In the general ebb and flow of managing a large inventory of Argyle diamonds, inevitably, an Argyle certificate will no longer exist. Some certificates may get lost, some are accidentally destroyed and some are not accidentally destroyed (more on that fun fact later). In my experience, the frequent cause of this phenomena was the loaning out of a diamond to a shop and sending along the original Argyle certificate to show to the client. Weeks or even months later when the diamond was finally returned, the certificate was no longer enclosed with the diamond and the shop weren’t able to find it. There is nothing maleficent about this, it’s just plain old fashioned, human error.
The steps taken to have a duplicate certificate issued began with sending the diamond back to Argyle with a written request. A few weeks later the diamond would be returned with a new certificate, though, with the not so handsome word ‘DUPLICATE’ indiscreetly printed over the top. Clients unfamiliar with the practise would look at the certificate and think that there was something wrong. It would trigger suspicions of fraud or that it had the air of a used car. This, of course, is completely understandable: what that word, duplicate really says is that somewhere in the life of a particular diamond an error has occurred. Its chance for a flawless first impression is now forever besmirched. As a retailer, I get it. Any small hiccup is enough to spook a large transaction.
By contrast, when the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) replaces a lost certificate, they don’t brand it as a duplicate. They simply reassess the diamond, measure it against the details of the old certificate, update the date of issue and print a new one, voila: all sins are absolved. The past doesn’t haunt this diamond.
“Used car” vibes? A sample image of the Argyle duplicate certificate. (Image Credit: Leibish)
When did Argyle stop issuing duplicates?
Around 2016, though, Argyle stopped issuing duplicate certificates. The reason wasn’t explicitly made clear to me other than it had something to do with “fraud prevention.” What it did, though, was make the Argyle certificate all the more precious and accelerated our in-house scanning and digitisation of Argyle certificates. No longer were original certificates given freely with diamonds on consignment, you now got a colour printed copy. Enjoy.
Early in the life of Argyle diamond distribution, these diamonds were sold and shipped off to diamond dealers all over the world. The international dealers would actually tear up the Argyle certificates and throw them in the bin. They would then have the GIA grade the diamond and sell it instead with an internationally recognised GIA certificate. Why? Because at the time, the Argyle brand and story was not as strong as it is today. Back then, the Argyle certificate had no cache. It had its own conventions that differed from the GIA fancy coloured diamond system. Even though we diamond folk salivate over rarities and all things unique, when it comes to descriptions and grading, it has to be boringly consistent and universally understood. Your description of “natural fancy deep brownish pink” would have to be exactly what I pictured in my head as we chatted on the phone a million miles apart. Incredibly necessary stuff in the pre-internet, pre-photos-on-your-phone era.
What can I do when my Argyle certificate is lost?
It’s inevitable that over time, regardless of best intentions, more than a few Argyle certificates will be lost or destroyed. With the closure of the Argyle mine in 2020 and Rio Tinto winding down the Argyle Pink Diamond operations there is now absolutely no recourse to obtaining a new Argyle certificate. Sorry!
For these reasons, I feel the importance of these Argyle certificates will evolve in status to a point: something akin to buying in ‘mint condition’, such as a limited edition coin from The Perth Mint with certificate intact, but not much further than that.
The legacy of the Argyle certificate will continue in perpetuity though, with Argyle lot number indelibly inscribed on Argyle diamonds. This legacy also lives on through the GIA, with the inscribed lot numbers formally stated on GIA-issued certificates.
The true miracle of the Argyle pink diamond is that it actually carries its own internal, naturally formed “Argyle certificate.”
It is the only coloured diamond in the world where the colour is created by a physical crystal lattice distortion. All other natural coloured diamonds are created when trace elements are introduced into the carbon structure. Because of this, regardless of the diamonds’ paper trails and candy-coloured certificates, its Australian Argyle origin will always remain beyond doubt.