A Colorful Life: Leibish Shares the Many Hues of His 40-Year Diamond Career

Leibish Polnauer

Behind his small and grandfatherly stature is a man who’s not afraid to say anything, and usually does. Leibish Polnauer has been in the diamond industry for over 40 years and runs an extremely successful business. But if not for a crazy fluke and a bit of luck, that business wouldn’t exist.

Polnauer — affectionately known in the trade as simply “Leibish” — welcomed Rapaport’s editorial team to his office in Israel’s diamond bourse to talk about how he got his start, the market for colored diamonds, what he thinks of lab-grown, and how the industry has changed over the years. We also got a sneak peek at some of the jewelry pieces his company is currently working on.

Leibish showing the Rapaport team fancy-colored yellow diamonds.

The train ride epiphany
Around 1980, after several years as a diamond polisher and the loss of his job at a factory that went out of business, Polnauer went to London to try to sell a parcel of diamonds. He didn’t manage to offload a single stone, but on the train, on the way back from his business meetings, he saw an advertisement in The Guardian for crown jeweler Garrard, featuring a pear-shaped, brown diamond. Using his abundance of “Israeli chutzpah,” he called the number and told them he had diamonds to sell. The managing director invited him to his office on Regent Street, where he told Polnauer he was making a tiara for a wedding and needed 106 pear-shaped diamonds in four weeks.

Despite his cheeky admission to our team that at the time he had never even heard of pear-shaped diamonds, Polnauer took on the challenge, flew to New York, and secured the stones needed for the piece. He brought them back to London, and Garrard, thrilled with the selection, cut him his first check for GBP 106,000, equivalent to about GBP 1 million ($1.3 million) today.

A Leibish custom made ring bearing a 5.43-carat Mogok vivid-pink sapphire and green tsavorite.

He used that experience to convince Graff to do business with him. At the time, the jewelry house worked with a sultan whose wife gifted every visitor to their palace with a diamond watch, and Graff was desperate for the pink and yellow diamonds needed to create 50 to 70 watches per year. And thus began Polnauer’s career in the colored-diamond business.

A Leibish custom made flower ring set with a heart-shaped, 0.29-carat, fancy-purplish-red Argyle diamond surrounded by pear-cut, D-color white diamonds

Changing with the times
Throughout the years, Polnauer has watched his business grow from diamond sourcing and manufacturing to include in-house designers that create custom pieces for clients whom they usually never meet face-to-face, but who nevertheless aren’t afraid to drop massive sums of money for a beautiful, original Leibish creation.

One of the most important lessons Polnauer has learned during his time in the colored-diamond industry is that people shop first by color, then by price tag. He has broadened his business to include colored gemstones, because if someone wants a blue diamond but can’t afford it, a sapphire or tanzanite can often present a compelling and cheaper alternative.

Three custom-made rings by Leibish featuring an oval, 8.51-carat, royal blue sapphire; an oval, 5.49-carat emerald; and a cushion-shaped, 3.74-carat, fancy-green-yellow diamond surrounded by white diamonds.

Most of the firm’s clients are wealthy 30- to 60-year-olds who have a penchant for color, because, as Polnauer notes, “color is excitement.” They purchase multiple pieces to match their clothing. One client in Texas bought 13 rings in a two-year period because she loved color. Meanwhile, another client ordered a ring for his wife, who then decided she needed earrings to match. When those were ready, she wanted a necklace to complete the set. Polnauer was more than happy to comply, and in a four-day time span, he saw his bank account padded with an additional $500,000.

A radiant-cut, 1.03-carat, fancy-vivid-purplish-pink Argyle diamond.

But working in the colored-diamond industry isn’t always easy. Recently, the company was tasked with sourcing dozens of matching yellow diamonds to be used for a watch created by Jacob & Co. That search took the company on a two-year, international hunt before they finally filled the commission.

Other changes over his more than four-decade career have also been difficult. He has sadly watched as the Israeli diamond-manufacturing sector has diminished in importance with India’s growth, and learned the meaning of providing added value to customers.

A radiant-cut, 0.71-carat, fancy-red Argyle diamond.

“People used to just want to buy a stone, but now they want to buy a product,” he says. “You have to have an internet business; you have to manufacture jewelry. You also have to really be on point with your presentation. When business was face-to-face, if you screwed someone, he would just walk away upset. Now, with the internet, he doesn’t walk away. If he doesn’t like what he gets, he sends it back, and he writes a bad report about you on Google, and you have to pay for the return shipment, so presentation is crucial.”

No lab-grown zone
While many in the industry have welcomed the advent of lab-grown as a way to make money from clients who can’t always afford natural stones, Polnauer pulls no punches about his dislike of what he calls “fakes.”

He believes lab-grown to be detrimental to the natural-diamond industry, because the fall of synthetic prices “pulls down the price of real diamonds.”

He’s also not shy about making it known how damaging he thinks De Beers was with its marketing of lab-grown.

“De Beers made a tremendous self-destructive move by introducing a product which is undermining the basic product they sell,” he explains. “They cannibalized their own sales and did a tremendous disservice to the industry.”

However, Polnauer believes when it comes to lab-grown, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

“Lab-grown is stealing the story from natural diamonds,” he says. “But there is a saying: ‘When the music stops, the dancing stops,’ so hopefully everything will work out for the best.”

Staying optimistic
His brazenness has seen Polnauer ride out many market ups and downs, the latest challenge being the Israel-Hamas war that started when the latter attacked the country on October 7. When asked if it’s affected his business, he says it has. While he notes that those who want to buy his products still will, and those who don’t never would have anyway, he believes the negative sentiment is “poison” for an industry based on “illusion and sentiment.”

Despite it all, he remains hopeful. When it comes to the future of the trade, he thinks “fancy-colored diamonds will flourish, gemstones will flourish and the jewelry market will flourish, because I’m an optimist, and if you put that positivity out there, everything will work out.”

Source: rapaport

The $7m Pair of Pink Diamond Earrings

A pair of pear-shaped fancy pink pendant diamond earrings, weighing 11.17 carats and 10.85 carats, are to be sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong.

The estimate is $5.48m to $7.01m. Both diamonds are GIA-certified as Fancy Pink, Natural Color, VVS1 Clarity.

The pink diamonds are set in platinum and yellow gold suspended from a pear, marquise-shaped and brilliant-cut diamond surmount weighing a total of approximately 6.5-7.5cts, mostly F-H color, average VS-SI clarity.

The lead tomorrow’s Magnificent Jewels I. The sale also includes a Harry Winston diamond fringe necklace with nine pear-shaped diamonds weighing 14.93 to 2.04 carats (estimate $4.46m to $6.37m) and a 5.49-carat fancy intense blue diamond ring (estimate $4.84m to $6.37m).

Source: IDEX

Investor uncertainty in challenging market

It’s hard to believe that COVID first hit just over three years ago.

After the original shock that the pandemic caused, especially when lockdowns were put in place in large parts of the world in early 2020, markets, rather than continuing to crash, instead surged higher.

Stimulus programs from both central banks and central governments, which were enormous in scope, were the primary cause of this surge, with the vast quantity of dollars fed into the system leading to one of the biggest rallies in the share market, cryptocurrencies, and even real estate on record.

Since late 2021 it’s been tough going though, with the last twelve or so months particularly challenging for most investors.

A chart titled "Trend: Allocation of new client inflows" with in formation in response to the following question: "In the last year, roughly what proportion of the new client inflows you advised on went into each category? Averages among financial advisers".

Read the full article : DiamondPortfolio

Pink diamond sells for $49.9m

The 11.15-carat Williamson Pink Star diamond 
The 11.15-carat Williamson Pink Star diamond 

An 11.15 carat pink diamond has been sold for $49.9m in Hong Kong, setting a world record for the highest price per carat for a diamond sold at auction.

Auctioned on Friday by Sotheby’s Hong Kong, the Williamson Pink Star diamond was originally estimated at $21m.

The gem draws its name from two legendary pink diamonds.

The first is the 23.60 carat Williamson diamond which was presented to the late British Queen Elizabeth II as a wedding gift in 1947.

The second is the 59.60 carat Pink Star diamond that sold for a record $71.2m at auction in 2017.

The Williamson Pink Star is the second largest pink diamond to appear at auction.

Pink diamonds are among the rarest and most valuable of the coloured diamonds.

11.15-Carat Internally Flawless Pink Diamond Could Fetch $21 Million

11.5-carat Williamson Pink Star diamond 

The second largest internally flawless fancy vivid pink diamond to ever appear at auction was unveiled Wednesday in London by Sotheby’s. The 11.15-carat Williamson Pink Star will be sold in a single-lot auction in Hong Kong on October 5. Its estimate is $21 million.

The auction house says it has the potential to set a new per carat price record for a fancy vivid pink diamond.

“We do have the confidence that it will find a great collector and have the interest of multiple parties,” Wenhao Yu, chairman of Jewellery and Watches at Sotheby’s Asia, told Forbes on Tuesday. “It has the potential to reach a very strong price.”

He adds, “This diamond truly checks all the boxes. It has the best qualities you can have in a pink diamond.”

The current price per carat auction record for a fancy vivid pink diamond is $2,656,909 for the 18.96-carat Winston Pink Legacy, sold in 2018 by Christie’s Geneva. The largest internally flawless, fancy vivid pink diamond offered at auction is the 59.60-carat CTF Pink Star. It was sold by Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2017 for $71.2 million, a world record for any gem or jewel sold at auction.

Yu compares the Williamson Pink Star to an exceptional work of art.

“We timed this lot to be offered between Sotheby’s modern and contemporary art auctions. That’s because instead of offering just another important diamond, we view this diamond as a work of art from mother earth and a wonder of nature,” Yu says. “It’s comparable to a Monet or a Picasso and is even more rare.”

Williamson Pink Star is the 2nd largest IF fancy vivid pink diamond to appear at auction
The Williamson Pink Star is the second largest internally flawless fancy vivid pink diamond

The Williamson mine is one of the oldest operating diamond mines in the world, famous for producing what is described as “bubblegum” pink diamonds, according to the auction house. One of the best-known diamonds from the mine is the 23.6-carat Williamson Pink Diamond fashioned into a brooch by Cartier and owned by Queen Elizabeth II.

“We wanted to relate the important provenance of the Williamson mine when naming the diamond,” Yu says. “The unique saturated pink color is one of the important qualities of diamonds from this mine. It is an honor for us that after so many decades another important pink diamond comes from the Williamson mine and we can offer it at auction.”

The cushion-shaped diamond was crafted from a 32.32-carat rough diamond by Diacore, a diamond manufacturer that specializes in crafting rare, exceptional fancy-colored diamonds. The company purchased the gem in late 2021 for $13.8 million. Yu says crafting the diamond is just as important as discovering it, and Diacore is one of the few companies in the world capable of cutting and polishing such an important gem.

The Williamson Pink Star is mounted in an 18k gold ring flanked by diamonds
The Williamson Pink Star is mounted in an 18k gold ring flanked by trapeze

“Not every rough can yield a diamond of this high quality so we should also give credit to Diacore,” he says. “They really made cutting and polishing into an art. They are very skilled and experienced with the best technology and a lot of courage. It’s rare to have a vivid pink color. It’s rarer when it’s over 10 carats and even more rare if it’s internally flawless. It’s luck to find this kind of diamond that was formed underground for millions of years, and it takes a great amount of art and creativity to fashion it into a gorgeous stone with so many exceptional qualities.”

Pink diamonds are among the rarest colors to occur naturally in diamonds. Of all the diamonds submitted to the Gemological Institute of America (which analyzes and grades diamonds), fewer than 3% are classified as colored diamonds, and fewer than 5% of those are considered predominantly pink.

The Argyle Mine in Australia, before it was retired in 2020 after exhausting its supply of gem-quality diamonds, produced more than 90% of the world’s pink diamonds. The absence of pink diamonds from this mine makes important pink diamonds like the one being offered even more rare, Yu says.

“Pink diamonds are still growing in demand in the market, and this now makes the Williamson Pink Star even more sought after,” he says.

The diamond is being presented in an 18k gold ring flanked by trapeze-cut diamonds and embellished with brilliant-cut diamonds.

London is the first stop where the diamond will be viewed by the public. It will then travel to Dubai, Singapore and Taipei before the final viewing and sale in Hong Kong.

Source: Anthony DeMarco forbes.com

Lucapa Unearths 170ct. Pink from Lulo

The 170-carat pink diamond.

Lucapa Diamond Company has recovered one of the largest pink diamonds in history: a 170-carat stone from the Lulo mine in Angola.

The type IIa rough, named the Lulo Rose, is “believed to be the largest pink diamond recovered in the last 300 years,” Lucapa said Wednesday. It is also the fifth-largest diamond from Lulo, and the deposit’s 27th over 100 carats since commercial production began in 2015. Lucapa plans to sell the diamond through an international tender conducted by Angolan state diamond-marketing company Sodiam, it noted.

“The record-breaking Lulo diamond field has again delivered a precious and large gemstone, this time an extremely rare and beautiful pink diamond,” said José Manuel Ganga Júnior, chairman of the board of state-owned Endiama, one of Lucapa’s partners in the deposit. “It is a significant day for the Angolan diamond industry.”

In addition to the pink, Lulo is also the source of Angola’s largest diamond, a 404-carat rough named the 4th February Stone.

Lucapa has begun bulk sampling at “priority kimberlites” as it searches for the primary source of Lulo’s diamonds, managing director Stephen Wetherall added.

Source: Diamonds.net

Rio Tinto Launches Business for Argyle Pinks

Diamonds from Rio Tinto’s Argyle Pink Diamond Tender. 

Rio Tinto has debuted a new strategy that will enable it to “protect the provenance” of its Argyle pink diamonds, including a certification service and a concierge trading platform.

“This is the start of a new chapter for Argyle pink diamonds, to ensure they maintain their value and investment potential as a finite, unrepeatable natural resource and achieve the status of outstanding heritage diamonds,” Rio Tinto Minerals CEO Sinead Kaufman said last week.

The venture will also play host to a new Beyond Rare tender platform for special sales events, as well as several strategic collections and collaborations involving existing inventory and the secondary market.

One such venture, the Icon Partner program, will give jewelers licensing rights to use the Argyle Pink Diamonds brand for jewelry they create with any remaining inventory they previously purchased from the Argyle mine. The first two retailers Rio Tinto has authorized are John Calleija, the owner of Australian luxury-jewelry house Calleija, and Singapore-based Glajz THG, owned by John Glajz.

“The secondary market for Argyle pink diamonds comprises almost 40 years of rare, polished pink diamonds, together with heirloom pieces of jewelry, collectibles and objects,” the miner noted. “This market requires careful management to preserve the precious provenance of Argyle pink diamonds and continue the legacy of careful custody that underscores its rarity.

Source; Diamonds.net

Petra to sell 32-ct Pink Diamond from Re-opened Mine

Petra is to offer a 32.32-carat pink diamond at its first tender of goods from the Williamson mine, in Tanzania following a Covid-enforced closure.

The stone is among 26,000 carats that will be offered in Antwerp from 19 to 26 November.
The London-based miner classified Williamson as “an asset held for sale for financial reporting purposes” after a a debt-for-equity restructuring.
The open-pit mine was mothballed in April 2020 to “preserve its liquidity, at a time when diamond pricing was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic”. Operations resumed in Q1 FY 2022.

Source: IDEX

Rio Tinto dazzles in Antwerp with its finest Argyle pink, red and blue diamonds

The Hero Diamonds from the 2021 Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender

Rio Tinto’s final Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender collection of rare pink, red, blue and violet diamonds is being showcased to connoisseurs, collectors and luxury jewellers in Antwerp, Belgium.

The Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender, an annual invitation-only event for the past 38 years, is widely considered to be the most anticipated diamond sale in the world, showcasing the pinnacle of Argyle’s production to an exclusive group of collectors, diamond connoisseurs and luxury jewellery houses.

Mining ceased at Argyle on 3 November, 2020 and the 2021 Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender is the final collection of the rarest diamonds from the final year of Argyle operations.

Patrick Coppens, General manager, Sales and Marketing for Rio Tinto’s diamonds business said “The first Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender was held in Antwerp in 1984 and I am delighted to host the final epic collection in Antwerp. Over the past 38 years Argyle pink diamonds have pushed the boundaries of rarity and value appreciation to new extremes.

“When you consider the number of diamonds presented at the annual Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender since 1984 would barely fill two champagne flutes, you begin to grasp the rarity and the tremendous gravitas of this final collection. Many of the invitees have participated in the annual Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender for more than three decades and across generations, so it is an emotional moment in the history of Rio Tinto’s Argyle Pink Diamonds business and the natural fancy coloured diamond industry.”

Comprising 70 diamonds weighing 81.63 carats, the 2021 Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender has a record number of diamonds larger than one carat. The collection is headlined with Lot Number 1, Argyle Eclipse™, a 3.47 carat diamond that is the largest Fancy Intense Pink diamond ever offered at the Tender.

Titled The Journey Beyond, the 2021 Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender takes its reference from the 1.5 billion year journey from creation to discovery and their remarkable impact on the world diamond and jewellery history. The Tender collection comprises five ‘hero’ diamonds selected for their unique beauty and named to ensure there is a permanent record of their contribution to the history of the world’s most important diamonds:

Lot 1: Argyle Eclipse™, 3.47 carat, radiant shaped Fancy Intense Pink diamond

Lot 2 : Argyle Stella™ 1.79 carat, square radiant shaped Fancy Vivid Purplish Pink diamond

Lot 3: Argyle Lumiere™ 2.03 carat, square radiant shaped Fancy Deep Pink diamond

Lot 4: Argyle Solaris™ 2.05 carat, radiant shaped Fancy Intense Pink diamond

Lot 5: Argyle Bohème™ 1.01 carat, radiant shaped Fancy Red diamond

Also offered alongside the 2021 annual Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender are 41 lots of carefully curated Argyle blue diamonds, weighing 24.88 carats in total. Titled Once in a Blue Moon, these are the very last blue and violet diamonds to emerge from the Argyle mine.

Both face to face and virtual viewings are being conducted in Antwerp catering for those markets where COVID-19 restrictions prevent travel. Bids close on October 4, 2021.

Source: riotinto

Lucara’s 62-Carat Fancy Pink ‘Boitumelo’

62.7-carat fancy pink diamond “Boitumelo” in Botswana

Lucara keeps raking in the big diamond finds, this time recovering a 62.7-carat fancy pink diamond from its Karowe mine in Botswana.

It is the largest fancy pink gem to found in Botswana, according to the diamond miner, and one of the largest rough pink diamonds on record in the world.

The stone has been named “Boitumelo,” which means joys in Setswana.

Measuring 26 x 17 x 16 mm, it is described as a high-quality fancy pink Type IIa gem.

Lucara uncovered it from the direct ore milling at the EM/PK(S) unit of the South Lobe, the site of many of its biggest finds.

The company said a 22.21-carat fancy pink gem of similar quality was found during the same production period, as were two more pink gems of similar color weighing 11.17 carats and 5.05 carats.

Asked if those additional small pink diamonds could’ve broken off from the same piece as the 62.7-carat diamond, a company spokesperson said: “As the diamonds all came from a similar production period it may be possible, but we cannot confirm this at this time. Further detailed analysis needs to be carried out to confirm if they did indeed originally stem from one diamond.”

Regarding the find, CEO Eira Thomas said, “Lucara is delighted to announce another historic diamond with the recovery of the Boitumelo, and very pleased to demonstrate the continued potential for large, colored diamonds from the South Lobe production.

“These remarkable pink diamonds join a collection of significant diamond recoveries in 2021 produced from the EM/PK(S), which forms a key economic driver for the proposed underground mine at Karowe.”

Source: Brecken Branstrator nationaljeweler