After operating across the US for more than 30 years, illustrious third-generation natural coloured diamond wholesaler L. J. West Diamonds recently opened an Australian subsidiary in Perth. Managing director of the new subsidiary William Gant spoke with Jewellery World to discuss the company, the new operation, his own unique history, and the Argyle legacy.
Timing and location perfect for Perth presence
The subsidiary opened on St George’s Terrace in the Perth CBD in March, expanding the company’s reach to the Asian and Pacific markets. William said the strategy to set up an Australian subsidiary was formed back in 2019, soon after L. J. West Diamonds’ Hong Kong subsidiary had been established in order to have greater access to the Chinese market.
“Of course, L. J. West Diamonds already had strong relationships with many Australian clients, but the geographical challenges meant that servicing those clients was suboptimal,” he said.
“The Australian market appreciates the value of Argyle’s reds, pinks and blues, and one of the hallmarks of L. J. West Diamonds is its expertise in repolishing diamonds to improve their natural colour – we needed a more efficient way to connect the two.”
He said the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the office opening throughout 2020 until it was finally opened last month.
Perth made for an ideal city to establish a subsidiary because for William and the L. J. West Diamonds team, it is strategically well-connected through direct flights with other major Australian cities, it shares the same or similar time zone with most of Asia, and is within easy reach of most Asian destinations (once travel restrictions are lifted).
“Symbolically, of course, Western Australia is the birthplace of the Argyle pinks.
“As an added benefit, Perth has shown to be one of the safest places in the world to be in to weather the global pandemic while awaiting a vaccine, with a very robust state economy.”
A world-renowned supplier with a polished history
A distinguished diamond supplier to many in the jewellery industry, L. J. West Diamonds, led by the eponymous Larry J. West and his son Scott, is one of the world’s prominent houses for some of the rarest and most important fancy-coloured diamonds to have been unearthed. Larry founded the company in the late ‘70s, and it originally traded in white diamonds, but shifted its focus to coloured diamonds in the ‘90s. William said that Larry’s skill in artfully repolishing diamonds quickly established him as not only a supplier of choice among fancy colour connoisseurs, but also a customer of choice for his appetite to purchase stones in a wide range of colours. He said the company also holds the pride of being one of the original authorised Argyle partners, with a relationship with the mine dating back almost 30 years.
“Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, we have one of the largest collections of Argyle pink diamonds in the world, and the largest in the US.”
From marketing graduate to managing director
William himself has a long and intimate history with diamonds and Argyle. It all started many years ago when he began as a marketing graduate working at Argyle, back when the mine’s production was in its prime, producing more than forty million carats a year which equated to a third of the world’s output at the time.
“Argyle was where I learned all aspects of the diamond mining business, from maintaining conveyors and machinery carrying diamondiferous ore, to diamond business analysis, sorting rough diamonds, grading polished diamonds, and then to marketing and selling the mine’s pink and other fancy-coloured diamonds to wholesale customers around the world.
“Towards the end of my ten-year stint with Argyle, I was responsible for all international pink sales and was deeply involved in the Pink Diamond Tender process.”
William’s Eurasian mixed ancestry along with his bilingualism and his cosmopolitan upbringing across Asia and the Middle East all gave him a unique understanding of and sensitivity to the varied ways of doing business in different cultures, particularly in Asia.
“Thanks to that, I think, I developed lasting relationships with my customers at that time, many of whom are still in the coloured diamond business and doing incredibly well as a result of it.”
He eventually left Argyle to pursue new personal challenges and soon landed a senior management role at Argyle’s parent company Rio Tinto in which he tackled the commercial challenges of a completely different product: uranium. He spent 15 years overseas in London and Singapore working in sales and marketing for Rio Tinto, before returning to Australia wherein one of the customers during his time at Argyle – Larry West – contacted him with an idea to expand L. J. West Diamonds’ reach to customers all over the world.
Custodians of the Argyle legacy
As one of the original authorised Argyle partners and because they have such a large collection of Argyle diamonds, L. J. West Diamonds has a distinct responsibility to carry on Argyle’s legacy now that the mine has closed. William said that one of L. J. West Diamonds’ hallmarks is their strong passion for the Story of Argyle.
“To us, Argyle’s pinks are more than just a commodity: they are a unique type of diamond that was discovered by chance in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia, a one-in-a-million discovery found at just the right time, that isn’t likely to be repeated in our lifetime.
“So, we are passionate about maintaining the Argyle legacy, and we seek to reinforce how incredibly special these treasures are and how lucky it is to own them.”
He said they seek to do this through public exhibitions and events to tell the story. He compared the closing of the mine to the passing of a famous artist for whom all that’s left is his beautiful paintings.
“This is a story worth telling.”
What’s on offer at L. J. West Diamonds
L. J. West Diamonds are wholesalers of natural diamonds across an incredible range of colours including reds, pinks, purples, violets, blues, greens, yellows, oranges, and all the colours in between. William emphasised that L. J. West Diamonds’ expertise is repolishing a stone to improve its colour, which he says is not a process to be taken lightly.
“Argyle pinks are that colour because of the intense heat and pressure that twisted their carbon lattice structure during formation, resulting in not only the colour we all love, but also very hard diamonds that can be exceptionally difficult and risky to polish.”
Along with their array of diamonds available, their Scott West Jewelry is then able to design and handcraft jewellery which showcases the unique qualities of these stones, ensuring that each piece is a unique work of art.