By Michelle Graff
The six “hero” stones from the 2020 Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender are, from left to right, the Argyle Sakura, Infinité, Skylar, Eternity, Ethereal and Emrys.
Sydney—The red, pink and purple diamonds in the penultimate Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender are making their rounds, mostly virtually of course.

The Rio Tinto-owned diamond mine, one of the few sources of pink diamonds and the largest supplier of natural color diamonds in the world, has reached the end of its life.

Production will cease at the end of the year, and there will be only one more pink diamonds tender, in 2021 based on 2020 production.

After that, Rio Tinto said, it will take five years to decommission and dismantle the mine and begin rehabilitation of the land.

The closing of Argyle is, as diamond dealer and natural color diamond specialist Larry West put it, the end of an era.

Alluvial mining began at Argyle in 1983 and open-pit mining in 1985, with the mine going fully underground in 2013.

West has been buying diamonds from the mine since the late ‘80s, the first American to begin buying the stones and one of the few dealers who didn’t come from an established diamond company with financial backing.

He built up his business over the decades, buying and recutting many significant Argyle stones.

This includes the diamond he classifies as his favorite: the 2.83-carat “Argyle Violet” from the 2016 tender, one of the rarest diamonds in the world.

“It is very special, especially to the people who are experts,” said West, president of L.J. West Diamonds Inc., of the mine. “It’s a sad moment. It’s the equivalent of a great artist dying, as far as I’m concerned.”

The Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender is comprised of the best of a year’s production.

This year, the tender, called “One Lifetime, One Encounter” as a nod to the mine’s pending closure, totals 62 diamonds weighing 57.23 carats.

It is led by six “hero” stones ranging in size from 0.33 to 2.45 carats, the Argyle Ethereal, a square-cut radiant fancy intense purple-pink diamond.

Also included are 12 “carefully curated” sets of small pink, red, blue and violet diamonds weighing 13.90 carats in total. Called “The Petite Suites,” the lots were assembled over a five-year period.

See: The 6 ‘Hero’ Stones of the 2020 Argyle Tender

Like almost all other events this year, COVID-19 impacted the Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender.

Rio Tinto skipped the stones’ usual world tour—which normally makes a stop in New York—did virtual viewings, and pushed back and reduced the number of in-person viewings.

Those will take place in three places: Antwerp, Singapore and in Perth in Western Australia, where the mine is located.

Bids, which normally close in October, don’t close until Dec. 2 this year.

Also overshadowing one of the final sales of some of the rarest diamonds in the world is the recent resignation of top Rio Tinto executives after the mining company destroyed a site revered by Indigenous Australians.

The miner announced two weeks ago Chief Executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques, along with two other executives, would step down amid the fallout from the company’s destruction of 46,000-year-old rock shelters in Western Australia sacred to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people.

The incident has damaged Rio Tinto’s reputation as a mining company and, the Financial Times noted in an article published earlier this month, underscored the growing importance of social responsibility.

Rio Tinto declined to comment when asked if the repercussions of the controversy have impacted interest in this year’s Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender, citing an ongoing inquiry by the Parliament of Australia.

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