Imagine after a year of toil, all your work fitted into the palm of your hand.
That’s the reality for Argyle diamond mine manager Josephine Johnson.
Johnson is in charge of all the pink diamonds dug out of the Western Australian Kimberley region and is currently running the 2015 tender to sell the gems.
Pink diamonds make up one tenth of 1% of all the diamonds mined at Argyle. And while Johnson doesn’t get free samples, she does have a job which involves being surrounded by some of the prettiest stones in the world. It sure beats hanging around a dusty iron ore site all day.
“It’s a very tightly managed extraction process because of the value. It’s less cause of celebration but more cause for very accurate record keeping and sharing of that information through the business so we can start forecasting. It takes about a year from the time we extract to actually going through the planning process and polishing process,” she said.
While diamonds aren’t found every day at the mine, it is one of the few sources of pink diamonds in the world. Last year 3000 carats of polished pink diamonds were extracted, but that includes stones the size of a grain of sand, and some the lightest shade of pink. About 90% of the world’s pink diamonds come from Argyle.
The diamonds fetch around 75 times the value of the white version – around $1 million a carat. Hot pink is worth more than paler colours. Demand far exceeds supply and the price has soared in the last 15 years as the popularity of pink diamonds has grown through clever marketing.
On Friday, Johnson’s office was one of the beautiful rooms in the Sydney Opera House, looking over the harbour. Surrounded by pink roses, diamonds and a ballerina, Johnson told Business Insider she would mingle with some of the gem industry’s finest, before heading to Hong Kong and New York later this year to introduce the stones to the likes of Tiffany’s, ahead of the annual tender sale.
The sale is expected to raise more than $40 million, and the cost of flying them to showcases around the world is actually higher, because of insurance and security, than the travel costs of the Argyle team accompanying them.
Johnson has the job of naming the diamonds. While acknowledging it sounds “cheesy” she says the stones “do speak to you”.
Her favourite two are Argyle Shalimar, a 1.25 carat Round Brilliant Fancy Intense Pink stone, and Ocean Seer, a 1.12 carat octagon-shaped Fancy Deep Gray Violet diamond.
“I named it after the exotic gardens of Shailmar because of the riot of colour in the stone. I had to keep returning to that stone because it was so mesmerising. There were flashes of purple and red and pink, really dancing around that stone,” she said.
“In the same year we have a really vivid, violet blue diamond. We have very occasional violet blue diamonds. It was the most calming stone. It was like looking into this beautiful, still pool of gorgeous violet colour. I named that one Ocean Seer.
“I always think of those two stones. These stones do get sold like art, they’re not necessarily set in jewellery. So occasionally they will come up for sale.”
This year’s batch includes three red diamonds and two of them are over a carat. Only 17 red diamonds have been hauled out of the Argyle mine in the past 30 years.
Archer explained over the past three days clients have been filtering through the Opera House and the most common request is for a 1 carat, round pink diamond, so lot 5, Argyle Eleve, a 1.44 carat emerald cut diamond is being watched closely.
This year’s tender features 65 diamonds – 44 carats all up. The tender is by invitation only to a few diamantaires and collectors who may place sealed bids. Bids close on October 21.
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