Inside the World's Most Exclusive Diamond Auction

Courtesy Rio Tinto Diamonds

The New York-based auction is by invitation only.

In the hallway on the tenth floor of New York's Peninsula Hotel, an American Express Fine Hotel & Resort property, a man was speaking quietly on his phone, with only a few words slipping from behind the shield of his hand. “These are definitely going for a premium,” he said. It was around the corner inside one of the suites that roughly 20 editors and jewelers were being ushered around two modestly-sized display cases filled with rare, albeit considerably small, pink, violet, and red diamonds, and a table of 64 small black boxes with sets of itsy-bitsy pink diamonds (part of the “Everlasting Collection”) arranged in groups based on gradient and clarity. It was the 35th bi-annual Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender—an invite-only auction event for diamantaires to preview rare-colored stones mined in the six-month period preceding it.


Courtesy Rio Tinto Diamonds

It’s not about size or clarity, but about hue when it comes to the desirability of pinks. Just one-tenth of one percent of all diamonds from the Argyle mine fall in the spectrum of pale cherry blossom to deep red and violet. Exceptionally rare, “a half-year’s worth of mined pinks that exceed half a carat can fit in the palm of your hand,” explained Michelle Hartwell, a Rio Tinto account manager.

The Argyle mine, owned by the Rio Tinto global mining group, is located in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia and is known for supplying 95 percent of the world’s pink diamonds. Prior to its discovery 40 years ago last week, these rare stones held an almost mythical status having only been found in minuscule quantities in Brazil, Russia, and India. Going for a premium indeed, this event marks one of only 4 remaining tenders as the mine is set to close in December of 2020. Among the lot are six “hero” diamonds including a 1.37 carat oval Fancy vivid purplish pink (“Argyle Verity”) and a 2.01 carat round fancy intense pink (“Argyle Opus”).


Courtesy Rio Tinto Diamonds

To put these relatively small stones into context, we can look to their record-breaking past. The “Winston Pink Legacy,” an 18.96-carat pink diamond was bought by Harry Winston last year for $50.3 million (over $2.65 million per carat). Before that there was the 8.41-carat Fancy Vivid Purple-Pink bought by De Beers in 2014 for over $17.7 million and the 24.78-carat fancy intense emerald-cut pink bought by Laurance Graff for $46.1 million. As a benchmark, just months apart from the Harry Winston sale, Sotheby’s sold a 102.34-carat white brilliant-cut (and the world’s only known D-color) diamond for what they would only reveal as price per carat that exceeded $260,252 (the record previously set in 2013 with a 118.28-carat oval white diamond), showcasing the disparity from pink’s per-carat-price in the millions.


Courtesy Rio Tinto Diamonds

The beauty of a tender? All bids are sealed making each diamond’s value as personal to the prospective buyer as it gets. New York City was the last stop of the showcase, which had already been in Argyle, Perth, London, and Singapore since July. The bids will close globally on October 9th.