The enduring appeal of pink gemstones: from rosy-hued diamonds to sapphires

Fuelled by celebrities, the popularity and scarcity of these coloured diamonds are driving up demand, and price tags

The Preecieuse a Secret Rose Dior watch features pink sapphires, tsavorites and diamonds. Courtesy Dior
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Some may dismiss pink as a frivolous shade associated with the most feminine of girls, but in the jewellery world, pink is regarded as anything but fluffy and saccharine.

Pink diamonds are a perfect example of how scarcity is driving up demand and, subsequently, price tags. It is hard to believe that in the early days, coloured diamonds were dismissed as of less value – today their rarity is reflected in the astonishing prices they fetch at auction.

Auction success stories

A model poses with the Spirit of the Rose, which sold at auction for $26.6 million. Reuters

Last November, a flawless 14.83-carat vivid purple-pink diamond, named the Spirit of the Rose, was sold at Sotheby’s Geneva for an incredible $26.6 million. A diamond like this really is rare: only one per cent of pink diamonds are larger than 10 carats. The gemstone was unearthed at the Russian Alrosa diamond mine, which is one of the largest in the world.

Graff and Harry Winston have also secured exceptional pink diamonds. Harry Winston paid $50.3 million for an 18.96-carat deep pink diamond at Christie’s two years ago, which it named the Winston Pink Legacy. It was incorporated into a ring that was unveiled earlier this year to mark the 125th birthday of the “king of diamonds”.

Laurence Graff, meanwhile, purchased from the Letseng mine in Lesotho a 13.33-carat purplish-pink rough for $8.75 million, which has so far yielded a gorgeous 5.63-carat pear-shaped ring.

“This is the most vivid pink rough diamond I have ever seen,” says Graff, “and is an exceptionally rare treasure.”

This month, one of the world’s largest pink diamonds was discovered in Botswana. At 62.7 carats, it is the largest fancy pink diamond to be recovered in the country and one of the world's biggest. It was named Boitumelo, meaning "joy" in Setswana.

Pink diamonds require deep pockets, but their popularity has also been fuelled by celebrities such as Beyonce and Taylor Swift, who have worn them on the red carpet. Publicity has also grown around these scintillating gemstones because one of the world’s most reliable sources of pink diamonds closed at the end of last year.

The Argyle diamond mine operated by the Rio Tinto Group stands in the East Kimberly region of Western Australia, Australia, on Thursday, July 11, 2019. The world’s biggest diamond mine ⁠— famed more for the fistful of coveted pink and red gems it yields each year than being a major producer of lower-quality stones ⁠— is being shuttered by Rio Tinto after almost four decades. Photographer: Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg

For the past 37 years, the Argyle diamond mine in Australia has been producing 90 per cent of the world’s supply. The gems are small, from one carat to 2.5 carats in size, but of unique brilliance, in saturated hues of purplish-tinged pink, violet and, rarest of all, red.

They are sold in a sealed bid auction to a select group of diamantaires and jewellers around the world, who fashion the gemstones into jewellery that bears the prestigious Argyle Pink Diamond seal.

Heirloom appeal

Pink diamonds have investor and heirloom appeal. The number of high-quality cut and polished pink diamonds to be tendered for auction since 1984 would barely fill two champagne flutes.

As Patrick Coppens, general manager of sales and marketing for Argyle mine-owner Rio Tinto’s diamond business, points out: “People who buy one of Argyle’s top-quality pink diamonds join one of the world’s most exclusive clubs.”

Needless to say, bidding can be very intense.

A model poses with a 59.60-carat oval mixed-cut pink diamond, known as "The Pink Star", during a photocall at Sotheby's auction house in London on March 20, 2017, to promote its forthcoming auction. - The diamond, with an estimated value of 48.5 million GBP (60 million euros; 60 million USD), is said to be the largest Internally Flawless Fancy Vivid Pink diamond that the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has ever graded, and is set to be auctioned in Hong Kong on April 4, 2017. (Photo by Justin TALLIS / AFP)

Pink diamonds also sell very quickly. David Morris is another jeweller heavily invested in these gemstones, having used them in its creations since the 1960s, to the extent that they have become a distinctive signature of the brand’s designs.

“For me they are absolutely timeless, whilst possessing a playfulness that as a jewellery designer is a joy to work with, and offers a unique beauty that captivates our clients,” says Jeremy Morris, chief executive and creative director of the London-based family business.

Our clients in the Middle East have always had an eye for the rare and unusual, and in many respects the region has been a trend-leader in pink diamonds
Jeremy Morris, chief executive, David Morris

“Our clients in the Middle East have always had an eye for the rare and unusual, and in many respects the region has been a trend-leader in pink diamonds,” he notes. “These gemstones are, of course, pretty and extremely collectible, but I believe their popularity amongst the jewellery connoisseurs of the Middle East owes more to the gemstone’s elegance and individuality.”

Sapphires, padparadscha and tourmalines

Diamonds are not the only gemstone to be found in sweet tones of pink; there are fortunately others that don’t command such stratospheric prices.

Consider the pink sapphire and padparadscha (a gorgeous salmon-pink sapphire) from Sri Lanka; tourmalines, a name derived from toramali, Sinhala for "stone with mixed colours"; rubellite, which is a deep pink tourmaline; spinels; kunzite and morganite, which has a very pale delicate hue. Then, of course, there are the fabulously rare and expensive conch pearls and the very accessible pink opal. In fact, there is a pink gemstone to suit every taste, skin tone – and budget.

Earrings in rose gold and titanium, with diamonds, pink sapphires and purple garnets. Courtesy Fawaz Gruosi

Fawaz Gruosi, the name behind de Grisogono until he left the brand in 2019, is particularly fond of pink sapphires and rubellites.

“Pink sapphires for being soft, feminine, pastel and calming,” he says. “And rubellite for being very strong, deep, more provocative and contrasting."

Gruosi, whose early career was spent in Saudi Arabia before establishing de Grisogono, which he sold in 2012, is launching a new jewellery business in London where he now lives. He was famed for his black diamonds, but he actually uses a spectrum of gemstones to create bold, colour-saturated jewels that all but conceal the settings.

He has an eye for colour, playing with tones of pink, including a mix of rubellite and pink opal for a ring, or cascading earrings that use richly coloured pink sapphires and garnets.

“For more defined juxtapositions, I like to put pink sapphires with blue sapphires and even add emeralds,” he says, producing uplifting combinations that appear in his high jewellery collections.

Padparadscha is the rarest of the sapphires, and the pretty name means "lotus blossom" in Sinhala.

“This highly unusual stone can be found in a spectrum of exquisite pink hues, from soft orange-pinks to warm rose-gold and the prettiest pastels,” says Jeremy Morris of David Morris. “Similar to pink diamonds, the incredible colour of padparadscha really pops when paired with white diamonds and pearls, which is how I often use them in our high jewellery.”

His rings make wondrous use of the lovely blossom-pink gemstones.

Divine colour combinations

Rose Dior necklace with diamonds, pink sapphires and tsavorite. Courtesy Dior

Some designers make the most use of pink gemstones as part of a vibrant colour palette. Lucia Silvestri at Bulgari and Victoire de Castellane at Dior share an artist’s eye for divine colour combinations, either balancing tones or creating eye-catching contrasts.

The new Rose Dior high jewellery collection makes flattering use of spinels and pink sapphires, which have become particularly popular in recent years. They’ve been pavé-set across necklaces, earrings and a secret watch shaped as Christian Dior’s favourite flower.

Meanwhile, pink tourmalines and rubellites glow prettily in Bulgari’s opulent Barocko high jewellery collection.

“I love pink as it offers many different shades, giving me the possibility to experiment with a lot of colour combinations, so it is definitely a key colour in the Bulgari palette,” says Bulgari's creative director Silvestri, who is, uniquely for a designer, also the gem buyer.

Bulgari's Barocko Arabesque necklace. Courtesy Bulgari

“In nature, there are many pink stones and each pink featured is different from the others. So I am particularly attracted by this colour as it gives me the possibility to play with all the other colours depending on its shade.”

There are rainbow combinations in the Barocko collection, with pink tourmalines and rubellites at its heart. In her studio, Silvestri spreads out the different gemstones on her table and toys with groupings. “For pink, there are many I love. For example the tone on tone, pink and violet, or pink and a green emerald,” she says.

While pink may divide opinions, there is no doubting its power in her hands.

“When I want to add a touch of femininity to a jewel, a touch of pink is always a good idea," she says.

Updated: July 28, 2021, 4:11 AM