Magnificent Jewels

Magnificent Jewels

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 76. The Golden Canary Diamond | 「金絲雀」鑽石.

The Golden Canary Diamond | 「金絲雀」鑽石

Auction Closed

December 7, 09:12 PM GMT


15,000,000 - 20,000,000 USD

Lot Details


The Golden Canary Diamond


A pear-shaped Fancy Deep Brownish Yellow diamond weighing 303.10 carats.

For an illustration and discussion of 'The Incomparable', see Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, page 146.

Accompanied by GIA report no. 2173621573 dated November 24, 2021 stating that the diamond is Fancy Deep Brownish Yellow color, Internally Flawless clarity.

Together with a letter from the GIA dated September 28, 2022 stating that the diamond is the largest Flawless or Internally Flawless, and largest pear-shaped diamond graded by the laboratory to date.

Together with a GIA Monograph attesting to the rarity and importance of the stone.

Accompanied by the Smithsonian magazine from May 1988, featuring an article on the diamond. 

A diamond of any size requires an extraordinarily improbable combination of factors simply to exist. With that backdrop, the Golden Canary is nothing short of miraculous. Weighing over 303 carats, it is one of the largest cut diamonds in the world and the largest flawless or internally flawless diamond ever graded by the GIA.

Making up a vanishingly small number of all diamonds mined, yellow diamonds are significantly rarer than their colorless counterparts. Fancy yellow diamonds make up just .006% of all diamonds mined, and of these, only a tiny percentage will be internally flawless. With its impressive combination of size and saturation, the Golden Canary is quite literally unprecedented. 

Thanks to a unique convergence of high temperature and pressure 100 miles under the Earth’s surface, carbon atoms are forced into incomparably tight covalent bonds. Over billions of years in this environment, a diamond is formed. It is during this process that nitrogen atoms can become incorporated into the diamond’s chemistry, causing the diamond to produce a yellow bodycolor. Violent and rapid volcanic eruptions then bring the diamonds to the earth’s crust, where they await their discovery. Accordingly, the chances of any diamond crystal surviving these forces and, furthermore, being discovered, are truly miniscule.

The story of the Golden Canary’s discovery is as captivating as it is improbable.

In the early 1980s, a young girl playing near her uncle’s house in Mbuji Mayi, in modern-day Democratic Republic of Congo, found a large golden-colored stone in a pile of rocks. At the time, miners from the nearby MIBA diamond mine had considered the rubble too bulky to be diamond-bearing and had discarded it. That piece of unassuming rubble turned out to be an 890-carat rough diamond, one of the largest roughs the world had ever seen. The girl gave the stone to her uncle, who, in turn, sold it to local diamond dealers.

By 1984, it was first presented to the public, displayed alongside the world’s most legendary and mythologized diamonds at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. The Washington Post heralded it as “the largest uncut, rough diamond known to exist in the world today – a flawless 890-carat ‘fancy intense’ golden-yellow diamond” and speculated about what shape cutters would choose and what its value might be.

The rough diamond immediately sparked global interest. Beyond its nearly unforeseen size, its unique internal characteristics beguiled viewers. Ian Balfour, in his seminal treatise, Famous Diamonds, rhapsodized: “…the crystal had been composed of sharply defined areas of different colours, each colour representing some change in the environment that must have occurred as the crystal was growing. At one stage, the crystal had been colourless; then nature had added a certain thickness of pale yellow diamond, followed by a ‘skin’ of smoky amber-coloured diamond.”

Balancing these characteristics, the cutters had to weigh the benefits of producing a larger cut stone against those of optimizing its color and clarity. The cutting process took four years as a team considered various options and carefully planned its strategy with a sense of heavy responsibility. In an article about the diamond’s cutting process published in Smithsonian magazine in May 1988, P. F. Kluge quotes the head of the cutting team, “When I was in Florence, I visited Michelangelo’s David…. A diamond has more value in a rough state than a piece of marble. Marble can be a floor, a table, an ashtray – or a David. Now we have a magnificent piece of diamond, one of the largest ever found, and I have only one shot at it. Michelangelo could find another piece of marble. Michelangelo could have another shot.”

Ultimately, they opted to transform the rough into 15 finished stones. The largest of the resulting diamonds, known as the “Incomparable,” tipped the scales at 407.48 carats and was graded by the GIA as Internally Flawless, Fancy Deep Brownish Yellow. The shield-shaped step cut, with its unusually shaped facets and small table preserved much of the shape and bulk of the original rough. It was the largest internally flawless or flawless diamond ever graded by the laboratory.

The Incomparable soon became a star attraction at museums around the world. In 1997 it featured in The Nature of Diamonds at the American Museum of Natural History in New York together with famous diamonds such as the Eureka, the Krupp, and the Tiffany Yellow as well as historical treasures including the Imperial Crown of Peter the Great and Empress Eugénie of France’s diamond current-leaf corsage. Four years later, the Incomparable appeared in the exhibit Diamants at the Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris alongside the Sancy diamonds, the Star of South Africa, and jewels from the royal collections of many nations. The Incomparable was also included in an exhibition that toured The Royal Ontario Museum and the Houston Museum of Science in 2008. 

In recent years, the decision was made to recut the Incomparable to improve its color and shape. The result, the Golden Canary, remains impressive in size and now boasts a brighter hue and more elegant profile. The laboratory’s appendix letter explains, “The re-cut of the Incomparable to the current 303.10-carat pear modified brilliant is to look at the diamond as new; a re-creation bringing to bear the advances in technology, computer modeling and visual evaluation available today. Everything from the orientation of the stone, to its shape and cutting style, has been considered. As a modified brilliant, the color appearance now displays active twinkling yellow spots of light against a golden background. Indeed, today there are members of the trade who use the vernacular term “golden” when referring to this overall appearance.” 

At 303.10 carats, the Golden Canary remains the largest internally flawless diamond in the world. As it rightfully claims its spot in the pantheon of exceptional diamonds, Sotheby’s is honored to help write the next chapter for this incomparable, reborn gem.