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    Argyle Diamond Buying Guide – The Demise of a Great Artist

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    Rio Tinto’s Argyle diamond mine, also known as the Argyle AK1 Pipe, is found in the north of the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. It is famously known for supplying 90% of the world’s pink diamond supply. As mining operations come to an end the industry is going to feel this loss. Akin to the world losing an artist who will never produce another great work of art, we will never again anticipate the arrival of a new suite of Argyle fancy colored diamonds. This guide will attempt to explain the differences between natural fancy pink diamonds and Argyle pink diamonds. 

    A selection of Argyle diamonds. © Leibish

    As natural fancy colored diamonds go, each is incredibly
    unique, rare, and valuable. But it was not until the Argyle began consistently
    producing vibrant colored diamonds into the market that the global population
    started craving them. Before the Argyle contributed to the global supply, pinks
    were incredibly rare and hard to come by. Pink is by far the most popular and in
    highest demand globally of natural fancy diamond colors, and Argyle pinks have
    commanded the highest price points consistently over the past 40 years.

    0.44 carat modified cushion pink diamond James Allen
    Compare this 0.44 carat modified cushion pink diamond from James Allen, which is not an Argyle pink diamond, to the other Argyle images in this article. What a difference!

    What Makes Argyle Pinks Different?

    The pinks that emerged from this deposit display a superior saturation of color when compared to pinks found elsewhere. Unlike the faded pinks found elsewhere around the globe, these stones display a bubblegum-like vibrancy that is instantly recognizable to many. This superior saturation of color is thanks to the process by which the stones are formed, at least that is what the geologists think. The accepted theory is that this deposit was formed deeper inside of the Earth’s mantle than most diamonds. Therefore, the amount of force and pressure was greater than normally needed to push these stones closer to the surface, to a depth where they could be mined.

    v ring platinum gold all white leibish
    A fancy intense purplish pink Argyle diamond with bubblegum-like intensity. © Leibish

    The color may also be some consequence that the Argyle pipe
    is the first successful commercial diamond mine which found diamonds inside of
    Lamproite, a volcanic rock that is like Kimberlite. Some theorize, though
    research is inconclusive, that this type of host rock plays a part in why the
    Argyle produces pink diamonds in small sizes and at elevated quantities. The
    average size of stones mined are smaller than expected, most exit the mine at
    around 0.10 carat. 

    1.02 Carat pear diamond
    Compare the bubblegum pink color of an Argyle diamond with other pink diamonds like this one. ©James Allen

    This may also explain why many believe that Argyle diamonds
    are harder and denser than diamonds from other origins. The additional stress
    placed on the diamond seedlings was enough to cause the pink color. 
    Whereas most colored diamonds attain their color from impurities, pinks are
    only made by duress inside of the crystal structure at the atomic level due to
    amazing amounts of heat and pressure.

    The additional stress inside of the stone is noticeable to
    diamond cutters who are accustomed to working with this material. They often
    compare cutting colorless diamonds to Argyle pinks as working on butter versus
    knots of wood. The diamonds are harder to polish and are more delicate than
    other varieties of diamond material. Another interesting feature is that 70% of
    diamonds that come from the mine exhibit some degree of blue fluorescence when
    viewed under ultraviolet light.

    The Argyle has excelled in creating their own color grading
    system specific to the range of material they provide. Their color chart
    includes a color classification system like that used by the Gemological
    Institute of America (GIA) which includes a color hue designation combined with
    a grade for intensity of color. The Argyle pink diamonds are divided into 4
    categories: “purplish
    pink” (PP)
    , “pink
    rose” (PR)
    , “pink”
    (P)
    , and “pink
    champagne” (PC)
    . Once the color designation is
    assigned each stone receives a number value between 1 – 9 to convey the
    intensity of color, 1 being the highest and 9 being the lowest. This 1 – 9
    system is true for purplish pink, pink, and pink rose, but pink champagne only
    has a 1 – 3 variation.

    It is common to receive both a diamond grading report from
    GIA and The Argyle when purchasing
    and important not to be confused by the separate color systems. GIA might grade
    the diamond
    as a “Fancy Intense Pink” while The Argyle system reads
    “P3”. Argyle diamonds come with their own certificate, a color grading report,
    and a laser inscription on all stones above 0.08 carat.

    Fancy colored Argyle diamonds are considered so valuable
    that the mine reserves 40 to 60 of its finest discoveries each year to auction
    them off to a private group of about 150 diamond buyers. This exclusive annual
    event is called the Argyle Diamond Tender. There will only be one more event in
    2021 to release the last exclusive suite of diamonds unearthed during the final
    year of production.

    Life After the Argyle

    Since its opening in 1983, The Argyle has supplied the world
    with an incredible 865 million carats of natural diamond material. However,
    only 5% of that number are gem quality. The rest fall into industrial grade
    diamonds that find their final place on a worker’s saw blade or drill bit
    instead of meticulously set into a piece of jewelry. Inside of that 5%, 80% are
    some variation of a brown diamond, 15% are yellow hues, 4% are colorless
    diamonds, and 1% share the spotlight in pink, red, blue, and violet hues.
    Stones that weigh more than 0.50 carat are so rare that they only find a few
    each year. The whole year’s production would fit in the palm of your hand.

    v necklace 18k gold leibishrecei
    This Pave Diamond Pendant features 0.63 carat total weight of 5PP color Argyle brilliant cut round diamonds. © Leibish

    We can pretend that annual production is even across each
    year to add some context to the above numbers; 865 million carats over 37 years
    works out to be an annual production of 432,500 carats of Argyle pink, red,
    blue, and violet hue rough diamond material. Rough is a term used for all gem mined material before any
    finishing process of facets or polishing to create the final gemstone or
    diamond product is performed. Once the finishing process is completed on a
    natural diamond there is waste product. The diamond dust that was polished away
    to create each strategic facet or natural features that would detract from the
    durability or beauty of the finished diamond is removed. Depending on the
    shape, size, and inclusions of the stone it could lose much of its weight. Let
    us conservatively say 1/3 of the material is waste product, that means that the
    world’s largest pink diamond supplier has only introduced a little over ¼ of a
    million carats (288,333.33) of natural fancy pink, red, blue, and violet
    colored diamonds to the world in 37 years of operation. That means each year
    the market grew by about 8,000 carats from this supply alone, and now that the
    party is over, we will be lucky to see 800 carats introduced from various
    sources around the planet annually. Even smaller is the amount of those gem
    quality stones that feature the pink hues with a saturation of color that would
    rival what Argyle pinks are treasured for.

    It is unlikely that global supply would be affected if any
    colorless diamond mine closes, however you can be certain that the closing of
    this producer is going to be felt throughout the industry and bring higher
    values to those that can trace their origin back to the Argyle diamond mine.

    Building a Bright Future

    Rio Tinto has always made a commitment to mining socially
    and environmentally responsibly, it will be interesting to see how they
    facilitate the closing of this mine. They pride themselves on operating with
    closure in mind. In 2017, their Kelian gold mine in Indonesia was transformed
    with aid from the Indonesian government and the World Wildlife Fund into a
    sanctuary for the highly endangered Sumatran Rhinoceros. Part of the site has
    been designated a Protection Forest and is being used for housing and breeding,
    with the aim of eventually releasing them into the wild.

    Rio Tinto’s plans for the Argyle mine include working with
    the Australian government to support entrepreneurship opportunities to those
    communities that have relied on the infrastructure created by the mine over the
    past 40 years. The plan is to provide career support and training to the
    workforce as operations slow down. They also work with indigenous groups to
    ensure that the land is repaired and looked after for future generations, as
    well as ensuring that their presence will lead to sustainable opportunities
    once they have left.

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