26 Feb 2019

Diamond Life

As Australian Diamond Portfolio welcomes master diamond cutter David Burger to the team, we take a look at how David came to cut some of the most valuable diamonds ever unearthed.

This article originally appeared in Wish by The Australian – September 2015.

In the world of diamond cutting, there is no room for trembling hands or a faint heart. Rio Tinto’s latest argyle pink tender is the jewel in the crown of David Burger’s long career.

Billions of dollars of the world’s finest diamonds have passed through master craftsman David Burger’s hands during his 40-year career, which he describes as a passion, not a job. At the age of 65, Burger is hanging up his tools and retiring from a profession he has a great love for and one that is a dying art in Australia’s diamond industry.

Born and bred in Johannesburg, South Africa, he emigrated to Australia in 1981. Six years later he started work for one of the world’s largest miners, Rio Tinto, crafting the exquisite pink diamonds from its West Australian Argyle mine. During his 27 years at Rio he has cut and polished the finest of Argyle diamonds, including reds, pinks, blues and yellows.

Burger, who polished the world’s first million-dollar-per-carat purplish red diamond in 1997, has cut and polished the vast majority of Argyle’s tender diamonds for the past 25 years. He worked on almost half — 29 out of 65 — of the stones in this year’s pink diamond tender, which is known as the “Connoisseur’s Collection”. The 65 diamonds weigh a total of 44.14 carats, including four “Fancy Red” diamonds. The 2015 Argyle pink diamonds tender has already had viewings in Sydney, Hong Kong, New York and Perth, with bids set to close on October 21.

The names of some of the best diamonds in this year’s tender have been inspired by the world of ballet, in recognition of Rio’s partnership with the Australian Ballet. One of the top stones this year is the “Argyle Prima”, a 1.20ct fancy red pear-shaped diamond.

Above, David Burger, in the diamond business for 40 years, examines a rare Argyle pink. Right, Ocean Seer, a deep grey violet octagonal.

Burger says his passion for the diamond craft was born in the 1960s through a family friend in South Africa, who introduced him to the profession and helped him sign on to a five-year apprenticeship. He says it was a close-knit industry and you needed to know someone to break in. Once in, he soon realised he had a skill for the “fancy” stones.

Lovers of diamonds marvel at the sparkle, shape and size of the precious stone, but before it is shining in a shop window, or being displayed around the world in an exclusive high-level tender, it starts life as a “rough”. Burger revelled in the task of extracting the maximum beauty and price out of what natural forces and time had created. Sitting at a work bench in the high security offices in Perth, he would examine a rough diamond and says he knew in 10 minutes what he would create.

“When I look at a stone in the rough, as I assess it I look at where the flaws are situated, what the shape of the rough is and more and more my mind starts working what it will make out of it,” he says. “When you see a piece of rough and it’s extraordinary you get excited and start thinking what am I going to do with that.” He explains that a diamond has 58 facets and through his five-year apprenticeship he was taught about the structure of a diamond and how it runs on the wheel.

“It’s not just like a semi-precious stone where you can put it in the tool and on the wheel and it rotates and polishes,” he explains. “A diamond has grain like wood, and knots like wood, so you have to find the running plane, and you have to plan the stone from the very beginning because your very first facet will determine where all the other facets will run.”

The master craftsman has twice visited the Argyle mine, home to the stones he has worked on over 27 years. The second trip was this year — but it was not for reasons of business or mere curiosity. He was there to attend a smoke and water cleansing ceremony. The local indigenous community had invited him there because he had polished a stone, named Lady in Red. When that stone was photographed, the image of a lady appeared in the photo and the traditional owners believed Burger had stolen the spirit of the lady from the Kimberley and requested he be cleansed. It’s an experience from an eventful career he says he will fondly remember in retirement.

Burger, who looks at the diamond with his left, short-sighted eye, says it takes anywhere from two days to a week to finish a stone, which goes on a one-year journey from mine to sale. “It is an art and a passion, it’s not just a job,” he says. “Once you’ve made a decision on doing something and it works out to the size and colour you had in mind, there is a tremendous sense of satisfaction.”

Burger’s boss, Shauna Holdsworth, says his artistic flare was amazing, explaining that he can visualise in 3D the final product even before the technology is applied to it. “He sits down and sketches,” says Holdsworth, the manager of operations at Argyle’s specialist cutting and polishing facility. “You follow his pencil drawing to put the stone together, so you have to listen to the polisher. You can have all the inputs in the world through technology, but if that stone doesn’t run like Dave said, then you have to readjust.”

Burger says some stones are more trouble than others, and a craftsman needs to be confident in his skills — there is no room for self-doubt: “If you don’t have strong nerves, this isn’t the job for you.”

Source: Wish by The Australian – September 2015


For more articles featuring David Burger you can also read As Rare As The Pinks – David Burger’s Story.

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26 Feb 2019

As Rare As The Pinks – David Burger’s Story

As Australian Diamond Portfolio welcomes master diamond cutter David Burger to the team, we take a look at how David came to cut some of the most valuable diamonds ever unearthed.

This article originally appeared in Argyle Diamonds – Celebrating 21 Years of Passion, People and Pinks – 2005.



Tucked away in west Perth at Argyle Diamonds’ head office a team of polishers spin their diamond topped wheels and create pure pink magic. Diamond polisher Dave burger is a member of this elite team.

Dave has spent the past 39 years polishing diamonds in South Africa and Australia, 18 of these with argyle, and his speciality is pink diamond fancy cuts. In fact, the argyle pink diamond and Dave have something in common. His expertise, precision and artistic flare makes him, like the pinks, one of the rarest of his kind in the world.

“I was born in South Africa and started polishing diamonds at a factory affiliated with De Beers when I was 17 year old. It was very lucrative in the 196os with diamond polishers earning as much as doctors and lawyers. My first taste of Australia was a holiday to Queensland in 1979. We loved it so much we decided to come over here to live. I set up my own business in 1981 in Queensland polishing diamonds and stuck with that for several years.

In 1987 I was approached by Argyle so I came to Perth to have a look around. My first impression of Argyle was that the factory was really neat and modern and the company seemed to be very safety conscious, so I accepted the job. Working with the Argyle pink diamonds was completely different to South Africa’s large white and yellow diamonds. They were smaller, much more valuable and had their own challenges such as rare knotted inclusions which could crack the diamond if not faceted properly.

I’ve been polishing the vast majority of the Pink Diamond Tender stones for the past 15 years. It takes nerves of steel when you start polishing the larger pinks which may end up in the Pink Diamond Tender. I like to think of what I do as an art, taking the rough stone and determining the best shape to cut, to bring out the brilliance of the stone. I don’t have any particular shape I like best, although the oval is certainly the hardest to hand-shape. I recently created a new shape that we call the Argyle cut (not patented), it’s quite unusual and the few stones we’ve done have proven to be very popular.

I enjoy trying new cuts and once the stone is complete it’s really wonderful to get positive feedback. It does make you feel proud of your work and encourages you to try and do even better.”


Hand polishing large pink diamonds is a state of the art craft in which there are only a handful of experts world-wide. Years of training teach polishers the complicated method, but it is individual flare and the ability to make the most of each diamond that makes some polishers stand out from the rest.

Argyle pink diamonds are assessed on their colour, carat, clarity and cut, so the polisher must consider all four elements. A o.99 carat diamond is worth disproportionately less than a one carat diamond, and the deep pink or even red may be lost if too much of the diamond is polished away. The cut is equally important as it affects the brilliance and scintillation (fire) of the diamond. Argyle’s polishers create a wide range of cuts including the emerald, heart, oval, pear, princess, radiant and round brilliant.


Source: Argyle Diamonds – Celebrating 21 Years of Passion, People and Pinks – 2005
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15 Nov 2018

Coloured diamonds outshine whites as top mine’s sparkle fades

Pink and violet stones surge in value amid uncertainty over site where 90% are found.

Argyle violet diamond. Image © Rio Tinto 2018

Over a quarter of a century Larry West has scoured the globe looking for some of the world’s rarest coloured diamonds. This week he secured a big prize, the Argyle Violet, which he bought along with 15 other coloured stones for more than $10m.

“At 2.83 carats, this is the largest and most valuable violet diamond ever recovered from the Argyle mine,” says Mr West, founder of New York’s LJ West Diamonds. “You could fill a garbage truck with the rough diamonds produced from the mine every year, an ashtray with pink diamonds but only a half teaspoon of violets,” he says.

Rio Tinto’s Argyle mine, which is based in the remote north-west of Australia, produces about 90 per cent of the top-quality red, pink and violet diamonds dug up worldwide. The stones are extraordinarily rare, accounting for 0.1 per cent of the mine’s annual output with the remainder made up of more affordable champagne and cognac stones used in the fashion jewellery sector in the US, China and India.

Uncertainty over the Argyle mine’s future, as well as growing appreciation for rare pink diamonds among the super-rich, is prompting a surge in the value of these coloured stones even as the price of traditional white diamonds falls on world markets.

A 9.14 carat pink pear-shaped diamond is expected to realise $16m-$18m when it is auctioned at Christies in Geneva next week.

“Pink diamond prices have tripled over the past 15 years and on average would be at least 25 to 30 times the value of white diamonds,” says David Fardon, chief executive of Linneys, one of 35 ateliers mandated to buy coloured diamonds from Argyle.

By comparison, global sales of diamond jewellery fell in 2015 for the first time in six years, declining 2 per cent to $79bn. Sales of rough diamonds fell 30 per cent.

Mr Fardon says the scarcity of coloured pink, red and violet diamonds mined at Argyle has enabled them to buck the downward trend in diamond prices. He says they have become a collectable item, with some of his clients buying the stones to include as part of their retirement savings fund.

Prices are rising 15 per cent a year because of increasing awareness of rare coloured diamonds, growing demand from China and India and the fact production at the Argyle mine is only guaranteed until 2020, says Mr Fardon.

In 2013 Rio said it was extending Argyle’s life until 2020 by building an underground extension to the existing open-cut mine. But it is uncertain whether Rio will sanction any new investment to extend the Argyle mine’s life beyond that date, in part because the valuable pink diamonds make up a small fraction of the mine’s total output.

“The odds are the mine will close a year or two after that, which means these stones will become more and more valuable,” says Mr West, one of the world’s most prodigious buyers’ of Argyle pinks.

The Argyle mine, which produces about 90% of the world’s top-quality red, pink and violet diamonds © Bloomberg

Rio would not comment on its future investment plans for Argyle.

Eden Rachminov, an Israeli diamond specialist and author of The Fancy Colour Diamond Book, says the success of Argyle’s pink diamonds is also down to smart marketing.

“Argyle has done a terrific job in branding its stones, which tend to be more expensive than pink diamonds mined elsewhere in the world such as Russia, Africa and Brazil,” he says.

Celebrities such as Barbra Streisand, Victoria Beckham, Nicole Kidman and Princess Mary, the Australian who married the Danish crown prince, all own Argyle pinks, which are building a loyal following among the rich and famous.

Mr West says he plans to show the Argyle Violet in an exhibition at the Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles to raise awareness of coloured diamonds.

“It’s important to let the public see them and get the word out. That can only add value to the market,” he says.

A heart-shaped pink diamond from the Rio Tinto Argyle mine © Bloomberg


Source: Financial Times
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15 Nov 2018

Christie’s 19ct. Pink Legacy Fetches $50M

Harry Winston bought a pink diamond for more than $50 million at Christie’s Magnificent Jewels sale in Geneva, setting a world auction record.

The rectangular-cut, 18.96-carat, fancy-vivid-pink stone went for $50.4 million at the auction Tuesday, becoming the most expensive pink diamond Christie’s has sold, the auction house said. At $2.7 million per carat, it also achieved a world-record average price for a pink diamond at auction, beating the 14.93-carat Pink Promise, which fetched $32.5 million ($2.1 million per carat) at Christie’s Hong Kong in 2017.

Image: The Winston Pink Legacy. (Christie’s)

The buyer renamed the stone — formerly the Pink Legacy — as the Winston Pink Legacy. It previously belonged to the Oppenheimer family, and had a presale estimate of $30 million to $50 million.

“This exceptional diamond captured the imagination of international collectors across the globe, with over 30,000 people visiting Christie’s sale previews to see this remarkable stone,” said Rahul Kadakia, Christie’s international head of jewelry. “It has taken its rightful place among the world’s greatest diamonds.”

The auction also saw an Art Deco piece by Van Cleef & Arpels fetch $4.3 million, well above its presale estimate of CHF 2 million to CHF 3 million ($2 million to $3 million). A natural-pearl necklace garnered $1.2 million against a valuation of CHF 240,000 to CHF 340,000 million ($238,190 to $337,345 million).

Some 86% of lots sold at the Magnificent Jewels auction, yielding a total of $110.2 million. The event was 90% sold by value of items available.


Rapaport, 14 November 2018
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15 Nov 2018

‘As good as it gets’ — The Pink Legacy diamond

Rahul Kadakia, International Head of Jewellery at Christie’s, explains why this spectacular 18.96-carat Fancy Vivid Pink diamond sold for CHF50,375,000 in Geneva.

‘The saturation, the intensity of this stone is as good as it gets in a coloured diamond,’ states Rahul Kadakia, International Head of Jewellery, of the Pink Legacy, an extraordinary 18.96-carat Fancy Vivid Pink diamond that sold for CHF50,375,000 in the Magnificent Jewels  auction on 13 November at Christie’s in Geneva, and was promptly renamed The Winston Pink Legacy by its new owners, Harry Winston.

‘To find a diamond of this size with this colour is pretty much unreal,’ he continues. ‘You may see this colour in a pink diamond of less than one carat. But this is almost 19 carats and it’s as pink as can be. It’s unbelievable.’

Scientists classify diamonds into two main ‘types’ — Type I and Type II. In the latter, the diamond has a particularly rare, almost homogenous colour. ‘Pink diamonds fall under the rare Type IIa category of diamonds,’ explains the specialist. ‘These are stones that have little if any trace of nitrogen, and make up less than two per cent of all gem diamonds. Type IIa stones are some of the most chemically pure diamonds often with exceptional transparency and brilliance.’

The Pink Legacy, a Fancy Vivid Pink cut-cornered rectangular-cut diamond of 18.96 carats. Sold for CHF 50,375,000 on 13 November in the Magnificent Jewels sale at Christie’s in Geneva

While most pink diamonds exhibit a colour modifier like purple, orange, brown or grey, the Pink Legacy shows no trace of a secondary colour. Its even colour distribution, combined with a balanced saturation, tone and straight pink hue, qualify the 18.96 carat diamond for the coveted ‘Fancy Vivid’ colour grading from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Only one in 100,000 diamonds possess a colour deep enough to qualify as ‘Fancy Vivid’, and the Winston Legacy set a new record price per carat for a pink diamond.

‘Pink diamonds of any size and depth of colour have always had a special allure. This 18.96 carat emerald cut pink diamond is amongst the rarest of all gemstones’

Tom Moses, Executive Vice President GIA.

In the Fancy Vivid Pink range, diamonds of more than five or six carats are rarely encountered. In fact, fewer than 10 per cent of pink diamonds weigh more than one-fifth of a carat. In the saleroom, Fancy Vivid Pink diamonds over 10 carats are virtually unheard of — in over 250 years of auction history at Christie’s, only four such stones have ever appeared for sale.

The Pink Legacy diamond in a ring

Driven by collector demand and an increasingly limited supply, prices for top-quality large pink diamonds has increased exponentially over the years. This booming market reached an historic level in Hong Kong in November 2017 when Christie’s sold ‘The Pink Promise’, an oval-shaped Fancy Vivid Pink diamond of just under 15 carats, for $32,480,500 — a whopping $2,175,519 per carat. The figure remains the world auction record price per carat for any pink diamond.

This incomparable pink diamond has descended from the Oppenheimer Family and its sale was a major moment in auction history.

Source: Christies, 14 November 2018
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13 Nov 2018

Rio Tinto’s Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender delivers record results for pink, red and violet diamonds

The following is a press release from Rio Tinto – 9th November 2018.

Rio Tinto’s 2018 Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender collection of 63 rare pink, red and violet diamonds from its Argyle mine in Australia has delivered another record result reflecting strong global demand for fancy coloured diamonds. These results are also a reflection of Argyle approaching the end of its mine life, with the supply of these extremely rare diamonds becoming even scarcer.

The 2018 collection of the finest pink, red and violet diamonds from the iconic Western Australian mine continued its trajectory of double digit price growth. Sold to an undisclosed buyer, Lot Number 1, the Argyle Muse™, a 2.28 carat Fancy Purplish Red diamond is the most valuable diamond in the Tender’s 34 year history.

Amongst the record breaking diamonds sold in the 2018 collection was Lot 2, the Argyle Alpha™, the largest and most valuable Vivid Pink diamond in the history of the Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender. The Argyle Alpha™ was won by Singapore based Argyle Pink Diamonds partner Glajz THG.

Managing director John Glajz said “I am honoured to be custodian of this record breaking gem, a diamond that embodies the rarity, beauty and provenance of Argyle pink diamonds.”

The Argyle Muse™ is the largest and only Fancy Purplish Red diamond over two carats ever offered at Tender. Image © Rio Tinto 2018.

Over the past 18 years the value of Argyle pink diamonds sold at Tender have appreciated over 400 per cent, outperforming all major equity markets.

Rio Tinto Copper & Diamonds chief executive Arnaud Soirat said “The 2018 Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender was highly sought after with record results that underscore the value of these gems in the history of rare coloured diamonds.”

Matthew Aldridge, chief executive of Gemcut Geneva, a successful bidder on a number of diamonds in the 2018 Tender including Lot 5, the Argyle Odyssey™, a 2.08 carat Fancy Intense Pink diamond said “I have been bidding at the Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender since 1987 and continue to be amazed by the magnificent potency of colour of these unique diamonds from this extraordinary mine. As an avid collector of the world’s finest fancy coloured diamonds I was especially delighted to win the Argyle Odyssey™, a match for another diamond that was sold in the Tender over fifteen years ago.”

Almost the entire world supply of rare pink, red and violet diamonds come from Rio Tinto’s Argyle diamond mine in the remote east Kimberley region of Western Australia. Current estimates indicate sufficient economic reserves at the mine to support production through to the end of 2020.

Source: Rio Tinto, November 9 2018
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22 Oct 2018
02 Oct 2018

5ct. Pink Sets World Record at Bonhams

Bonhams has sold a pink diamond for US$583,551 per carat, a world-record price for its colour category, the company reported.

The 5.03-carat, fancy-pink VS1 garnered US$2.9 million at the auction house’s Fine Jewellery sale in London last week. The previous record for a fancy-pink diamond was US$528,021 per carat for a stone sold at Sotheby’s in 2016.

“Large pink diamonds are continuing to increase in value year on year,” said Emily Barber, director of jewellery at Bonhams UK. “They are highly desirable to discerning collectors given their rarity and limited supply.”

The stone’s value lies in its even colour saturation, cut and size, Barber added. It is exceptionally rare to see pink diamonds over five carats on the market, she explained.

Other notable items at the auction included a three-stone ring featuring an old-brilliant-cut, 0.95-carat, fancy-blue diamond surrounded by two marquise-cut, fancy-yellow-orange diamonds weighing 0.51 and 0.56 carats. The piece sold for GBP 168,750 ($218,750), well over its original estimate of GBP 80,000 to GBP 120,000 ($103,704 to $155,556).

Two tiaras also exceeded expectations. A Belle Époque diamond headpiece designed by Spanish royal jeweller Ansorena in the classical Greek meander style achieved GBP 162,500 ($210,650) against a presale estimate of GBP 80,000 to GBP 120,000, while a Hennell Art Deco tiara went for GBP 81,250 ($105,320), beating its valuation of GBP 40,000 to GBP 60,000 ($51,850 to $77,780).

In all, Bonhams sold 89% of the lots available at the auction, bringing in total proceeds of GBP 6.9 million ($9 million).

The next Bonhams Fine Jewellery sale will take place in Hong Kong on November 25.

Source: Rapaport, October 2 2018
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27 Sep 2018

Diamond price forecasts add a rosy tint to mine closures

With few comparable replacements in the pipeline, supply could peak in next 10 years

The Argyle Alpha™ 3.14 carat, emerald, Fancy Vivid Purplish Pink © Rio Tinto

Miner Rio Tinto unveiled the largest pink diamond from its Argyle mine in Western Australia this summer. The 3.14 carat “Argyle Alpha”, found in 2015, is part of a package of 63 brightly coloured red and violet diamonds shown to potential buyers in Hong Kong this month.

The stones are becoming ever more scarce as the mine, which upended the heavily controlled diamond market when it opened in 1983, is set to come to the end of its life in 2020.

The closure marks a turning point for the diamond market as there are few comparable replacements in the pipeline. Analysts expect the supply of diamonds to peak within the next 10 years, as demand continues to grow.

“Rio Tinto’s Argyle mine is the world’s only source of these highly coveted pink, red and violet diamonds and we expect considerable interest in this year’s collection,” Jean-Sébastien Jacques, Rio Tinto’s chief executive, said in a statement.


“You’re seeing the real significant depletion of the very economic mines” – Paul Zimnisky, Diamond Analytics

Australia’s Argyle mine, owned by Rio Tinto, produces 90 per cent of the world’s pink diamonds © Rio Tinto

He added that the constrained supply will “support significant value appreciation for Argyle pink diamonds”. The tender will travel to New York next month, with bids closing on October 10.

Prices for high-quality pink stones have outperformed those of other diamonds over the past decade because of their rarity, according to Paul Zimnisky of Diamond Analytics in New York. He estimates pink stones account for less than 0.01 per cent of the world’s diamonds by volume — the Argyle mine produces close to 90 per cent of these.

The wider diamond market is expected to feel a squeeze, too, however. RBC Capital Markets forecast last year that total supply would increase 4 per cent  to 145m carats this year “before retreating as older mines begin to reach the end of their lives”.


Source: Financial Times, September 26 2018
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25 Sep 2018

Giant pink diamond from Christie’s a cut above the rest

A pink diamond weighing in at almost 19 carats is set to go on tour before being auctioned in Geneva and could fetch a record price of between $30 million and $50 million, Christie’s auction house announced on Tuesday.

The rectangular cut Pink Legacy is rated “vivid”, the highest rating for a diamond’s colour, and weighs 18.96 carats, making it the largest fancy vivid pink diamond Christie’s has ever offered for auction.

It was once part of the Oppenheimer collection, Christie’s said, referring to the family who built De Beers into the world’s biggest diamond trader.

“Its exceptional provenance will no doubt propel it into a class of its own as one of the world’s greatest diamonds,” said Rahul Kadakia, international head of jewellery at Christie’s.

Only four vivid pink diamonds of over 10 carats have ever been offered for sale at auction, with a record price per carat set last November when Christie’s Hong Kong sold “The Pink Promise”, an oval-shaped diamond of just under 15 carats, for $32,480,500.

The Pink Legacy will be shown in Hong Kong, London and New York before being auctioned by Christie’s Geneva on Nov. 13.




Source: Reuters
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