Tag: rob bates

Pink Diamonds and the “I” Question


NCDIA Pink Event: Gary Roskin (ICA), Wuyi Wang (GIA, Inc), Thomas Gelb (NCDIA) , Josephine Johnson (Argyle Pink Diamonds), Alan Bronstein (Aurora Gems) Image Courtesy of Chad Johnson (Cromart Lab)

By Rob Bates of JCK Magazine

Last week, the Argyle pink tender rolled into town. Which once again brings up the “I” word—investment.

On paper, pink diamonds certainly seem like—and are sometimes touted as—a great investment. For one, they are extremely rare. Speaking at a Natural Colored Diamond Association panel last week, the group’s educational director Thomas Gelb said that just 0.15 percent of the diamonds submitted to the GIA lab are pink. The Argyle mine, which accounts for 90 percent of new pink diamond production and is the only consistent source, will close up shop in five years. According to Argyle Pink Diamonds manager Josephine Johnson, the prices of tender stones have appreciated by double digits over the past 10 years, behaving more like fine art than regular diamonds. After the 2008 financial crisis, when the price of just about everything (including white diamonds) plummeted, the Argyle tender enjoyed some of its best prices ever, presumably because buyers were seeking hard assets.

Yet, like those supply-demand charts we see for non-fancy diamonds, this logical investment thesis doesn’t always comport with reality. Even Johnson says: “We would not say, ‘Invest in these.’ ”

Veteran colored diamond dealer Alan Bronstein says that only a small number of fancy colored diamonds have the potential to appreciate, and even that limited subset can take years, sometimes decades, to show movement.
Further, even if they are an appreciating asset, they aren’t a particularly liquid one. Few people have the resources, and fewer still the inclination, to spend large amounts on such little rocks.

“It is more like collecting fine art,” says Johnson. “It is really a connoisseur’s market.”

“There isn’t broad appeal,” adds Bronstein. “Who do you sell to if you need the money? How many people can afford a $50 million diamond? If a billionaire buys that stone, it means they are spending 5 percent of their net worth on it.”

Take the 59.6 ct. Pink Star. In November 2013, it sold for a record-setting $83 million. But that sale was canceled, and Sotheby’s took the diamond into its inventory, saying it has “great confidence in its rarity and quality.” It doesn’t appear to have sold it.

There are fancy colored diamond collectors, sometimes with impressive holdings, but they are even rarer than the stones themselves. “In 35 years of doing this, I have met maybe four or five collectors,” says Bronstein.

And of course, the diamonds are hard to value. There is no Rap list for pinks. They are too rare.

“Even with our most seasoned tender bidders, who have been coming for years and years, we still see quite a spread of bids,” says Johnson. “We are surprised every year.”

While Argyle offers (secret) reference prices for the stones, even it finds valuing them tricky.

“We do our best to find similar reference stones in history,” Johnson says. “But you are only looking at a couple of stones. Often there is not a lot of relationship between their pricing.”

None of this means people shouldn’t buy fancy colored diamonds; they are the some of the most beautiful gems out there. But Bronstein says that buyers must conduct due diligence—or better yet, buy them because they offer a different kind of dividend.

“I would never buy something that I didn’t find extraordinarily beautiful,” he says. “It has to be a personal experience. People need to find the diamond that connects with them, that they can wear and enjoy and find really special.”

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Celebrated Gem Photographer Tino Hammid Dies

By Rob Bates


The Hope Diamond – Image Courtesy of Tino Hammid

Tino Hammid—the California photographer whose exquisitely rendered gem portraits graced catalogs for Christie’s, GIA education materials, and numerous trade publications—died of cancer on July 11. He was 63.

The son of a noted filmmaker, Hammid started in gem photography at the Gemological Institute of America, where he worked as a staff photographer from 1980 to 1982. The next year, he began a 25-year association with writer David Federman, supplying photos for Modern Jeweler’s monthly Gem Profile column. Together, they won two Jesse H. Neal awards from American Business Media.

“I always felt Tino was the Richard Avedon of gem photography,” says Federman. “He didn’t take pictures, he took portraits. Colored stones ‘sat’ for him the way celebrities sat for Avedon. Someday they’ll honor Tino as a pioneer of gem and jewelry portraiture with an exhibition of his work.”

His work later appeared in catalogs for Christie’s and in The Handbook of Gemmology.

Robert Weldon, manager of photography and visual communication for GIA, says he “always admired” Hammid’s work. Rough&Cut group3Of Hammid’s photographs, Weldon says, “They are beautiful because of the attention he paid to detail—the attention he paid to the lighting, the positioning of the stone. His photos are all about the gem. His photography of gemstones have become the definition of excellence in what a gem photograph should be.”

On a personal level, Weldon remembers him as “a straightforward human being, as uncluttered as his photographs were. He was a real mensch.”

Gem dealer Alan Bronstein, who worked with Hammid on two books and photographs of the Aurora collection, called him “one of the greatest living gem photographers of our time.”

“Tino always strived for the purest, cleanest, and most honest photographs of the true color of cut and uncut gemstones,” he says. “His integrity was unparalleled in his life and his work.”

Industry members expressed their admiration for Hammid’s work on his Facebook page. Many have also contributed to his medical treatment on Go Fund Me.

He is survived by wife Petra, son Tobias, and two daughters, Evelyn and Antonia.

Further examples of his work can be seen on his website and on Pinterest.

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Seminar Series: JCK Las Vegas – How to maximize your business with Natural Color Diamonds!

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Natural Color Diamonds is the highest growth segment of the jewelry industry; and retailers carrying them realize unprecedented profits. The wide range of colors and amazing jewelry pieces span all price points – from hundreds to millions of dollars. In this session NCDIA guides you on the latest trends from their expert panel so you can grow your business with Natural Color Diamonds.

Friday May 29th – 8:30am

JCK Las Vegas – Room: Tradewinds E/F*Speakers:

Moderated by Rob Bates of JCK

  • Education – Thomas Gelb – NCDIA
  • Marketing – Jordan Fine – J.Fine, Inc.
  • Mining – Jim Pounds – Dominion
  • Selling – Sean Moore – Borsheim’s
  • Designing – Pratima Sethi – Sethi Couture

“NCDIA is providing the first real form of education on Natural Color Diamonds straight from the experts who deal with these stones on a daily basis. Having access to this level of knowledge and experience with Natural Color Diamonds is a game changer for everyone in our industry! When a retailer can speak confidently and honestly about color diamonds to their clients, their sales opportunities will increase significantly! What a great time to be involved with NCDIA!” – Gundersons

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