The Spirit of the Rose

The Spirit of the Rose




Auction Closed

November 11, 08:41 PM GMT


21,050,000 - 34,775,000 CHF

Lot Details




The oval modified brilliant-cut fancy vivid purple-pink diamond weighing 14.83 carats, unmounted.

Accompanied by GIA report no. 6204120527, stating that diamond is Fancy Vivid Purple-Pink, Natural Colour, Internally Flawless; together with a Type IIa classification letter. The GIA report additionally accompanied by a separate monograph expressing the rarity and the characteristics of the stone.

This superb and exceptional Fancy Vivid Purple­Pink Internally Flawless diamond has been named 'The Spirit of the Rose'. What a beautiful and meaningful name for this magnificent Russian stone, that praises the qualities of the homeland and which will, undoubtably, become part of its history.

The 'Ballets Russes' allowed Europe and the rest of the Western world to discover the genius and talent of Russian dancers and choreographers at the beginning of the 20th century. This itinerant ballet company was based in Paris and performed between 1909 and 1929 throughout Europe and toured North and South America as well. Conceived by impresario Sergei Diaghilev, the Ballets Russes is regarded as the most influential ballet company of the 20th century and promoted artistic collaborations among choreographers, composers, designers, dancers, and the fashion industry.

The high standards of its dancers, classically trained at the Imperial Schools, were noticed by the Western world. The Ballets Russes considerably raised the status of the male dancers; the most popular and talented in the company's history was the legendary Vaslav Nijinsky. The rough diamond, from which the 'Spirit of the Rose' was cut, was named 'Nijinsky' upon its discovery in July 2017 in Yakutia, in the northeast of Russia. A legendary name befitting for a wonder of nature, a stunning 27.85 carat pink rough diamond.

The name of the faceted diamond itself, 'The Spirit of the Rose', is the title of the most famous ballet performed by the Ballets Russes and for which Nijinsky is universally known and recognised. It was written by Jean-Louis Vaudoyer who based the story on a verse by the 19th century French poet Theophile Gautier. The ballet premiered in Monte Carlo on 19 April 1911. It depicted a young girl, performed by Tamara Karsavina, who, after returning from her first ball, fell asleep and dreamt that she was dancing with a rose, personified by Nijinsky. It was a tremendous success, and Nijinsky's spectacular leap through a window at the end of the performance became legendary, as well as his costume, which was designed by Leon Bakst. The elastic silk was covered with silk rose petals into which Nijinsky was sewn before every performance. The wardrobe mistress had to touch up the petals with her curling iron. It is said that the dancer's servant, Vasili, collected the petals that fell to the stage floor and sold them as souvenirs and that the profit allowed him to build a house.

Le Spectre de la Rose (the French title for The Spirit of the Rose) was one of the most loved productions of the Ballets Russes and Europe and America discovered Russian folklore through the representations of the Ballets. They drove the imagination and inspiration of fashion and jewellery designers. Coco Chanel was one of the costume designers of the Ballets Russes.

Fascinated by the Russian folklore, the beauty of the dance and the combination of the arts - music, dance, fashion, design-, the renowned jewellery Maisons of the day created new designs inspired by this social phenomenon. The Ballets invited themselves into the jewellery vocabulary and eventually the Art Deco period became very receptive to the new motifs and the historic discoveries to find a place in the fashion and the design worlds. Charles Jacqueau, Cartier's main designer from the time of the First World War, began to adapt the ideas and images of the Ballets Russes for jewellery designs. It was a revelation for the designer. His wife, Suzanne, recalled him following the Ballets Russes with bated breath, sketchbook in hand, to capture the colours of the costumes and the swirling movement. In 1910, the ballet Scheherazade fired the imagination of critics, artists and audiences.

‘Overnight Paris fashion designers were persuaded to turn to the Orient in their search for inspiration. The couturier Paul Poiret who, thanks to Ida Rubinstein, had direct access to Diaghilev's world, created turbans topped with aigrettes, and a harem dress with Turkish trousers lifted straight out of Scheherazade’ (in Hans Nadelhoffer, Cartier).

The Ballets Russes illustrated the links between the arts, history, jewellery, beauty and fashion. The Spirit of the Rose is the ideal name for a stone which reflects beauty and mystery; a diamond for which the magnificence and the grandeur of Russia were fully unveiled by the cutter who brought out its inner and magical beauty. Mined, cut and polished in Russia, 'The Spirit of the Rose' will now be presented to the world and enter jewellery history. The discovery of the rough in 2017 was already an historic event and the auction of such a marvel of nature is without a doubt another thrilling moment. Sotheby's is honoured to be able to do so and to exhibit this stone to a broad audience and allow a jewellery and gemstone connoisseur and collector to own a masterpiece.


Pink diamonds were first discovered in India during the early 17th century, in the Kollur mine within the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, which was part of the legendary Golconda kingdom. Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a French merchant and adventurer, first made a reference to pink diamonds around this time. In his travel book, Tavernier mentioned a very large pink rough diamond weighing over 200 carats, shown to him by Moghuls in the Kingdom of Golconda in 1642. This diamond, named 'The Grand Table' was valued at 600,000 rupees at the time, and is still considered to have been the largest pink diamond recorded to date.

Since their discovery in the early 17th century, pink diamonds have also been mined in Brazil, South Africa, Tanzania, Canada, Australia and, of course, Russia. It is thought that around 80% of the world's pink diamonds now originate from the Argyle mine in Kimberley, Western Australia. Out of the mine's 20 million carat annual output, only 0.1% are classified as pink diamonds, attesting to their rarity.

Unlike white diamonds, coloured diamonds obtain their hues from chemical disturbances in the earth during their formation process. The varied colours originate from trace elements that interfere with the carbon crystal formation within the diamond. For example, the presence of nitrogen creates yellow diamonds, and boron forms blue diamonds. Curiously, there are no trace elements found in pink diamonds. Instead, the cause of the pink hue is thought to be caused by a distortion in the diamond's crystal lattice, created by intense heat and great pressure after the stone's formation in the earth. This distortion displaces many carbon atoms from their normal positions and alters the qualities oflight reflected by the diamond - resulting in us observing the stone as pink. As with other coloured diamonds, pink diamonds are graded on their colour by the Gemological Institute of America using the classing: Faint, Very Light, Light, Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Intense, Fancy Vivid. Similarly, to other coloured diamonds, Fancy Vivid is are the most sought-after colour.

Given their rarity, it is unsurprising that the value of pink diamonds has increased considerably over the centuries. The current record for a pink diamond sold at auction is held by the 'CTF Pink Star', a 59.60-carat oval mixed-cut Fancy Vivid Pink, Internally Flawless diamond which was auctioned at Sotheby's Hong Kong in April 2017 for $71.2 million USD.



'Over the centuries, diamonds that are principally pink have been recovered from only a handful of localities around the world, and this event is so uncommon that any discovery is noteworthy. Although they can be found in both primary deposits (kimberlite or lamproite pipes) and secondary deposits (riverbeds and ocean floor), crystals with a predominantly pink hue are rare finds:

'Since the late 1980s, the Argyle mine, in a remote part of northwestern Australia, has been the only consistent source of pink diamonds. Fewer than 10% of the annual rough production from this mine weigh more than 0.20 ct, and the yearly output of pink diamonds could fit in the palm of one's hand. Put into perspective, only one carat out of every million carats that the mine produces is considered suitable for sale as a pink or red gem.’

'Russia is also an intermittent source of pink diamonds, and currently the world's largest diamond producer by volume, responsible for around 30% of the world's diamond output each year. In 2015 alone, 41.9 million carats of diamonds were mined in Russia.’

Excerpts from the GIA monograph

Although diamonds had been found in various locations around Russia for more than 150 years, the prospect of commercial mining in the territory was first investigate in 1938 by scientists at the Leningrad State University. They compared the geology of the Soviet Union with the diamondiferous regions around the world.

In June 1954, Larisa Popugaeva a Soviet geologist discovered a kimberlite surface, later called the Zarnitsa mine in Yakutia. The following year, another 10 pipes were opened in the area. Mir was the first diamond mine developed in Russia. The country's most productive diamond mine by volume was discovered a few years later about 400 kilometers north of Mir. Polished Russian diamond started to appear in the late 1960s. By the 1980s, an estimate of 25% by value originated from Russian mines. The name Yakutia changed to Sakha Republic after the Soviet Union was dissolved.



Unearthed in July 2017 from the Ebelyakh deposit in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) in the northeast of Russia, The Spirit of the Rose is the largest pink crystal ever mined in Russia. A miraculous pink crystal weighing 27.85 carats.

It took a whole year for Russian cutting masters to turn a unique diamond, discovered in Yakutia, into a genuine treasure with Very Good and Excellent symmetry and polish characteristics. The oval shape ensured that the diamond would be of the maximum possible size.

The proficient ballet dancer who played the part of the mysterious nocturnal visitor embodying the Spirit of the Rose; Vaslow Nijinsky gave his name to the rough diamond. The Spirit of the Rose was Nijinsky's last performance on stage.

'The Spirit of the Rose diamond has been fashioned as an oval modified brilliant. The Nijinsky rough diamond was itself somewhat elongated, so the diamond cutter likely chose the oval shape to preserve the greatest amount of weight. If this is the case, the cutter sacrificed nothing in terms of color, as the resulting gem is superbly vivid. A brilliant cut stone typically combined triangular and kite-shaped facets on the crown; this shape is described as modified as the decision was made to add in two rows of parallel step­like facets near the girdle edge, further customizing the dazzling effect of the diamond. In the fashioning process, the cutter also earned an Excellent polish and Very Good symmetry grade.’

Excerpt from the GIA monograph