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"Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without." - Confucius

A fantastic Fancy Vivid pink diamond with a total weight of 14.93 carats and a clarity of VVS1 was auctioned on 22 November 2017 at Christie’s Magnificent Jewels Hong Kong sale. “The Pink Promise” of jeweller Mr Stephen Silver is really special. In this article we’ll put it under the loupe.

Although Australia called me for another reason, Sydney offered me one of the most interesting jobs I ever had just out of the blue. I spent a year as a sales and marketing assistant at a local jewellery store. Being on the main shopping street in the City we had all sorts of tourists flocking to the boutique all the time. I was lucky to have a fantastic colleague, an expert in diamond grading and South Sea pearls, who valued my enthusiasm and curiosity with private courses on the topic. Whenever “Mr Argyle” rolled into the shop on his scooter, she would call me down to the safe to see the new stones he brought for sale.

I loved it! When I returned to Europe the excitement took me to Antwerp to complete a diamond grader course at HRD. Here, I realised too that most of the people who work in this field, were born into this field. Although learnable, some of these skills are inherited with the DNA, just like the chances for continuous practice at the family jewellery workshop.

Ever since, I have been hunting for the opportunities to experience exceptional gemstones set or unset (for example here, here, here) and followed the news on discoveries and sales, of course. One of the latest being the 22 November 2017 sale of “The Pink Promise” at the Christie’s Magnificent Jewels Hong Kong auction.

Rahul Kadakia
Christie's auctioneer Rahul Kadakia takes bids at the auction of the Pink Promise 14.93 fancy vivid pink/VVS1 diamond ring (Photo by Keith Tsuji/Getty Images for Stephen Silver)
Stephen Silver
Stephen Silver, chief executive officer of Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry, (Photo by Keith Tsuji/Getty Images for Stephen Silver)

Recent pink news

The 14.93 carat Fancy Vivid Pink oval mixed-cut diamond was naturally the highlight of the evening at Christie’s. It was finally sold for USD 32,163,932 and with its USD 2,154,315 per-carat price it set a new world-record per-carat price for any pink diamond over 10 carats.

This is only USD 1,000 below the overall record holder, a cushion-shaped Fancy Vivid Pink 5 carat diamond sold by Christie’s in 2009.

The auction house sold significant pinks in the past decade: the ‘Princie Diamond’, a cushion-shaped fancy intense pink diamond of 34.65 carats for USD 39.3 million; The ‘Perfect Pink’, a rectangular-cut fancy intense pink diamond of 14.23 carats for USD 23.2 million; The ‘Martian Pink’, a brilliant-cut fancy intense pink diamond ring of 12.04 carats by Harry Winston for USD 17.4 million; a rectangular-cut fancy intense pink diamond ring of 9.07 carats sold for USD 12.6 million at Christie’s also in Hong Kong in 2015. [list quoted from Christie’s]

In April 2017, Sotheby’s auctioned an incredibly large, 59.60 carat oval mixed-cut IF Fancy Vivid Pink for USD 71.2 million.

What makes “The Pink Promise” even more special is that it was re-cut before the sale, but more on that later. In order to break the spell of these dry figures, let’s refresh our memories about the attributes of diamonds in general.

Pink Promise 14.93 fancy vivid pink/VVS1 diamond ring (Photo: Christie's)

Diamond crash course

Even laics know that diamonds are described with the 4Cs: Cut, Color, Carat and Clarity are the basic factors when considering a certain stone. Each of these influences the beauty and the value of a diamond, though it is difficult to decipher one component by itself. (In the diamond-buyer jargon there are new expressions from time-to-time adding more “C”s, like or Confidence but these are more buzzwords than real factors.)

Diamond is the hardest known natural mineral. It is typically about 99.95 percent carbon. The other 0.05 percent can include one or more trace elements, some of these can influence its colour or crystal shape.

With regards to “white diamonds” the colour is more like the “lack of colour”. The white colour grading scale at GIA (the Gemological Institute of America) goes from D-to-Z, where D-F is colourless, G-J is near colourless, K-M faint colour, N-Z light colour, but not fancy coloured diamonds!

Contained elements can be nitrogen or boron, acquired naturally during the course of formation (please note, that in some cases elements can be added as the result of treatment or synthesis in a laboratory, but this is a different story).

Depending on this element, we can divide diamonds into two main type categories: Type I which contains some nitrogen impurities and Type II which doesn’t.

Type I breaks down into two further groups: Ia and Ib. In Type Ia diamonds the nitrogen atoms are in groups, these stones are colourless or yellow. The vast majority of natural diamonds belong to this group. The nitrogen atoms in the Type Ib diamonds are spread, isolated and the colours are orange, yellow or brown (about less than 0,1% of the diamonds).

Type II diamonds have no measurable nitrogen impurities. They have two further subcategories, too: Type IIa and IIb. Type IIa diamonds make up 1–2% of all natural diamonds. These diamonds usually have very good clarity and many of them are colourless or have a nice yellow, orange, pink, red, or blue colour. Type IIa diamonds constitute a great percentage of the Australian production. Many large and famous diamonds, e.g. Cullinan and Koh-i-Noor, are Type IIa. Type IIb are very rare (about 0,1%) and it contains boron, which is responsible for most diamonds that are blue or greyish blue in colour (like the 31.06ct Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond or the 45.52 ct Hope). This type is known to conduct electricity.

Diamond Type Chart by GIA. Copyright GIA.

Most of the natural diamonds fit into the colours of D-Z. However there are stones with blue, brown, pink, deep yellow or even a green hue. These are called fancy-colour diamonds and they have to be measured and examined in a different way.

Focusing on pink diamonds, the colours of these stones range from Fancy Deep Pink, Fancy Vivid Pink, Fancy Intense Pink, Fancy Pink, and Fancy Light Pink to Faint Pink, according to the GIA. The more vivid a colour is, the more it is worth (considering all other factors are the same). Therefore, what appears on the GIA’s final diamond certificate can potentially change the value of the gemstone tremendously.

Although many characteristics can be measured by machines, gemstone colour is still something that the human eye must judge. The colour grade of a stone must be determined identically and independently by two diamond experts before it is announced (the stone may be sent to additional graders who enter their own colour opinions).

GIA’s Pink Diamond Color Chart shows how the depth of color transitions between stones. (Note that these samples are representative only; not all diamond appearances are included. These gemstones are also not precisely positioned within the grades.) Copyright GIA.

The Pink Promise

And with this we arrived to what makes “The Pink Promise” so special.

When Mr Stephen Silver, a gemmologist, geologist and the CEO of Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry bought it in June of 2013 it was originally 1.28 carat heavier, a 16.21 carat Fancy Intense Pink diamond. He has had experience with significant gemstones and jewellery during the last three decades, including the Cullinan Blue Diamond Necklace that he acquired in 1992 and he donated it to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in 2010.

To his practiced eyes the gemstone showed an opportunity: he noticed that the original cut of the diamond made some areas of the stone appear to be washed out. He took the gamble and teamed up with a master diamond cutter Isaac Hirshfeld, to plan and execute the re-cutting of the gemstone. Using the technology, the still inimitable attributes of the trained human eyes as well as exceptional cutting skills, they wanted to achieve the best possible colour by removing the smallest weight possible.

The work was completed over 3 years, which was followed by a nerve-racking re-examination by the GIA. Finally, the Institute rated the colour of the “The Pink Promise” diamond one grade higher to Fancy Vivid pink with a total weight of 14.93 carats and with a clarity of VVS1 (by definition: “Very, Very Slightly Included”, meaning that the inclusions are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification).

The risk paid off as the super-high sale price at Christie’s can certainly be attributed to the colour grade increase in spite of the loss in carats.


Photo credits: Keith Tsuji/Getty Images for Stephen Silver, GIA
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