Best of Birthstones: The Most Decadent Diamonds

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Billions of years in the making, diamonds are one of nature’s most wondrous and precious gifts. After being formed in the earth under immense pressure and heat, precise cutting and polishing bring out their incomparable beauty. While one could feast her eyes on beautiful diamonds at virtually any jewelry store, only the most perfect ones – think 100-plus carats and incredibly rare colors – reach stratospheric prices at auction. To pay tribute to April's birthstone, we take a look at some of the breathtaking diamonds that have come to Sotheby’s, including the CTF Pink Star, which set a world auction record for any diamond or jewel. –Stephanie Sporn

Best of Birthstones: The Most Decadent Diamonds

  • A spectacular 88.22-carat oval brilliant diamond. Estimate HK$88,000,000–100,000,000 ($11,200,000–12,700,000). To be offered on 2 April at Sotheby's Hong Kong.
    A notable 88.22 carat, D color, flawless, type IIa diamond will take center stage in the upcoming Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite auction in Hong Kong. This is one of only three oval diamonds of over 50 carats to appear at auction in living memory, and it is the largest to be auctioned in over five years.
  • 102.34-carat round brilliant-cut D color, flawless diamond. Sold privately at Sotheby’s Diamonds.
    Earlier this year, Sotheby’s Diamonds unveiled an extraordinarily rare 102.34-carat white diamond. The only known round brilliant-cut diamond over 100 carats that is perfect according to every critical criterion, the stone has now found a buyer. While the identity of the new owner cannot be revealed, the price far exceeded the current record price per carat, set at Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction
  • The Farnese Blue. Sold for CHF6,719,750 ($6,713,837).
    One of the foremost historic diamonds, The Farnese Blue appeared on the market for the first time in history last spring, after having remained in the same family for over three centuries. The 6.16-carat pear shaped blue diamond was given to Elisabeth Farnese, Queen of Spain (1692-1766) and has subsequently passed down through four of the most important royal families in Europe: Spain, France, Italy and Austria. It was kept secretly in a royal casket, and excepting close relatives and the family jewelers, no one knew of its existence. 
  • The CTF Pink Star. Sold for HK$553,037,500 ($71,200,000).
    On 4 April 2017 in Hong Kong, Sotheby’s set a new auction record for any diamond or jewel when The Pink Star, a 59.60-carat oval fancy vivid pink internally flawless diamond – the largest Internally Flawless, Fancy Vivid Pink diamond that the GIA has ever graded – sold to renowned jeweler Chow Tai Fook, who has renamed the stone the CTF Pink Star. Not only was the price more than double the previous record for a fancy vivid pink diamond, but it was also a new record for any work ever sold at auction in Asia. 

  • The Lady Dalal. Sold for CHF11,282,500 ($12,361,558).
    Polished diamonds over 100 carats of any color, weak or strong, are rare, which makes this 110.03-carat yellow diamond all the more impressive. The Sun-Drop, the largest known fancy vivid yellow pear-shaped diamond, was unveiled to the world at London’s Natural History Museum where it was exhibited in the famous Vault Gallery in 2011. After being sold at Sotheby’s Geneva the same year, it was renamed The Lady Dalal.

  • The Memory of Autumn Leaves & The Dream of Autumn Leaves. Exceptional fancy vivid blue diamond. Sold for CHF41,862,500 ($42,087,302). Important fancy intense pink diamond. Sold for CHF15,256,250 ($15,338,176).
    In May 2017, Sotheby’s presented the ultimate in colored diamonds: Apollo and Artemis, since renamed to The Memory of Autumn Leaves and The Dream of Autumn Leaves, comprised of a blue diamond weighing 14.54 carats, internally flawless, type IIb, and a pink diamond weighing 16.00 carats, VVS2 clarity, type IIa. The stones were mounted as a spectacular pair of earrings, offered separately, on account of their extreme rarity, power and presence. Selling together for CHF57,118,750 ($57,425,478), they became the most valuable earrings ever sold at auction. 

  • De Beers Millennium Jewel 4. Sold for HK$248,280,000 ($32,013,223).
    To celebrate the Millennium in 2000, De Beers, together with The Steinmetz Group, showcased an exceptional collection of eleven important blue diamonds, the De Beers Millennium Jewels, in a specially designed exhibit at London’s Millennium Dome. Offered for sale from an Asian private collection, this rare and internally flawless 10.10-carat blue diamond is the largest oval-shaped fancy vivid blue diamond ever to appear at auction and was the most expensive diamond ever sold in Hong Kong before the CTF Pink Star in April 2017.

  • The Unique Pink. Sold for CHF30,826,000 ($31,561,200).
    Weighing 15.38 carats, the “Unique Pink” is a Type IIa brilliant cut diamond with unparallelled saturation. Until this April, when Sotheby’s Hong Kong sold the CTF Pink Star, the largest fancy vivid pink diamond ever offered at auction for a record-setting price, the Unique Pink held the world auction record for any fancy vivid pink diamond. It also contributed to the May 2016 Geneva sale of Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale becoming the new world record for any jewelry auction.

  • A spectacular emerald-cut diamond. Sold for $22,090,000.
    Only six perfect diamonds weighing over 100 carats have sold at auction in the last 25 years. Sotheby’s sold five of those spectacular stones at sales in Geneva, Hong Kong, and New York, where in April 2015, this jaw-dropping 100.20-carat, type IIa diamond was offered. The classic, emerald-cut diamond's D color and internally flawless clarity are exceptionally rare at this scale. 

  • Diamond ring. Sold for CHF9,260,000 (9,251,851).
    Two highlights from Sotheby’s May 2018 Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale in Geneva were a pair of highly impressive white diamonds, each weighing over 50 carats. Both of the diamonds have Flawless clarity, are D-Color – the most coveted hue for white diamonds – and belong to the highly rarefied sub-category of Type IIa diamonds, which make up just 2% of gem diamonds and boast the highest optical transparency. The first was this 51.71-carat round, brilliant cut diamond

  • Diamond ring. Sold for CHF8,131,000 (8,123,845).
    The second 50-plus carat diamond from Sotheby’s May 2018 Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels auction was similarly perfect – it weighs 50.39 carats but is oval. Together, the two diamonds were both the second largest D Flawless diamond of their shape ever to have come to auction. 
  • The Graff Pink. Sold for CHF45,442,500 ($46,158,674).
    Type IIa pink diamonds are very rare in nature, but this fancy intense pink round-cornered rectangular step-cut diamond weighing 24.78 carats, set between shield-shaped diamond shoulders, is a perfect, pure pink color, which has been graded “fancy intense pink” by the GIA with no secondary color modifier. Adding to this diamond’s exquisite nature is its classic emerald cut – a style most associated with white diamonds – that is immensely sought-after in rare colors. According to the consignor, the stone had not appeared on the open market since it was first purchased some 65 years ago from Harry Winston himself. In 2010, Laurence Graff bought the diamond and renamed it The Graff Pink.

  • Magnificent oval diamond 118.28 carat, D color, flawless, type IIA. Sold for HK$238,680,000 ($30,782,560).
    Unearthed in 2011 from the deep mines in Southern Africa, the 299-carat rough of this oval diamond is one of the largest and most beautiful diamond roughs found in recent years. Carefully and meticulously worked over months, the unrefined stone was transformed into a mesmerising 118.28-carat unmounted, brilliant-cut diamond. When sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2013, it became the world record for any white diamond at auction, as well as the biggest diamond ever sold at auction.

  • The Blue Moon of Josephine. Sold for CHF48,634,000 ($48,468,158).
    Smashing all records, the Blue Moon Diamond, renamed The Blue Moon of Josephine, sold in November 2015 at Sotheby’s Geneva for over $4 million per carat – the world auction price-per-carat record for a diamond or gemstone. “After seeing the stone’s color and understanding its significance, it was fitting to name it the Blue Moon Diamond,” noted Suzette Gomes, CEO of Cora International. “Not only its shape is reminiscent of a full moon," she said of the cushion-shaped fancy vivid blue 12.03-carat diamond, “but the metaphor for the expression is exactly what one could say about the occurrence and existence of such a gemstone.”

  • Superb and highly important fancy vivid purple-pink diamond and diamond ring, mounted by Sotheby's Diamonds. Sold for HK$137,880,000 ($17,778,247).
    This ring centres an 8.41-carat, pear-shaped, type IIa pink diamond, shown here, which is prized not only for its sweet, intensely saturated hue, but also for its internally flawless clarity. With a stylised mount pavé-set throughout with circular-cut diamonds, this jewel sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2014.

  • The Beau Sancy. Sold for CHF9,042,500 ($9,678,188).
    Before this 34.98-carat modified pear double rose-cut diamond sold at Sotheby’s Geneva in 2012, its first royal owner was Marie de Medici, the wealthiest heiress in Europe, who in 1600 married Henri IV, considered the greatest king ever to rule France. The fact that the Beau Sancy was first worn by Marie de Medici in 1610 as the principle stone and centrepiece of her coronation crown indicates very clearly the importance of the diamond at this time as the supreme emblem of Royalty. Cut and polished towards the end of the 16th century, the Beau Sancy also exhibits the first attempts to liberate the “fire” inherent in the stone – a property of diamond so admired today. 

  • The Zoe Diamond. Sold for $32,645,000.
    In the November 2014 sale of the Collection of Mrs Paul Mellon, collectors eagerly vied for jewelry and objects of vertu that evoked her celebrated style. After 20 minutes of competitive bidding, Mrs Mellon’s magnificent and rare 9.75-carat fancy vivid blue diamond pendant sold for more than double its high estimate, driving the 98%-sold auction total to $218 million. It was renamed The Zoe Diamond.

  • Magnificent diamond. Sold for CHF12,597,000 ($14,201,354).
    Introduced at the beginning of the 20th century, the modern cushion-cut derives from ancient cushion-cut diamonds, sometimes referred to as “old mine” cuts. This magnificent 70.33-carat cushion brilliant diamond has not only received the highest color and clarity grade from the GIA for white diamonds – D color and flawless clarity – but it also is a type IIa diamond.

  • The Graff Vivid Yellow. Sold for CHF14,501,000 ($16,347,847).
    Of exceptional beauty and extraordinary fire, this brilliant gem is one of the largest fancy vivid yellow diamonds in the world. It is listed in Ian Balfour’s book Famous Diamonds as one of the few rare yellow diamonds greater than 100 carats. The 100.09-carat brilliant fancy vivid yellow diamond, which can also be detached and worn as a pendant, was sold at Sotheby’s Geneva in 2014.

  • 'The Historic Pink' magnificent fancy vivid pink diamond ring. Sold for CHF14,810,000 ($15,903,422).
    This exceptional vivid pink Type IIa diamond, formerly in the collection of American heiress Huguette Clark, was mounted as a ring by Dreicer. Set with a cushion brilliant-cut fancy vivid pink diamond weighing 8.72 carats, this ring sold most recently in 2014 at Sotheby’s Geneva.  

  • Exceptional pear-shaped diamond. Sold for $14,165,000.
    At 74.79 carats, this unmounted type IIa diamond has it all: D color, VVS1 clarity, and it is potentially internally flawless.  

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