Pink diamond to smash record

14 November 2010 - 02:00 By Reuters, Sapa

A rare pink diamond could set a world record next week in a revived international market chasing strong prices for top-quality jewels, auction firm Sotheby's said this week.

The stone, estimated to sell at between $27-million and $38-million, is among 550 lots on offer at an auction in Geneva.

Vintage pieces by French jeweller Van Cleef & Arpels that belonged to deceased socialites Christina Onassis and Cristina Ford are also on the auction house's block.

The rectangular pink diamond, bought from American jeweller Harry Winston 60 years ago by the current anonymous owner, has top grading for purity and colour. Set between small white diamonds on a platinum ring, it weighs 24.78 carats, about the size of a pinball or a large marble.

"During 35 years in the business at the top end of auctions, I have seen a lot of private collections around the world and I've probably only seen two or three other stones that come even close," said David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby's jewellery department in Europe. "It's like pink champagne."

Coloured diamonds - blue, yellow and pink - are especially prized by collectors in Asia and the Middle East.

"If it sells, it would be the record price for a gem sold at auction, even at the low estimate," Bennett told reporters.

The world's most expensive jewel yet sold at auction is the "Wittelsbach" blue diamond, a 17th-century stone of 35.56 carats that fetched $24.3-million in 2008 at rival Christie's.

Christie's also sold a pink diamond of just five carats in Hong Kong in December 2009 for nearly $10.8-million, still a world auction record price per carat for a diamond and for a pink diamond, according to the auction house.

Diamonds and other rare gemstones are fetching strong prices, buoyed by online bidders joining the international jewellery market, said Bennett.

"The market is very strong indeed if you look at the results. We had our best sale ever in Hong Kong last month," he said, noting it netted $54-million.

"The whole year has been fantastic with low percentages of unsold lots. We've had large growth in the number of bidders and buyers. There's no question the internet is expanding our client base rapidly," he said.

Sotheby's semi-annual jewellery sales in Geneva are expected to fetch $60-million.

Jewels from the estate of Cristina Ford, glamorous Italian second wife of Henry Ford II, grandson of the Ford Motor Company founder, include emerald and diamond Van Cleef classics from the 1960s and 1970s that were bought after the jet-set couple met at a party given by Monaco's Prince Rainier and Princess Grace.

A ruby and diamond bangle, a necklace and ear clips, and a necklace, once in the collection of Christina Onassis, daughter of Greek shipping magnate Aristotle, are reappearing on the block after being put up by their anonymous owner.

Christie's, which is putting nearly 300 lots under the hammer in the Swiss city on Wednesday, estimates their total value in excess of $40-million. Its star lot, a white pear-shaped diamond weighing 26.17 carats, from the famed Golconda mines in India, is expected to fetch $3-million to $5 million.

  • A Chinese vase, which sat hardly noticed in a suburban London home, has become one of the most expensive artworks yet sold, evidence that China's sizzling art market shows no signs of cooling down.

The 18th-century porcelain vase, sold by a family clearing out a deceased relative's house, went to a Chinese buyer for £51.6-million - more than 40 times the pre-sale estimate and a record for Chinese art.

For Peter Bainbridge, a small independent auctioneer who specialises in house clearance sales, Thursday's result was an extremely pleasant shock.

"How do you anticipate the Chinese market?" he asked. "It's totally on fire."

Bainbridge said the outcome was "a fairy tale" for the family that owned the vase.

He said the sellers, who wish to remain anonymous, were the sister and nephew of the deceased elderly woman and found it in her "very modest home" in the London suburb of Pinner.