Each year, Argyle reserves its most precious stones, approximately 50 of them, for its Pink Diamond Tender, inviting a côterie of the world’s leading jewellers to view the gems and then place offers through sealed bids submitted behind closed doors. Viewing meetings last up to two hours before each diamond is allocated to the highest bidder. In 2012, the Tender came to London accompanied by an exhibition celebrating both the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the special relationship rare pink diamonds have played in royal occasions.
Who can forget the famed Williamson Diamond, for example? Still considered to be one of the nest pink diamonds ever discovered, it was presented as an uncut stone weighing 54.5 carats as a wedding gift to the young Princess Elizabeth in 1947, before being cut and crafted by Cartier to form the centre of the Queen’s dazzling Williamson Diamond Brooch. Just as spectular were the pieces on display at Argyle’s Out Of The Vault: Pink Diamonds And Royalty exhibition, which featured 42 pieces of pink diamond jewellery totalling $65million from the likes of Graff, Moussaieff, Chinese powerhouse Chow Tai Fook, Nirav Modi of Mumbai, and Sydney- based Mondial Pink Diamond Atelier. An eye-popping bracelet with an $8.8million price tag from American jeweller LJ West featured rows of meticulously cut pink diamonds. A showstopping Diamond Jubilee Blossom brooch by Sydney-based jeweller Mondial Pink Diamond Atelier was loaded with royal symbolism – its six leaves, two blossoms and 52 diamonds within the leaves and the blossoms allude to the date of the Queen’s ascension to the throne.
Also by Mondial, a $1million Serendipity ring saw nine pear-shaped diamonds and nine marquise-cut diamonds swirling around three coloured diamond centres. “The name Serendipity reflects the happiness we felt at finding such rare and beautiful stones which match so closely in size, shape and intensity – an almost impossible occurrence,” says Michael Neumann, managing director of Mondial.
John Calleija, meanwhile, showed a bejewelled diamond sculpture which rose from its tower-like case, James Bond-style, at the turn of a diamond encrusted key. Calleija, a regular at the Tender for over two decades, is a man whose clients have spanned the gamut from Luciano Pavarotti to Claudia Schiffer. He knows a thing or two about being locked in a room alone with diamonds for two hours at a stretch. One year, as Argyle was showing its rarest pink jewel in the presence of journalists and film crews, he was in for a surprise. “It suddenly flicked out of the tweezers and into the media,” Calleija muses. “Security went on full alert and all doors to the room were sealed. No-one was allowed in or out for two hours while they searched for the rare gem. It was finally found in the cuffs of a cameraman’s trousers. There was a huge sigh of relief when it was found.”
Each of the Argyle Pink Diamond Tender diamonds is quite literally one in a million. For every million carats of Argyle’s rough diamonds, only one polished carat is offered for sale through the Tender. The rarity factor is intensified by estimates that the Argyle mine in Western Australia has only a decade of supply remaining. In the 1980s, Laurence Graff purchased every single one of the Argyle diamonds up for tender, combining them to create a flower brooch based on an 18th century design. Hours after the jewel was complete, the legendary jeweller took it out of his pocket during a meeting with the Sultan of Brunei at The Dorchester – the hotel the Sultan had just bought. Within minutes, for what it can safely be assumed was a princely sum, the piece was sold.