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Australia: Pink diamond collection set to fetch millions with rush to invest following Argyle mine closure

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A private collection of rare Australian pink diamonds is expected to fetch up to $18 million when it goes up for sale next week.

Only months after the closure of the Argyle diamond mine in the East Kimberley, an Australian online start-up is offering the first known public tender of the iconic pink gems which closes July 1.

The collection of 33 pre-owned stones includes a two-carat vivid pink, which alone is estimated to be worth up to $2.5 million. CEO Tim Goodman said these gems are some of the most rare and valuable in the world to hit the secondary diamond market.

"I've been hearing about this collection for years, just whispers in the trade," he said.

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"Obviously the mine's had private tenders for their clients, but there's never been an opportunity for members of the public to buy pink diamonds like these.

"In my 40 years in the jewellery auction business, I have never seen a private collection like this anywhere in the world."

'Collection of a lifetime'

Eleven of the stones being sold belong to celebrated 78-year-old Brisbane collector Diosma Fitzpatrick, who acquired the Argyle pinks in the mine's early days of production in the 1980s.

Mr Goodman, who has a long association with the diamond industry as an auctioneer, said the highest price ever paid for a pink diamond was the 15.81 carat Sakura diamond for $US37.7 million — or $49 million in Australian dollar terms today — in Hong Kong.

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"We've got a stone up there with the sale in Hong Kong … and it'll be fascinating to see what happens," he said.

Sydney-based diamond consultant Anna Cisecki said with the closure of the Argyle diamond mine, which once produced more than 90 per cent of the world's pink diamonds, a secondary diamond market was starting to emerge.

"I have to say this collection is truly extraordinary. There will not be many collections of this nature in the world, period, and to see one come to market is truly exceptional," she said.

"Going forward we're feeling pretty incredibly optimistic on the outlook of the stones and expect that a very robust secondary market is going to emerge in pink diamond trading.

"We can already see it starting with this first public tender, and I'm sure we'll see more platforms emerge in the near future."

An investment for the future

Ms Cisecki, who runs investment firm Australian Diamond Portfolio, said since the Argyle mine ceased production in November, demand had never been higher.

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"Since the announcement that the mine has ceased operating, we've seen an almost 50 per cent uptick in demand in the first half of this year," she said.

"We've had many clients walking through the door over the past six months saying they've been thinking about investing for a while, but that now really does feel like that last opportunity to get into the market."

Over the life of the Argyle mine the value of stones has steadily increased, catching the attention of wealthy investors and self-managed superannuation fund trustees looking to diversify their portfolios.

"Pink diamonds present a very interesting opportunity to move some of their money into a tangible asset that's been growing in value more than 10 per cent per year for the last 10-15 years," Ms Cisecki said.

"Pink diamonds don't demonstrate the volatility we've seen in equity markets, commodities, or even with gold and other precious metals.

"Their inflation-protecting qualities and ability to generate strong long-term returns make them attractive investments in their own right."

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Ms Cisecki said an investment-worthy stone started at around $20,000 and could attract up to $3 million for a single carat.

A pink diamond can be anywhere between 25-50 times the cost of an equivalent white diamond.

Argyle's final pinks, blues revealed

At Linneys Jewellery in Perth, David Fardon has witnessed an increase in enquiries about pink diamonds in recent months.

He is one of a handful of jewellers around the world who gets access to the Argyle Pink Diamond Tender.

It is a blind auction, where clients are invited to bid on diamonds which have never before hit the market — so rare that all the diamonds from the tender's 38-year history could fit into a wine glass.

Mr Fardon said he had been lucky enough to preview Rio Tinto's final Argyle Pink Diamond Tender collection, which this year comprises of 70 diamonds from the now-shuttered mine.

"They're like works of art, they are really very unique gems," he said.

The collection revealed last month is headlined by a 3.47 carat diamond, the Argyle Eclipse, the largest fancy intense pink diamond ever offered at the tender.

Also on offer this year are 41 lots of the very last blue and violet diamonds to emerge from the mine.

Mr Fardon said the Argyle Pink Diamond Tender prices had appreciated by 500 per cent over the past 20 years, with the final tender expected to record further growth.

A lasting legacy

Despite the exciting secondary market emerging, Mr Fardon believes many collectors would continue to hold on to their investments and family heirlooms for a long time to come.

"People acquire pink diamonds for all sorts of different reasons. A lot of them relate to the emotional values that come with having a beautiful pink diamond that can be used in a beautiful design," he said.

"Other people have put them all away to be able to pass them on from one generation to the next [or] have perhaps looked at them as a long-term investment.

"With the mine coming to a close and the production having finished … they are only going to become more rare and scarce, and be valued by collectors and jewellery connoisseurs around the world."

The 2021 Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender will be showcased in Perth, Antwerp, Singapore, and Sydney, with bids closing on September 1.

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