What’s in a name? With Argyle diamonds, quite a lot – by Stuart Kells (The Mandarin – February 20, 2023)

The Mandarin

‘Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got. I’m still, I’m still Jenny from the block.’ As with J.Lo, in the history of Australian diamonds, labels are important. Today, ‘Argyle diamonds’ and ‘Argyle pinks’ are iconic brands. The story of those brands, along with related ones such as ‘champagne’ and ‘cognac’ diamonds, is a tale of coincidences, twists and incredible flukes.

The etymology of ‘diamond’ is Greek, and is all about hardness and adamance. ‘Argyle’, however, comes from the British Isles, and specifically from Argyll in western Scotland. The Old Gaelic phrase Airer Goídel means, more or less, ‘border region of the Gaels’.

Now associated with preppiness and golf, the Argyle pattern of diagonal lines and stacked diamonds is a traditional tartan of Argyll’s Clan Campbell. For the purposes of Australian diamonds, however, the tartan diamonds are purely coincidental. The Argyle mine took its name from nearby Lake Argyle, which served as the miners’ water source. The lake in turn was named after Argyle Downs, a vast pastoral property established by the famous Durack family.

The Argyle mine was the dividend from a painstaking, highly secretive, decade-long search for diamonds in the Kimberley region of north-western Australia. (Like the famous diamond town of Kimberley in South Africa, the Australian Kimberley took its name from John Wodehouse, 1st Earl of Kimberley and secretary of state for the colonies.)

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