Argyle is still in the pink, but maybe not for long

Maybe it’s simply a fashion comment—call it “the J. Lo effect.” Or it could be savvy investors eager to get their hands on the goods before the Argyle open-pit mine closes in 2007 or 2008. Whatever the reason, “the 2004 Argyle Pink Diamond Tender was very successful this year, reflecting the strong market demand for pink diamonds,” says Joseph Casella, U.S. and Europe senior sales executive for Argyle Diamonds.

Casella’s “strong market demand” is an understatement. The competition for the 60 rare pinks was so fierce that most of the regular auction attendees (all names are confidential) were left out of the winners’ column, and there were few repeats from previous years. “The whole pool changed,” says Alan Bronstein, colored-diamond specialist with Aurora Gems, New York, and one of the fortunate multiyear winners.

“Twenty-three clients were successful in the Tender from a record number of bidders,” says Casella. “The stones were evenly distributed to clients around the world.”

In It To Win It

Bronstein says there was pressure this year to bid more aggressively, and with new players in the silent bidding war, higher prices were anticipated. “There were more bidders than ever, and prices were stronger than ever,” he says.

What made the bidding even more unpredictable was the slightly lower quality of the selection overall. The new players were willing to submit higher bids, and “that’s a good thing,” says Bronstein. “One person or company shouldn’t dominate the tender.” The more the stones are dispersed, the more valuable they become. Bronstein won only one stone this year compared with last year’s haul of seven; the previous year, he took home four. “I bid on nine stones this year and got one,” he says, and that—one of the two purplish-reds—was for a client.

As in years past, most of the diamonds were graded by the Gemological Institute of America’s Gem Lab and Antwerp’s HRD. “This year’s Tender included a total of 60 stones with two ‘hero’ stones—a 1-ct. fancy red stone and a 2.31-ct. fancy vivid purplish pink,” says Casella. The 1-ct. fancy red, as graded by GIA, is a radiant-cut SI2. HRD called the color fancy intense purplish-red, also grading the clarity SI2. But it’s the stone’s unique color—not its clarity—that sets it apart. The 2.31-carater, graded by GIA as fancy vivid purplish-pink, is an octagonal cushion shape with I1 clarity. It was impressive for its size and shape, although the color appeared to be concentrated under the table.

Cream of the Crop

“I always make the analogy of the Argyle Tender to a beauty contest,” Bronstein says, noting the general tendency to compare the present year’s selection to previous years’ offerings. But that’s like asking what Sotheby’s or Christie’s auctioned off last year compared to what they’ve got going this year, he adds. “There’s always something exciting.

“Maybe the selection is not as profound as the previous year’s choices. Maybe there weren’t as many ‘Oh, my God!’ over-the-top stones. There were a few this year. The size and quality may be an issue for some, but these are still the most super-saturated pinks that exist en masse. Of course, it was as exciting as ever.”

While the descriptions on the diamond-grading reports from GIA and HRD often clashed, many of the stones pushed the limits of their subjective color-range boundaries. There were 25 “intense” colors, 23 “deeps,” nine “vivids,” two “purplish-reds,” and one “red.” And having so many in one place gave viewers a chance to see just how wide these ranges can be.

“It’s the Oscars of the diamond industry. There was a spectacular show of force,” Bronstein says. “It is an honor to get to look, and a bigger honor to win. I’m just thrilled to participate.”

Argyle already has begun collecting stones for the 2005 Pink Diamond Tender.