Ruth will not be getting a pink diamond for Valentine’s Day. However, she got to tour their source in The Kimberley because we just happened to be in Kununurra at the time of the year when a few tours happen.
The past. The Ord River Dam was completed in 1972 and Lake Argyle began to fill behind it. In 1979 a woman named Maureen Muggeridge discovered diamond samples in the floodplain of a small creek flowing into Lake Argyle. She traced the source of the diamonds to the headwaters of Smoke Creek. The Argyle pipe was discovered. The mine that resulted, the most productive and probably remotest in the world, cost $465 million to build.
The present. Reportedly, only 5% of diamonds mined at Argyle are of gem quality. Diamonds come in all colors–blue, green, rosé. Argyle is the world’s largest producer of colored diamonds. Pink diamonds are exceedingly rare and far more valuable than the common clear white. You can figure, roughly, $1 million per carat for top quality pinks. A year’s Argyle production over 1/2 carat would fit into the palm of an average-sized hand. The entire year’s pink production might fill a champagne class. The Argyle Diamond Mine in East Kimberley that resulted from Maureen’s discovery supplies about 90% of the world’s pinks. About 80% of its current output is champagne colored diamonds. Pinks account for less than 1/10th of Argyle’s total production.
The future. In 2020 the mostly played-out Argyle Diamond Mine will return to Aboriginal control. What they will do with it is yet to be determined. More on this later.
Experts don’t know why diamonds turn pink instead of brown, but I know that Ruth & I can’t afford to buy them. Two stores in Kununurra sell Argyle diamonds. While I was asking to see a blue one, Ruth was pricing pinks. Australian blues, the result of nickel or hydrogen level, were no longer available at the store we were in. “We no longer carry them because people like you ask to see them but never buy,” the salesperson told me frankly but with a smile. I went to see what Ruth was finding out. She was lustfully looking at a pair of really tiny, perfectly matched pink diamonds that was available for the price of a loaded, new Honda CRV. We walked out of the store without a diamond souvenir.