The $22-Million Diamond

Pricey Gem Highlights Recent Sotheby's Auction

The $22-Million Diamond
May 12, 2015

The recent jewelry auction at Sotheby's (the Magnificent Jewels sale in New York) included one of the largest purchases of a gem in history. The 100.2-carat diamond, a Type IIa gem with an emerald cut, a D color rating, and an IF (internally flawless) grade, sold for over $22 million to an unnamed buyer. Ladies, if you find $22 million missing out of the joint bank account, guess what you are getting for your anniversary! (At least, that is what you'd better be getting.…)

Sotheby's staff referred to this gem as "the perfect diamond" and comparable to "a pool of icy water." There are only five other 100-plus carat diamonds that have ever sold at auction anywhere in the world, and this gem is the only one with the classic emerald cut. That emerald cut represents over a year's worth of preparation, planning, cutting, and polishing of the original South African 200-carat stone.

While the Sotheby's auction contained multiple seven-figure sales, only four lots sold for more than 10% of the "perfect diamond." Another IF-grade diamond brought in $3.25 million as an oval diamond ring, a 35.02-carat emerald (the Flagler Emerald) sold for $2.77 million, a multi-gem necklace (the Baron de Rothschild necklace) brought in $2.59 million, and a two-gem lot with a 6.24-carat pear-shaped diamond with a purple-pink hue and a Kashmir sapphire ring was purchased for $2.4 million.

The two-gem lot actually cost more on a per-carat basis than the perfect diamond, at $386,218 per carat for the two-gem lot versus $220,459 for the perfect diamond.

While the perfect diamond is one of the most expensive gems ever sold, it has plenty of expensive company.

  • The Pink Star – This 59.6-carat pink diamond with a flawless grade sold at auction for $83.2 million in 2013, giving it the title of the most expensive single gem ever sold at an auction.

  • The Princie Diamond – A relatively rare pink diamond of 34.65 carats, this diamond sold at Sotheby's for $39.3 million in 2013. The diamond is reported to be over 300 years old and came from South Central India, from the same group of mines that produced the Hope Diamond.

  • The Cora Sun-Drop Diamond – A South African 110.3-carat diamond known as the "Sun-Drop Diamond" for its yellow hue was sold for $10.9 million. The gem has the "fancy vivid yellow" rating, the highest color grade that a diamond can attain.

  • The Beau Sancy – At 34.98 carats, this diamond was set into a crown during the time of King Henry IV and graced royal heads for many years before eventually winding up in a 2012 Sotheby's auction in Geneva and being purchased for $9.7 million.

  • The Graff Pink – Famous jeweler Harry Winston owned this 24.78-carat pink rectangular diamond with rounded corners for many years, but it was sold to Laurence Graff in 2010 for $46.2 million, holding the title of the most expensive gem sold until the sale of the Pink Star. Graff renamed the stone (surprise!) the "Graff Pink."

  • The Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond – Another Laurence Graff purchase, this 35.56-carat diamond with a gray-blue color sold for approximately $22 million in 2008 and was re-cut in 2010 to remove flaws (no pressure there).

  • The "Perfect Pink" – This pink diamond ring with a rectangular cut sold in 2010 for $23.2 million at Christie's in Hong Kong.

Okay, you probably won't receive one of these gemstones on your anniversary, but be honest — even if you had tens of millions of dollars to spend, would you really want to spend it on a single gemstone?

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