By Rob Bates - JCK
Reid Mackie recently left Rio Tinto after 20 years in its diamond division. He first got into diamonds staking claims in northern Canada at age 17 to help pay for his university studies. “I started in the woods,” he says. “ It was a real frontier initiation into this business.” He then ended up at Ashton Mining, part owner of the Argyle Mine, which was later acquired by Rio. Since 2011, he has served as sales and marketing manager for the company’s famed pink tender, where he is credited with opening it up to high–net worth collectors. “That was a fantastic cap on my career at Rio,” he says. “The unorthodoxy of starting with staking and then ending up pricing and selling the most valuable of Rio’s diamonds—the pinks—is not lost on me.”
Of all the diamonds he’s sold, one of his favorites is the Argyle Cardinal, a 1.21 ct. fancy red from the 2014 Pink Tender.
But it’s not just for its look, although it is an amazingly beautiful stone. It also has a dramatic backstory, which involves tweezers, a ruler, the putty-like adhesive Blu Tack, and a luxury hotel penthouse. Reid recounts: It was during the tender’s first press event. A lot of people were there, and it was a big, exciting event. Someone was holding the stone in tweezers as a photographer tried to get a good shot of it. As diamonds sometimes do, the stone “pinged,” falling to the floor with this great gravity-defying bounce.
The shoot was taking place in this spectacular penthouse cantilevered out off the roof of the hotel with glass floors and floor-to-ceiling windows. I was called to the room, and when I saw where the stone had landed, I didn’t believe my eyes. It had somehow fallen between the smallest of gaps where the floor met the windows and was sitting precariously on a two-inch-wide ledge about a foot down beneath the glass floor! It was less than a quarter-inch from sheer blackness. If it had fallen any further, it would have certainly been lost, down in the inner recess of the hotel or, who knows, potentially the park below.
We then faced the difficulty of trying to recover it without pushing it off the ledge. The hotel offered to tear up the floor but being so close to the edge, even the slightest vibration risked sending it over.
So we settled on a decidedly low-tech approach of some Blu Tack attached to the end of a long ruler. I first did a dry run, navigating the ruler through the gap down to a little piece of something in a similar position about a foot along ledge from Cardinal as a sort of test. It worked, so we went with it.
We had only one shot, and thankfully the story ended well. The stone was recovered unscathed and the tender back on track. My hands never shook so much. It must be the highest-stakes game of Operation ever played.