T he diamond is indisputably the monarch among gemstones because of its rich cultural and social meaning. People have ascribed value to these brilliant stones for at least six thousand years, fashioning them into jewelry in places from ancient China and India to all the reaches of the world. According to researchers, the way these precious stones sparkle, akin to bodies of water, may trigger an evolutionary response in humans linked to our desire for self-preservation. Colored diamonds possess all the fire and brilliance of their colorless counterparts, while their hues may elicit additional memories and feelings.
This Luxury Week, Sotheby’s will offer some of the world’s finest and rarest diamonds as part of its Magnificent Jewels auction on 7 December. Of particular note is The Golden Canary Diamond, a pear-shaped Fancy Deep Brownish Yellow specimen weighing an eye-popping 303.10 carats. The Gemological Institute of America estimates that only one out of every ten thousand carats of fashioned diamonds display fancy color, making them much rarer than some of the purest white varieties. In Hong Kong this October, Sotheby’s sold an 11.15-carat Fancy Vivid Pink diamond known as The Williamson Pink Star for $57.7 million – a record price per carat – at the end of a riveting twenty-minute, fifty-bid auction. Such jewels are exquisite examples of a final product that can only occur after the unearthed raw material is fashioned with masterful precision by a gem cutter revealing its inner beauty.
The Golden Canary has been on a whirlwind tour ever since it was discovered in the 1980s by a young girl playing in the modern-day Democratic Republic of Congo. On public view at The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in 1984, it beguiled audiences in its raw form. After a four-year process of cutting, it was transformed into fifteen finished stones. The largest stone at 407.48 carats, The Incomparable, went on display at museums around the world. Eventually, the decision was made to recut The Incomparable to enhance its color and shape into what is now known as The Golden Canary – the largest flawless or internally flawless diamond ever graded by the GIA. Its appearance at auction will captivate everyone, from the most sophisticated gem collector to the everyday aesthete, in attendance.
The Magnificent Jewels auction will also include two shining examples from The De Beers Exceptional Blue Collection, a group of eight Fancy Blue Diamonds recovered in 2020 from South Africa’s legendary Cullinan mine. The 2.08-carat Fancy Intense and the 3.24-carat Fancy Vivid present serence shades of sky blue, devoid of the gray tones that often plague blue diamonds. Blue diamonds are exceptionally rare, making up less than 0.02 percent of all mined diamonds worldwide. They are also perhaps the most feted of all the fancy shades: ask anyone to name a famous colored diamond and there’s a good shot that they’ll name the Smithsonian’s deep-blue Hope Diamond or the fictional Heart of the Ocean from Titanic. Thus, their discovery in 2020 was “bordering on miraculous,” says Catharine Becket, the Senior Vice President of Sotheby’s Jewelry and the head of Magnificent Jewels.
According to Becket, these two stones are distinguished by their charming cushion cuts, which give them a vintage look. Becket explains that when working with fancy colored diamonds, cutters will often opt for what is known as a radiant cut, where there are a large number of facets “designed to trap the color in the stone, to maximize the color.” In this instance, the cutter achieved the two highest color grades, fancy and fancy intense, with an economy of faceting – a testament to the cutter’s skill, expertise and ability to improve on an already sublime stone.
“We’ve been viscerally attracted to diamonds ever since we’ve been able to get them out of the earth,” says Becket. “A diamond can represent many different things – stability, fidelity, value – but first and foremost we’re drawn to them for their otherworldly, exquisite beauty.” She believes the diamonds on offer this season will attract a diverse group of buyers. The Golden Canary will undoubtedly inspire trophy-hunters interested in a stone unlike any other, and the Blue Diamonds will appeal to those besotted by their elegance. “The Golden Canary never fails to draw audible gasps, whereas the blues elicit a wave of appreciative awe,” Becket says. In both cases, these stones will evoke strong emotional and intellectual reactions from many admirers.