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SOTHEBY'S

Jewels expected to set Geneva auction records

Huge blue and pink diamonds, the star attractions at major jewel auctions in Geneva in the coming days, are expected to fetch tens of millions of dollars and possibly set new world records.

Jewels expected to set Geneva auction records
'In the Pink' diamond shown by model for Christie's. Photo: Niklas Hall'en AFP

The anticipated sales prices for the two stones are part of a trend that has seen the market for coloured diamonds explode, with values more than doubling over the last two decades.
   
“The biggest reason is the scarcity of these coloured diamonds,” explained Rahul Kadakia, the International Head of Jewellery at Christie's.
   
He said that 25 or 30 years ago, extraordinary coloured gemstones often earned strong prices at auction, “but they weren't quite making the prices they have been achieving in recent years.”
   
While classic white diamonds once made up the prize lot at jewel sales, now, according to Kadakia, “there is a little bit of softness in the white diamond market.”

 World record? 

The Sotheby's “fancy vivid” blue diamond, which goes under the hammer on Wednesday, has been tipped as a possible world record beater, with the auction house listing its projected sale price at between $35-$55 million.
   
The flawless “Blue Moon” stone was discovered in South Africa in January last year, and is the largest cushion-shaped stone in that category ever to appear at auction.
   
The head of Sotheby's international jewellery division, David Bennett, has called the Blue Moon “a simply sensational stone of perfect colour and purity.”
   
Sotheby's is aiming to beat its own record, set in November 2010 in Geneva, when a 24.78 carat pink diamond sold for $46 million.
   
Sotheby's rival Christie's puts its prized jewel up for sale on Tuesday at the plush Four Seasons des Bergues hotel.
   
The cushion-shaped stone, dubbed “In the Pink”, is estimated to sell for $23-28 million, but Kadakia told AFP the price could be even higher.
   
He noted that the world record price per carat for a pink diamond was set in December 2009 by Christie's in Hong Kong, when a five carat stone sold for more than $10 million.
   
If In the Pink, owned by an American family for the past 15 years, matches that per carat mark, it could fetch more than $32 million he said, noting that the jewel has been priced “well below what it is actually worth.”
   
Christie's said that only three pink stones classified by the Gemological Institute of America as “fancy” and weighing more than ten carats have been up for sale in 250 years.
   
The causes that turn a diamond pink remain something of a mystery, but some experts attribute the colouration to a simultaneous exposure to both heat and pressure.

Connery jewels 

Scottish actor Sean Connery is selling two jewels at Sotheby's next week, including a 15.4-carat pink and orange diamond, which could fetch above $2 million and a ring boasting 5.18 carats of diamond, with an estimated sale price of $250,000.
   
Among the other exceptional pieces set to go under the hammer is an emerald and diamond necklace designed by Harry Winston in 1959 and previously owned by the American socialite and jewellery collector Dolores Sherwood Bosshard.
   
Kadakia said buyers descending on Geneva ahead of the auctions are increasingly aware that, at the elite level, precious stones have proven to be sound investments.
   
“If you look at diamond prices, a diamond that was making $200,000 dollars a carat is now making $2 million dollars a carat. 

“That hasn't happened in other asset class, or any other investment,” he said.

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DIAMOND

‘Incomparable’ $50-million pink diamond smashes record at Geneva auction

An exceptionally rare pink diamond of nearly 19 carats fetched 50.3 million Swiss francs ($50 million, 44 million euros) at auction in Geneva Tuesday, Christie's said, setting a new per-carat record for a stone of its kind.

'Incomparable' $50-million pink diamond smashes record at Geneva auction
The Pink Legacy auction in Geneva on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

The Pink Legacy, which once belonged to the Oppenheimer family who for decades ran the De Beers diamond-mining company, was snapped up by American luxury brand Harry Winston, part of the Swiss Swatch group.

“$2.6 million per carat. That is a world record per carat for a pink diamond,” said Francois Curiel, head of Christie's in Europe, of the price that included all fees and commissions.

“This stone is for me the Leonardo da Vinci of diamonds.”

The Pink Legacy's classic rectangular cut is traditionally used for white stones, but is rare for pink diamonds. Photo: AFP

The 18.96-carat diamond was discovered in a South African mine around a century ago, Christie's said. It was probably cut in the 1920s and has not been altered since.

The stone was immediately rechristened the “Winston Pink Legacy” by its buyers.

Christie's international head of jewellery, Rahul Kadakia, described it as “one of the world's greatest diamonds”.

The rectangular-cut stone has been graded “fancy vivid” — the highest possible grade of colour intensity — as it has no trace of another hue like purple, orange or brown.

Most pink diamonds weigh less than one carat and those in the top colour category with more than 10 carats are virtually unheard of at auction houses.

The Pink Legacy is classed as Type IIa, meaning it is extremely chemically pure, a category only two percent of diamonds fall into.

“These are stones that have little if any trace of nitrogen,” said Kadakia, adding that this often gives Type IIa diamonds “exceptional transparency and brilliance”.

Emerald cut

“Imagine a domino that you have cut the corners off of,” Jean-Marc Lunel, an international jewellery specialist at Christie's, recently told AFP, describing the stone's unusual shape.

He pointed out that the diamond has a “classical so-called emerald cut” — standing out from the typical cuts used today, which are more rounded and multi-faceted.

The classic rectangular cut is traditionally used for white stones, but is rare for pink diamonds.

Christie's said the Pink Legacy is “the largest and finest Fancy Vivid Pink diamond ever offered at auction by the company”, calling the stone “incomparable”.

“It is probably the most beautiful (specimen) ever presented at public auction,” Lunel said.

Christie's said only four vivid pink diamonds of over 10 carats have ever been offered at auction.

One of them, the nearly 15-carat Pink Promise, was sold last November at a Christie's auction in Hong Kong for $32.5 million. 

That amounts to $2.176 million per carat, which was previously the world auction record price per carat for any pink diamond.

The Pink Legacy's record-smashing price accounted for nearly half the takings at Tuesday's auction, which saw total sales of more than $110 million, according to Christie's spokeswoman Alexandra Kindermann.

While 86 percent of the lots found a buyer, a big heart-shaped white diamond of 53 carats, expected to fetch around $3 to 5 million, went unsold.

Another Geneva auction is set cause a buzz on Wednesday when Marie Antoinette's diamonds and pearls go under the hammer at Sotheby's.

The dazzling treasures, which have not been seen in public for two centuries, are part of a 100-piece collection held by the Italian royal House of Bourbon-Parma.

A diamond parure composed of 95 diamonds, including five solitaire diamonds that belonged to Marie-Antoinette. Photo: Sotheby's/AFP