonds

A rare Natural Intense Blue Diamond set in a white diamond necklace by Scott West by L.J. West Diamonds

“more and more people are discovering the beauty of a blue diamond,”
— Larry West

“There is so much more buzz now. There is more awareness of how rare these diamonds are,”explains Larry West,president of L.J.West Diamonds, a color diamond specialist based in New York City. “Previously, information about these exotic stones was only available to the most involved collectors.But now there are more discussions within the high-end jewelry trade.”And while collectors might consider a blue diamond the ultimate investment, “more and more people are discovering the beauty of a blue diamond,” says West, who admits to being“passionate”about these diamonds.

“Perhaps one in 10,000 exhibits any color. A diamond with any evidence of blue color—even if the color is very faint—is less than one-tenth of 1 percent of what would be mined in one year.” Historically, some blue diamonds were discovered in the Golconda region in India; the Hope Diamond has been traced to that area.However, the only source to produce a very small but consistent supply of blue diamonds is the Cullinan Mine in South Africa,owned by Petra Diamonds.




L.J. West Diamonds purchases the argyle violet diamond

Rio Tinto’s Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender delivers record result 7 November 2016

Rio Tinto’s spectacular 2016 Pink Diamonds Tender collection of 63 rare pink, red and violet diamonds from its Argyle mine has delivered a record result, reflecting strong global demand for these increasingly rare diamonds. Known as The Chroma Collection, the 2016 Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender comprised the highest quality, size and colour composition in the Tender’s 32 year history and was highly sought after, with winners from 10 countries including a strong representation from the sophisticated US collector market.
The 2016 Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender achieved the highest average price per carat since the Tender began in 1984.

Rio Tinto Diamonds general manager of sales Patrick Coppens said “We are delighted with the results of this year’s historic collection. Argyle’s pink, red and violet Tender diamonds are in a class of their own in terms of rarity, beauty and provenance. These natural coloured diamonds are truly beyond rare.”

The 2.83-carat Argyle Violet, is the largest and most valuable violet diamond recovered to date from the Argyle mine

The 2.83-carat Argyle Violet, is the largest and most valuable violet diamond recovered to date from the Argyle mine

The dazzling centrepiece of the collection, the 2.83-carat Argyle Violet, is the largest and most valuable violet diamond recovered to date from the Argyle mine in the remote east Kimberley region of Western Australia. The Argyle Violet was secured by US based coloured diamond specialist, L.J. West Diamonds Inc, which plans to showcase the historic diamond at the Diamonds: Rare Brilliance exhibition at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in December 2016. President of L.J. West Diamonds Inc Larry West said “The Argyle Violet is an incomparable diamond that forms an important addition to our Art of Nature collection of rare gems. It is a truly unique treasure that we are proud to be exhibiting as one of the finest examples of a historic fancy colour diamond.”

Over the past 15 years the value of Argyle pink diamonds sold at Tender have appreciated over 300 percent. Argyle Pink Diamonds manager Josephine Johnson said “The market fundamentals for pink diamonds -strong demand as a result of extremely limited supply - continue to support their significant value appreciation.“

Rio Tinto’s Argyle mine produces virtually the entire world’s supply of rare pink diamonds, with the finest from a full year’s production showcased in the annual Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender.

The 2016 Tender was the first to comprise diamonds solely from Argyle’s underground mine.

The Chroma Collection is announced for this year's Argyle Pink Diamond Tender 2016

Rio Tinto’s Argyle Pink Diamonds business has unveiled the largest violet diamond recovered from the Argyle mine in Western Australia.

The 2.83 carat polished oval shaped diamond, known as The Argyle Violet, will be the dazzling centrepiece of the 2016 Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender, the annual showcase of the rarest diamonds from the Argyle mine.

The Argyle Violet

The Argyle Violet

Argyle Pink Diamonds manager Josephine Johnson said “We are very excited to announce this historic diamond ahead of our Tender launch. This stunning violet diamond will capture the imagination of the world’s leading collectors and connoisseurs.”

More than 90 per cent of the world’s rare pink diamonds come from the Argyle mine and it is the only source of hydrogen- rich violet diamonds. Violet diamonds are seldom seen and in 32 years Argyle has produced only 12 carats of polished violet diamonds for its iconic Tender.

The Argyle Violet was polished in Western Australia by one of Argyle’s master polishers, Richard How Kim Kam, from a 9.17 carat rough diamond discovered in 2015. The Argyle Violet has been assessed by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) as a notable diamond with the colour grade of Fancy Deep Greyish Bluish Violet.

Information courtesy of Rio Tinto

The Irresistible Allure of Natural Color Diamonds

In the world of jewels, nothing compares to the sparkle and allure of a natural diamond or a beautiful colored gemstone. For discerning buyers who appreciate both sparkle and color, natural color diamonds are the perfect addition to any jewelry wardrobe.

Fascination with color is found in ancient history, so it should come as no surprise that we
are still drawn towards colorful jewels today, whether in making a fashion statement or wearing
a treasured jewel. Many famous natural color diamonds have a rich history, such as with the Blue Tavernier that traveled through several incarnations of re-cutting, under different names, over centuries. Today, it is known as the Hope Diamond, the world’s largest deep blue diamond at 42.52-carat, on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. The diamond got its name after it surfaced in 1839 in the gem collection catalog of a well-known gem collector, Henry Philip Hope. While many people think of natural color diamonds as those with historic significance, today’s jewelry designers are using them to add pizazz to their jewelry designs. Natural color diamonds are certainly among the rarest gems mined on Earth, with only one found in 10,000 stones. Scott West of LJ West Diamonds based in New York describes his vision of color diamonds:

“In the world of luxury products, natural color diamonds bear comparison to works of art, hidden
treasures, and rare books. They speak the language of exclusivity, desirability, and collectability.”

When color diamonds come to mind, many people think of famous diamonds that sell at auction
for incredibly high prices, however; more retailers are adding natural color diamond jewelry to their bridal and fine jewelry lines. The bridal market is known for demanding the authenticity of a diamond, and in recent years has seen a surge in preference for color diamond engagement rings. Millennials are part of the reason for the increase in natural color diamond sales as they are looking for something different fromtheir parents’ traditional diamond engagement ring. In her latest publication on diamonds, gem and jewelry expert Antoinette Matlins wrote, “Of all
the gems on earth, nothing surpasses the palette ofnatural color diamonds for beauty, distinctiveness, and desirability” (Diamonds Buying Guide, 4th Edition).

Some of the better known natural color diamonds are the yellow and brown stones. Pink diamonds come in pastel shades to deep raspberry colors. Aside from their extraordinary color, pink diamonds gained popularity with celebrities, such as Jennifer Lopez, who received a pink diamond ring from former beau Ben Affleck.

Natural color diamonds are also found in a variety of intensities in orange, green, blue, purple and red. Red is considered the most rare, but famous diamonds can be found in all colors. The NCDIA
website contains information on some of the most famous color diamonds ever found.
Regardless of the main body color, natural color diamonds are known for modified colors and complementary colors. To explain these terms, Thomas Gelb, of Gelb Gemological Consulting advises jewelers that, “A large percentage of diamonds that receive a certificate from a gem lab have more than one word in their color description.” Modifiers might be described on a certificate as bluish gray or grayish blue, while complementary colors might be described as orangey pink or pinkish orange. NCDIA has published information for retailers on how to understand natural color diamond grading.

It’s important for retailers to be able to explain to clients that not all natural color diamonds come in vivid or intense colors. Fancy and fancy light color diamonds, as well as those with modified colors and complementary colors, are just as beautiful as other colored jewels.

A little bit about Blue Diamonds

The Blue Diamond…. beautiful like our earth’s sky and alluring like the deepest oceans.

The illustrious story of the impeccable blue diamond began in the 17th century when Jean Baptiste Tavernier, a French diamond merchant, traveller and pioneer of diamond trade with India, first set eyes on a unique and unforgettable diamond in India. The“superfine deep blue” that so captivated Tavernier was later sold to King Louis XIV in 1669 as the famous French Blue, used to adorn the crown of Queen Marie Antoinette. Throughout its history, the stone was cut, stolen, sold, bequeathed and cut again,until it finally landed in the hands of Harry Winston, who donated the diamond to the Smithsonian Institute in 1958. This coveted stone became known as the famous Hope Diamond . Since then, blue diamonds have been synonymous with tales of royalties,myths, curses, and celebrated for their veil of mystery and intriguing beauty.

The Hope Diamond - 45.52 carats Natural Fancy Dark Grayish Blue Diamond

The Hope Diamond - 45.52 carats Natural Fancy Dark Grayish Blue Diamond


Natural Blue Diamonds are very rare…. Since 2008 out of the eighteen million tonnes mined and five million carats recovered, only five world-class blue diamonds have emerged from Cullinan, or less than 0.1 per cent of the mine’s annual yield.

The Blue Moon of Josephine -  12.03-carat fancy vivid blue internally flawless diamond sold in Nov 2015 for   48.4m USD. at Sotheby's.   The spectacular blue diamond sold for a world record price.

The Blue Moon of Josephine - 12.03-carat fancy vivid blue internally flawless diamond sold in Nov 2015 for 48.4m USD. at Sotheby's. The spectacular blue diamond sold for a world record price.

The exceptional beauty and rarity of blue diamonds is praised and desired by collectors and connoisseurs. Among the rarest gems in the world, blue diamonds owe their natural color to the presence of the trace element boron during the stone’s formation. According to the GIA, The overwhelming majority of natural color blue diamonds are type IIb, in which the color is associated with the presence of boron.

Over the last 100 years, the most significant source of blue diamonds entering the marketplace has been the Premier Mine (now known as the Cullinan Mine) in Gauteng province, South Africa, which was made famous by the discovery of the 3,106-carat colorless Cullinan diamond in 1905. However, discoveries are still sporadic and always astonishing occurrences. Indeed, since the mine was acquired by Jersey-based Petra Diamonds in 2008, out of the eighteen million tonnes mined and five million carats recovered, only five world-class blue diamonds have emerged from Cullinan, or less than 0.1 per cent of the mine’s annual yield. The famous 7.03-carat Star of Josephine(auctioned in May 2009, Sotheby’s Geneva) and the 11 Millennium Blue Diamondspresented by De Beers in 2000 to celebrate the turn of the millennium (of which one was auctioned in April 2010 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong) are all stunning examples of rare blue diamond’s hailing from the famed Premier Mine. In 2015, the ‘Blue Moon’ a 12.03-carat Fancy Vivid blue, Internally Flawless gem sold for a whopping $48.4 million, making it the world’s most expensive diamond was found in Cullinan.


The “Cullinan Dream,” which became the largest and most expensive fancy intense blue diamond ever sold at auction when it achieved $25.3 million Thursday June 9th, 2016.

The “Cullinan Dream,” which became the largest and most expensive fancy intense blue diamond ever sold at auction when it achieved $25.3 million Thursday June 9th, 2016.

The Cullinan Dream (below) – The exceptional 122.52 carat blue diamond recovered at the Cullinan mine in South Africa in June 2014. The incredible rarity of a blue diamond of this magnitude sets it apart as a truly significant find. In September 2014, the rough stone was sold for a value equivalent to US$27.6 million, with Petra retaining a 15% share in the net proceeds of the polished yield. The rough stone was entrusted to a master cutter and, after lengthy analysis, the best yield was determined to be four polished diamonds, each of notable size. The largest of the stones is a dazzling 26 carat radiant cut diamond of intense fancy blue. This magnificent diamond has been named The Cullinan Dream, reflecting its ethereal beauty. The polished stones are, from left to right: an 11.3 carat pear, a 26 carat radiant, a 10.3 carat radiant and a 7.0 carat cushion. The Cullinan Dream and its related stones are yet to be sold, but the exceptional rarity of blue diamonds, along with their rich history and heritage, has today made them one of the world’s most highly valuable and collectible items.

Drawn from the Cullinan mine in South Africa, formerly known as the Premier mine, the diamond is the largest of four blue diamonds cut from the 122.52 carat rough unearthed in 2014. The mine made history in 1905 when a 3,106.75 carat rough produced the Cullinan I (also known as the Star of Africa), the largest polished white diamond in existence. The Cullinan I is now housed in the Tower of London as part of the Crown Jewels of England. In recent years the legendary mine remains newsworthy as the source for some of the most significant pink and blue diamonds to come to market. 

The combination of the weight, colour and Type IIb properties together make the Cullinan Dream a truly exceptional and rare diamond. Most fancy intense blue diamonds weigh less than a single carat as the grade calls for very strong colour and full saturation. At a weight of 24.18 carats, it is remarkable for the stone to display such a pure and consistently strong blue colour throughout every facet. 

The Cullinan Dream’s classification as Type IIb makes it an even more rare find. Type IIb diamonds lack a symmetrical crystal form and account for less than one-half of one per cent of all diamonds found in nature. Due to its asymmetrical structure and the potential value to be realized from each polished carat yielded, the Cullinan Dream rough was studied for months. Only the exceptional skill and experience of a master cutter could ensure that the finished diamond would be beautifully proportioned to reveal its high colour saturation and natural brilliance.

Most recently, the Oppenheimer Blue set a world record in Geneva on 18 May when it reached $57.5 million, making it the most valuable jewel ever sold at auction. The Oppenheimer Blue can only be described as one of the rarest gems in the world.

14.62-carat Fancy Vivid Blue diamond Oppenheimer Blue Diamond

14.62-carat Fancy Vivid Blue diamond Oppenheimer Blue Diamond

The world of Natural Color Diamonds

For fancy-color diamonds, color far surpasses the other “Cs” (clarity, cut, and carat weight) when establishing value. Therefore, it is critical to understand color appearances and how they affect color grades and descriptions. While everyone thinks they understand color, for most it is an intuitive response rather than a true knowledge of the ordering of color appearances.

Color is described using three attributes:

  • Hue (the aspect that permits an object to be classified as red, green, blue, violet, or anything in between)

  • Tone (the relative lightness or darkness)

  • Saturation (the relative strength or weakness)

The color appearance of a gem is the result of a combination of these three attributes. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) system for color grading colored diamonds uses 27 hues, which are indicated on the hue circle chart. Some of these 27 hue names include modifiers, such as purplish pink. (See below)

A modifier in a hue name (such as yellowish green or orangy yellow) does not mean a lack of purity in the color.

For color grading, colored diamonds are placed face- up in a grooved, matte-white, non-fluorescent plastic tray within a controlled environment —a viewing box that eliminates visual distractions and shields external light. GIA also requires a standard geometry between the diamond, the light source, and the observer. The light source is positioned directly above the diamond, and the observer views it approximately perpendicular to the table facet.

The GIA grading terminology uses a combination of fancy grades and color descriptions to identify a colored diamond’s characteristic color. A fancy grade represents the combined effect of tone and saturation on the color of a diamond. These grades correspond to regions of tone and saturation in color space and vary by hue, since different colors reach their highest saturation at different levels. The color descriptions accompanying a fancy grade are determined by the hue, and by the tone and saturation of the hue. In each instance, the fancy grades and color descriptions represent a range of color appearances.

Exceptionally Rare Pink Diamond Sold For $31.6M During Auction

One of the world’s most extraordinary diamonds, the “Unique Pink”, was recently purchased at a Sotheby’s auction in Geneva for the hefty price of $31.6 million. This makes the particularly rare 15.38-karat pear-shaped pink diamond one of the costliest pink diamond to ever be sold.

The auction house, who are unable to release the purchaser’s identity, took the bid over the phone from a private Asian buyer.

The “Unique Pink” has a simple ring design. Sotheby’s International Jewelry Worldwide Chairman David Bennett said the color of this diamond is amazing, and it’s hard to picture any other diamond with a pink color as vivid as the “Unique Pink”.

In 2015, Christie’s auction sold the “Sweet Josephine” pink diamond for $28.05 million. The buyer was Joseph Lau, a Hong Kong billionaire, who bought the 16.08-karat diamond for his daughter Josephine when she was seven. 

The sale of the “Unique Pink” diamond surpasses Christie’s record.

Still, the recently sold pink diamond doesn’t make it the most expensive to ever have been sold. In 2010, Sotheby’s sold the 24.78-karat “Graff Pink” diamond for the whooping price of $46.2 million.

A day after the sale of the “Unique Pink”, Lau came back to the Sotheby’s auction to buy his daughter the “Blue Moon of Josephine”, a 12.03-karat blue sparkler for nearly $50 million. The $48.5 million price makes the diamond one of the most expensive in the world.

Still, it doesn’t beat Christie’s auction May 18 sale of the “Oppenheimer Blue” 14.62-karat vivid blue diamond, which was purchased from a private collector for $57.5 million. The sale of the “Oppenheimer Blue” makes it the most expensive diamond to be sold in the world. 

Image courtesy of Sotheby's

Image courtesy of Sotheby's

The Blue Moon Diamond sold for a record of $48.26 million

The “Blue Moon” diamond has been sold for a record $48.26 million (48.6 CHF) in Geneva, according to auction house Sotheby’s. The sale price is a record for any gemstone and also per carat, a spokesman said. Sotheby’s describes it as a 12.03-carat fancy vivid blue internally flawless diamond.

It has now been announced that the buyer of the blue diamond, as well as the 16.08 ct cushion-cut Fancy Vivid pink diamond that sold for $28.55m at Christie’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels auction earlier this week, is Hong-Kong based billionaire fugitive Joseph Lau Luen-hung. Lau is listed by Forbes as the sixth richest man in Hong Kong and 114th wealthiest globally, with estimated assets worth US$9.8 billion as of November.

The “Sweet Josephine” diamond sold for &28.55m at Christie’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels auction.

The Blue Moon Diamond - Image courtesy of Sotheby's

The Blue Moon Diamond - Image courtesy of Sotheby's

The “Blue Moon” diamond has been sold for a record 48.26 million in Geneva – The Fancy Vivid Blue Internally Flawless Diamond is truly a wonder of the world.

“It is a new record price for any gemstone and per carat,” David Bennett, worldwide chairman of Sotheby’s international jewellery division, told a packed showroom in Geneva that erupted into applause.

The Hong Kong buyer promptly renamed both stones after his 7 year old daughter, “The Blue Moon of Josephine”, Bennett told reporters, noting that it had also set a world record for any jewel at more than $4 million per carat.

At rival Christie’s on Tuesday, a large diamond of a rare pink hue fetched 28.725 million Swiss francs ($28.55 million).

Christie’s said that the stone, named “The Sweet Josephine” by the Hong Kong-based Chinese client who bought it, set a world record for any pink diamond ever offered at auction.

Information courtesy of (Sotheby’s, Christies, Reuters)