Rio Tinto-owned Argyle mine’s stellar annual event had every diamantaire craving an invitation, but few ever had the privilege. For the last three decades, Argyle has hosted a private invitation-only sale of their best-of-the-best annual pink diamond production. The vividly colored diamonds are in a league of their own because they are found in only one locale. The Argyle, in western Australia supplies over 90% of the world’s fancy pink, red, violet and yes, even blue diamonds. Rio Tinto has skillfully balanced educating its investors and collectors about pink diamonds while ramping up its branding efforts annually. All this has made Argyle diamonds declared the world’s most concentrated form of wealth.
The 2020 Tender
Color diamond specialist Leibish Polnauer, founder of LEIBISH, has been on Argyle tender’s exclusive short-list for years. This year’s sale was uniquely pivotal however. After 37 years of production, Argyle mine ceased operating in November. It became untenable to continue, something that was expected to happen. So, while it wasn’t a total surprise, when the end came, dealers and collectors realized they were witnessing the last of these timeless works of art, never to be replicated. LEIBISH has been winning extraordinary diamonds from these tenders year after year. “As next year will be the last Argyle tender, we bid on all stones, since the goods will become super rare, in high demand, and expensive,” said LEIBISH executive Shmulik Polnauer in a recent Rapaport Magazine report. Polnauer estimated that asking prices at 2020’s tender was 15% higher than the previous year. So, LEIBISH upped its bids “20% and more”, making sure the company secured lots, he revealed. Their latest success resulted in 16 of the 62 alluring diamonds featured in the penultimate 2020 Argyle Tender. 21 stones were over 1 carat, representing the rarest and most valuable diamonds. They acquired 50% of those 1-carat dazzlers, more than any other buyer.
Pink Sunset Collection
Polnauer named his 2020 tender cache the Pink Sunset Collection in homage to Argyle’s last days of mining and its historical finale. A stand-out is Lot 3, the Argyle Sakura, a 1.84 carat pear-shaped fancy vivid purplish pink stone. But every diamond in the Pink Sunset Collection conveys the legendary Argyle mystique with its finest at the end of a storied journey. Each diamond in the collection has a presentation case accompanied by its provenance. The stone’s next story will be written by the few fortunate collectors.
Above: The 16 stones won by LEIBISH at the 2020 Argyle Diamond Tender
The LEIBISH Journey
Polnauer pioneered the online color diamond retail niche which today sees hundreds of thousands of visitors on their website each month. And they’re not just looking. Sales are robust because the LEIBISH brand is proven to be trustworthy by consistently curating the finest examples of each fancy color diamond. Covid-19 pushed even more diamond consumers online. Shopper’s confidence grew as they realized that purchasing high-ticket items online was safeguarded in the same way as if they walked into a retail store.
It’s very much a family affair at LEIBISH. “I was a solo player for years,” Polnauer reflects. “First as a polisher, then as a factory manager.” 1998 was a watershed year when his first website www.fancydiamonds.net (now www.Leibish.com) launched against critique from naysayers who predicted it simply wouldn’t work. But joined by his wife Rosalind, one by one, each of their 5 children came onboard offering their greatest strengths. “Our daughter Chavi contributes her talent for design and color. Our son Yossi joined after he finished university, providing expertise that elevates our online presence. After Shmulik completed his graduate gemologist course in London at GIA, he continued learning the business in Mumbai. He has a natural gift for color diamonds.” Their son Itzik opened LEIBISH New York showroom, keeping US operations running successfully. Yonatan, their youngest son joined as CFO after earning his mathematics degree. “A spirit of family unity has continued strong since day-one,” Polnauer says.