The Reality of Colored Diamonds

As you might imagine, we often receive calls from jewelry appraisers seeking to know the replacement value of fancy color diamonds purchased years back.
As an example, here’s a recent mail we received.

I'm a fine jewelry appraiser in Walnut Creek, CA, working on an insurance appraisal.

My client has a GIA certified natural round brilliant diamond .70 ct, Fancy Intense Purplish Pink, even color, with medium blue fluorescence, which was purchased 20 years ago.

I'm trying to research the current replacement cost for a comparable diamond, wholesale.

That’s a complex question, and in this case more needs to be disclosed to accurately estimate its current value. What is the clarity? is the stone an Argyle Pink, and if so, does it have an Argyle report with an accompanying original laser inscription?

Soaring Values & Provenance

Color diamond and gemstone values have risen dramatically in the last 20 years.  A 0.70 carat Intense pink diamond with VS clarity around 20 years ago costing $50K per carat may cost $350K per carat now; providing if it has an original Argyle inscription and certificate.

0.65 carat, Fancy Intense Pink Diamond, 5PR, Cushion Shape, VS1 Clarity, GIA & ARGYLE

Argyle certificate

Some may be surprised to learn that the origin of a gemstone is as important as its color. And the chain of paperwork determining its origin may not have been available years ago.

So jewelry appraisers today are facing significant challenges as many items arrive without any documentation or certificates to aid in establishing the current replacement value.

Similar problems are surfacing with jewelry items that were reported stolen and the insurance values the customer has are from 20 years ago.

21st Century Problem

Other difficulties facing jewelry appraisers at the moment are that jewelers are mixing natural diamonds together with lab grown diamond goods (LGD). The market is flooded with these synthetics and LGD by now.

LGD is a whole story in itself. Fortunately, experts can easily differentiate a lab-grown diamond from a genuine diamond when it’s set in a ring. Of course you need a special detector to make the separation between a fake and a real diamond.

LGD factory in SuratLGD factory in Surat

A Story with a Lesson

Let me illustrate with a story of a personal encounter I had on this very topic. A well-known builder came to my office, showing me a 4 carat white diamond ring and asked me to estimate its value.  He acquired the ring from a client who could not pay his bill for the work the builder had done in constructing his house. Now mind you, the builder was very proud that he got a bargain with this diamond as payment for an invoice which otherwise would have gone unpaid.

Unfortunately I saw right away that was a fake stone, so I wanted to refrain from valuing it and thus conveying the bad news. But he simply would not let go. He was convinced that he got the deal of a lifetime.

So I asked him what was the amount of his invoice the client needed to pay? $50K US, he said proudly, and “how much you think the ring is worth? My man said it is worth at least $80K US.”

I saw no way out, so I asked him to sit down, and I told him the truth. “it’s a synthetic diamond that is not worth even 500 dollars.”


What Impacts Value

Some segments of our trade have witnessed powerful growth such as with rare gemstones like Kashmir sapphires or no-oil Muso emeralds from Colombia.

Also prominent design houses with names like Cartier greatly enhance the value of jewelry. The same can be said of celebrity endorsements by wearing jewelry like Elisabeth Taylor did.  These could multiply the value of a jewelry item. Because of these added-value components, proper documentation of the jewelry is crucial for establishing its value and creating provenance.

The Aftermath of Argyle

We are currently in a post-Argyle era as the mine is permanently closed. No new pink and red goods are entering the market. Prices are sky high, and in this climate it’s difficult to promote Argyle pink diamond jewelry. Small, intense pink mele are costing more than a center stone of another type.

So the market is turning a bit toward gemstones, like Pigeon Blood rubies. But Australian collectors are still hot for Argyle goods including small Argyle diamonds. So they’re willing to pay the price.  However jewelers who are attempting to make a real markup try to avoid Argyle mele at $25K US per carat.

Mozambique No Heat Pigeon Blood Ruby Three Stone RingLEIBISH Mozambique No Heat Pigeon Blood Ruby Three Stone Ring

Notes on Moving Forward

The Indian manufacturing market shrank substantially this year and moved on to greenish or brownish yellow goods. These colors are selling great currently. The yellows look nice in a setting.  And you may recall I predicted there’ll be a great shortage of intense and vivid yellows in all sizes.

Russian rough used to enter the Surat factories after a Dubai side trip (due to the embargo) but lately the US administration is tightening its grip on Russian origin diamonds. This tactic will dramatically impact the shortage of goods.

All operators are looking for fresh goods with strong colors.  The fancy color market is suddenly facing a bright spring and demand is outpacing the supply.

It’s much like falling on love, and the spring of 2024 is a perfect time to fall in love with color diamonds.

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