In May 2013, Argyle Diamonds announced that the upcoming tender of fancy colored diamonds from its mine in Western Australia would feature three red diamonds, the most in the facility’s 30-year history. Among them was a 1.56-carat stone called the Argyle Phoenix.
“Since mining began in 1983, only six diamonds certified as fancy red by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) have been presented for sale at the annual tender,” the company said in a statement. “To have three of these rare red diamonds in one tender is very special.”’
Red diamonds had already made news in 2013. Christie’s Spring sale in Geneva that year had featured a 1.92 carat rectangular-cut fancy red, VS2 diamond. It sold for $3.25 million, or $1.6 million per carat, setting a new world auction record for a red diamond.
As is its custom, Argyle never revealed the price paid for the Argyle Phoenix, or the other two red stones sold together with it. But it did say that it fetched the highest per carat price for a diamond ever produced from the mine, with bids breaking through the $2 million ceiling.
“Predominantly” red diamonds are one of the rarest items found in nature. This refers to a stone with red as the primary color, with no secondary hues, such as purple. In fact, they are so uncommon, that Gemological Institute of America records show that over a 30-year period from 1957 to 1987 there was no mention of a GIA lab report issued for a diamond with “red” as the only descriptive term.
There is no real agreement as to how they come about their red color. Like pinks, for example, which owe their color to an unusual compression in the carbon crystal structure, certain GIA researchers have surmised that the red color may partially be the result of defects in the atomic structure, possibly resulting from “gliding,” which refers to the slight movement of atoms along the octahedral direction of the crystal.
Given their rarity, even smaller fancy red diamonds that come to the market generate a good deal of excitement. In 1987, the 0.95-carat Hancock became the most expensive per-carat gemstone ever sold at auction, when it went for $880,000, or $926,315 per carat. This was eight times its pre-sale estimate.
The largest known fancy red diamond is the Moussaieff Red, which is a modified, internally flawless triangular brilliant weighing 5.11 carats. Originally known as the Red Shield, it was discovered in the 1990s by a Brazilian farmer in the Abzetezinho River. In 2001 it was purchased by the Moussaieff jewellery firm for $8 million, and it was included in the 2003 exhibit, “The Splendor of Diamonds,” at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
Of similar size is the 5.05-carat Kazanjian Red Diamond, previously known as the Red Diamond, which was discovered in South Africa in the 1920s and cut in Amsterdam by the Goudvis Brothers. When the Nazis occupied the Netherlands, it was confiscated and taken to Germany, where it was hidden in a salt mine in Berchtesgaden, nearby Adolf Hitler’s mountain retreat. When the war in Europe ended, Joseph McNarney, an American general, found the diamond at the salt mine, but thought it was a ruby. However, when its true identity was revealed, it was returned to the Goudvis Brothers’ estate. After changing hands several times, the diamond was bought in 2007 by the Kazanjian Brothers, owners of a jewelry company in Beverly Hills, California.
MID House of Diamonds is of the world’s preeminent suppliers of loose fancy-colored diamonds, with a large and varied stock that includes red stones. Because it is a world of which many diamond buyers are less familiar, with different pricing patterns and grading standards, MID invites you to speak with one of the fancy color experts on its team.
The Moussaieff Red, which at 5.11carats, is the largest known fancy colored red diamond.