A (Very Expensive) Pink Souvenir

“What else would you call it?” asks Alan Bronstein, president of Aurora Gems in New York. He was one of the lucky international dealers with a winning bid in Argyle’s 17th annual Fancy Pink Diamond Tender. “Everybody likes to have a souvenir,” he says.

The Argyle Pink Diamond Tender is an invitation-only, silent-bid auction that offers the best of the best diamonds unearthed at the Australian mine each year. This year, 41 stones traveled to six major cities: Perth (Aug. 27-28), Hong Kong (Aug. 23-24), Tokyo (Aug. 20-22), New York (Sept. 5-7), London (Sept. 9-10), and Geneva (Sept. 12-14). The stones ranged from 0.48 ct. to 4.15 cts.; most weighed less than 1 ct.

Argyle’s guests, a group that included important dealers, manufacturers, and jewelers, examined these extraordinary colored diamonds and entered sealed bids, which were tallied in Geneva on Sept. 14. Winners—and losers—were notified by phone the following day. Of the more than 30 companies that registered bids, 15 bidders—a record number—were successful. Winning bidders came from Australia, Europe, Japan, Hong Kong, and the United States.

The Argyle diamond mine produces roughly 25 million carats of diamond annually, less than 1% of which are the highly prized pinks. This year’s output of pinks included only 41 stones—41.92 cts. t.w.—whose color made them worthy of being set apart for auction. Colors ranged from Fancy Pink through Fancy Vivid Purplish-Pink to Fancy Deep Pink. The tender also featured a matched pair of Fancy Yellow 1-ct. rounds from the Ellendale alluvial mine. There were no red- or violet-colored diamonds this year, but the stones that made up the tender were incredibly rare.

“These are some of the finest pink diamonds available,” says Stephen Hofer of Fancy Colour Consultants in Stockbridge, Mass. Hofer, the author of Collecting and Classifying Coloured Diamonds, describes the stones as “mostly higher-saturated, deeper-colored diamonds. Even though there are only 41 this year, that’s quite a concentration for that strength of color. I’m just as amazed as anyone else.”

The largest gem ever auctioned in the tender was offered this year: a 4.15-ct. Radiant-cut Fancy Intense Purplish Pink. The previous largest—a cushion-cut Fancy Intense Purplish-Pink weighing 3.66 cts.—was auctioned in 1995. The next-largest diamond in this year’s tender, a Fancy Intense Purplish-Pink oval, weighed 2.19 cts.

“I bid on a few stones and didn’t expect to get everything I bid on,” says Bronstein. “I was certainly less confident [about] winning the best stones in the bunch. I offered on the top stones, but also on the stones that are not everybody’s cup of tea, but yet magnificent and rare in their own right.”

Argyle is producing fewer and fewer of these beauties every year, and the mine recently extended its useful life expectancy by only a few years. So why wouldn’t you plunk down as much money as you could possibly spend and snatch one of these rare stones before they get away?

“Because they’re all businessmen,” says Hofer. “They know that, unless they have private clients that have more money than they know what to do with, if they pay too much, they can’t resell it in the trade for a profit. There would be resistance. People would try to shop around for something comparable.”

Does “something comparable” exist?

“There are other stones in the market,” Hofer explains. “Of course, not in the quantity that you get from Argyle. Maybe there are five or six or maybe even 10 stones in the market at any one time.”

But Hofer also acknowledges that when dealers are asked if they have a “deep blue,” they usually answer, “No, and by the way, if you find one, let me know and I’ll buy it from you.” That’s an indication of how scarce the Argyle pinks are, Hofer says.

Says Bronstein: “Forty-one carats out of 25 million carats—that’s a beauty contest!”