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The Pumpkin Diamond

Nov 11, 2003 11:39 AM   By Robert Genis
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On Halloween Eve in 1997, Ronald Winston, president and CEO of Harry Winston Inc., purchased a 5.54-carat fancy vivid orange diamond for $1,322,500 — $238,718 per carat — at Sotheby’s. This stone is the largest and most famous fancy vivid orange diamond in the world. Winston wanted to call it “The Tangerine” but his staff felt it needed a better connection to Halloween, and so it was named the “Pumpkin Diamond.” According to Winston, “I am a connoisseur and collector of colored diamonds and I searched my entire life for a diamond with this distinctive bright orange color and saturation.” Winston is unsure of the origin of the diamond but believes it is either Central or South Africa.

The Pumpkin was recently on display at the “Splendor of Diamonds” exhibition in Washington, D.C., through September 2003.

Previously, the Pumpkin Diamond was worn by actress Halle Berry at the 2002 Academy Awards, where she accepted the Best Actress award for her role in the movie “Monster’s Ball.”

Why Are Orange Diamonds Orange?

The main reason for color in diamonds is the presence of impurity atoms or atomic structural defects. What causes the color in orange diamonds remains a scientific mystery. Gem scientists used to believe the orange color was caused by nitrogen. Winston believes the Pumpkin Diamond’s color is caused by hydrogen. Jim Shigley, Gemological Institute of America (GIA) director of research, Carlsbad, states, “We tend to think of diamonds as pretty easy to understand since they are simple carbon. However, the scientific reasons for color in colored diamonds are not always known. The reason orange diamonds are orange is probably because of hydrogen or nitrogen. Further, these diamonds are Type I, not Type II.”

How rare are orange diamonds? According to Winston, “People don’t realize the rarity of vivid orange diamonds. I would say oranges are rarer than greens but not as rare as reds.” In other words, orange diamonds are the second rarest color and even rarer than greens, pinks and blues. On the connoisseur demand side, the only thing holding back the price of these stones is the fact that orange is not a primary color. Collectors tend to covet reds, blues and greens before they consider an orange.

Secondary Colors

In an ideal world, you should try to find an orange diamond with color that looks like a pumpkin, a tangerine or a citrus orange. Oranges with modifying colors are commonly seen in the marketplace. The vast majority of oranges have red, pink, yellow, green or brown secondary color or various combinations of these colors. Brown is an anathema to orange diamonds similar to what gray is to green diamonds. Of course, the most abundant colored diamond is brown; however, “with brown diamonds you often get an orange flash,” Winston explains.


According to Winston, vivid oranges are so rare they are “individually priced.” As a guideline, however, carat-sized fancy vivid oranges are at least $100,000 per carat wholesale. Fancy intense oranges range from about $35,000 to $45,000 per carat. Therefore, pure oranges are only selling for approximately five times the price of similar quality yellow diamonds, even though they are more than five times rarer. Any secondary color creates discounts to these prices. Most often, orange and brown are seen together. When you see brown visually, or an orange diamond has brown on the grading report, the price drops dramatically.


Pure vivid orange diamonds seem to be as difficult to find as a needle in the proverbial haystack. Winston concludes, “Only rare colors will grade fancy orange or fancy intense orange. However, to get a fancy vivid orange is truly remarkable. If you find one, bring it home to Papa Winston. I am a player.”
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Tags: GIA, Harry Winston, Sotheby's, South Africa
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