Largest diamond ever auctioned sold for record $46 million

Le Grand Mazarin (above) was once set in the crowns of numerous French royalty.
Le Grand Mazarin (above) was once set in the crowns of numerous French royalty.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE, REUTERS

GENEVA • The largest diamond ever offered at auction went under the hammer in Geneva on Tuesday evening for 33.5 million Swiss francs (S$46 million), a world record for a gem of its kind, the Christie's auction house said.

The 163.41-carat flawless D colour diamond, suspended from an emerald and diamond necklace called The Art of de Grisogono, was sold at Christie's autumn jewel auction.

The price, after taxes and commissions, marks a world record for a D colour diamond at auction, said Mr Rahul Kadakia, auctioneer and head of Christie's international jewels division.

D is the highest colour grade attributed to a diamond, indicating the stone is completely colourless and thus extremely rare.

With a drawn-out round of rapid-fire bidding starting at 20 million francs, the necklace was finally sold to a telephone bidder, who wished to remain anonymous, for well above the asking price of 25 million francs.

But some had expected The Art of de Grisogono, which Christie's described as a "masterpiece of unparalleled beauty and exquisite workmanship", to fetch even more.

"I am disappointed that The Art of de Grisogono didn't sell for a more dazzling price," said Mr Tobias Kormind, head of 77 Diamonds, a large European online diamond jeweller, who had said before the sale he thought the price might top US$50 million (S$68 million).

The Art of de Grisogono necklace (above) with its 163.41-carat flawless D colour diamond.

The flawless, D colour 11A type diamond was cut from a 404-carat rough rock that was discovered in February last year in the Lulo mine in Angola - the 27th biggest rough white diamond ever discovered.

The rough was analysed in Antwerp and cut in New York, where a team of 10 diamond-cutting specialists were involved in mapping, plotting, cleaving, laser-cutting and polishing the giant rough rock into a polished, flawless diamond.

A team from Swiss luxury jeweller de Grisogono then created 50 different designs around the 163.41-carat diamond, before opting for an asymmetric necklace with the stone as its centrepiece.

One side of the necklace is made up of 18 emerald-cut diamonds and the other side composed of two rows of pear-shaped emeralds.

Another highlight of Tuesday's auction, a large pink diamond once set in the crowns of numerous French kings and emperors, including Napoleon, meanwhile sold for far more than the US$6 million-to-US$9 million estimate.

It was sold, again to an unidentified telephone bidder, for 14.4 million francs, after taxes and commissions.

The gem was named after Cardinal Mazarin, an Italian cardinal and diplomat, as well as a great art collector, who served as chief minister under Louis XIII and Louis XIV, and who bequeathed it and other diamonds to the Sun King in his will.

The pink stone, originally dug out of the ancient mines of Golconda in south-central India, sparkled on the crowns of Louis XV and Louis XVI, who was guillotined during the French Revolution.

It also graced the crown of Napoleon I, Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie, among others.

It has since passed through the hands of famous French jeweller Frederic Boucheron and later the Baron von Derwies.

Christie's said the seller was a private collector, but did not reveal the identity.

Tuesday's sale was the first time the diamond appeared at auction in 130 years.

It has been auctioned once before: It was among the French Crown Jewels sold in 1887 - 17 years after France's Second Empire collapsed and Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie sought exile in England, leaving their jewels behind.

Christie's jewel auction, which raked in sales totalling 105.4 million Swiss francs, will be followed today by a similar auction at Sotheby's.

The highlight of that show, also in Geneva, will be The Raj Pink, the world's largest known fancy intense pink diamond, which Sotheby's is aiming to sell for US$20 million to US$30 million.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2017, with the headline 'Largest diamond ever auctioned sold for record $46 million'. Subscribe