Posts tagged Sotheby's
A PRICE TO MAKE YOU BLUSH: PINK DIAMOND BREAKS WORLD RECORD

The 59.60 carat Pink Star diamond. the most expensive gemstone in the world.

The Pink Star diamond last week became the most expensive diamond ever sold at auction.  Gem dealers had been looking at the sale, conducted by Sotheby’s, with a mixture of excitement and apprehension.  The excitement because of the quality of the stone: it is the largest pink diamond of its kind ever to be graded by the GIA.  The fabulous gemstone ticked every box: it is internally flawless and has been given the classification of Fancy Vivid Pink, the most sought after in coloured diamonds.  The icing on the cake for the stone was its designation as a Type IIa, meaning it is a chemically pure stone- a designation only given to 2% of gem quality diamonds.

The hammer comes down on the Pink Star diamond at Sotheby's Hong Kong.

Failed to sell: the Shirley Temple Blue diamond.

The apprehension came from the stone’s recent chequered history.  The stone had been auctioned relatively recently, in 2013, achieving a hammer price of $83 million- but the buyer defaulted on payment.  There has also been speculation recently on whether the eye watering amounts being fetched in the last few years by large coloured diamonds is sustainable.  After all, there aren’t that many people in the word who can afford such things, and within that clientele not all are interested, which makes the potential client base very small indeed.  The flop that was the sale of the Shirley Temple blue diamond was something Sotheby’s was anxious not to repeat again.  The prices achieved at auction for important coloured diamonds are the benchmark by which the industry sets the prices, so with colourless stones experiencing something of a lacklustre period at the moment diamond dealers were hoping for a whopper to underpin asking prices.

The stone was bought by the jewellery retailer Chow Tai Fook, who was bidding by telephone, who has renamed it the CTF Pink.  It is the stone’s third rechristening: it was originally named the Steinmetz Pink, after the group who bought the 132.5 carat rough gem.  They spent a cautious 20 months cutting and polishing the stone, unveiling the finished 59.60 carat gem in all its glory at a ceremony in Monaco. 

 

The Tiara That Survived the Shipwreck
The Lady Allan Cartier Tiara

The Lady Allan Cartier Tiara

With so many beautiful antique pieces of jewellery to have been broken up for their stones, this one has been luckier than most.  The tiara was made in 1909 for Lady Allan, wife of the Canadian banker Sir Hugh Allan.  It is a strikingly modern piece for its time and clearly Cartier was departing from the famous Garland Style that marked jewellery at the beginning of the 20th Century.  Lady Allan included it in her luggage on her voyage on the Lusitania when the fateful ship was sunk by a German U-Boat in 1915 during World War I.

The Lusitania

The Lusitania

Lady Allan survived the disaster, but with severe injuries.  Her ladies' maid managed to save it by putting it in her bag when they were rescued- they were lucky to survive, as of the 1989 passengers on board 1198 died on the ship. It sank in only 18 minutes.

Lady Allan wearing the tiara.

Lady Allan wearing the tiara.

Having survived not only the Lusitania, but sadly her four children too, on her death Lady Allan bequeathed the tiara to Elspeth Patterson Dawes, her first cousin once removed.  Mrs. Dawes' granddaughter auctioned the tiara at Sotheby's last November, where it sold for $799,000.

Important Gems Continue to Sparkle

The last few years have continued to see an astonishing increase in the prices achieved by large and important gemstones.  There are various contributing factors in this phenomenon: firstly, there is more money than ever before.  In spite of the financial crash of 2008, we are in a golden age discerning buyers who not only know what they want, but also buy in a highly discerning and educated manner.  In the case of precious stones, the best is becoming rarer- the Argyle mine in Australia produces 90% of the world’s pink diamonds and is due to close down in 2019.  There is currently no other known source of pink diamonds, so prices even of moderately sized stones are sky high.  The most expensive pink diamond in the world was the Graff Pink, a 24.78 carat stone which sold in 2010 for $46 million.

The Graff Pink, the most expensive pink diamond ever sold at auction.

The Graff Pink, the most expensive pink diamond ever sold at auction.

Kashmiri sapphires and Burmese rubies-the most impeccable source for each of these gems- of good sizes too, are increasingly rare.  The majority of coloured stones have been enhanced by heat treatment (except emeralds, which cannot take it) so untreated stones command at least a 20% premium.  With the political instability in Burma, and Kashmiri mines hardly producing at all now, rubies and sapphires recently broke world records too.  At Sotheby’s Magnificent Sales last October a 17.16 carat sapphire became the most expensive at auction at $4.06 million and the pigeon’s blood 8.62 carat Burmese Graff ruby achieved a world record price of $8.6 million.  So, should a buyer find himself engulfed by political uncertainty, these highly desirable goods become even more so due to their portability.

The Wittelsbach Blue Diamond

The Wittelsbach Blue Diamond

In the heady world of one-upmanship, nothing can beat provenance: the story of and legend of a stone cannot be tampered with, and it is rare to see important historic gems coming on to the market more than once a decade.  The two stars of the recent years have been the Wittelsbach Blue Diamond and La Peregrina Pearl.  The Wittelsbach is an intense, flawless blue stone of 31.06 carats that once formed part of both the Austrian and Bavarian Crown Jewels and was auctioned in 2008.  La Peregrina is arguably the most famous pearl in the world, having passed through the Royal houses of France and Spain and owned by Elizabth Taylor- it sold in 2011 for nearly $12 million, four times its estimate price.  With stones of such quality and pedigree, there is nothing more satisfying than having a jewel specially created for it that can only enhance its beauty and value, as often happens when new owners acquire them.

There are downsides to speculating in coloured stones.  They do not yield a dividend and are not always easy to dispose of.  They should be bought at auction or wholesale for the best possible deals and always accompanied by certificates from reputable laboratories- for example, the Gemmological Institute of America.  However, if one has money and time to spare for a return on an investment, it seems that with ‘superstones’ the only way is up.