Fabulous diamonds fetch fabulous prices

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vivid yellow diamond
The Vivid Yellow" diamond. Photo: Christie's Images

By M.S Shah Jahan

America is down. Europe is in chaos. Middle East is tormented. China is slow. So who pays such fabulous prices for fabulous diamonds? That is the question.

For diamonds, the first association with weddings comes from an account of a Hapsburg emperor giving a diamond engagement ring to his wife in 1477. During the Black Death, English aristocrats wore diamonds believing they could keep the disease at bay. The Persians thought that diamonds were made by the devil and considered them cursed.

Diamonds were worn only by men in Roman empire. Soldiers believed they were the hardened tears of the gods and wore them around their neck in battle to bring courage.

A diamond-encrusted saucepan costing 130,000 was offered for sale at Moscow’s Millionaire Fair last year. Actually, it cannot be used for cooking.

On 15 November, a much-talked-about 110.03 carats pear shaped fancy vivid yellow diamond, called the Sun-Drop was sold to an anonymous buyer for 11.3 million Swiss Francs – US$ 12.4 million, setting a world record price for a yellow diamond at Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels Auction in Geneva.

This stone, discovered in South Africa in 2010, is the largest pear-shaped fancy vivid yellow diamond in the world. Gemologists have certified that the pear-shaped jewel as ‘Fancy Vivid Yellow is the rarest and most desirable colour for a yellow diamond and the highest colour grade for a yellow issued by the GIA.

The VVS1-clarity Sun-Drop was cut and polished by Cora International of New York, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of the largest and some of the rarest diamonds. They are proud in saying that their skilled craftsmen have years of experience in cutting and polishing rough diamonds into beautiful brilliant stones, while extracting the exquisite colour out of natural fancy coloured diamonds.

The cry at the auction hall is unfamiliar – 11.3 million francs. Sold,” said Sotheby’s David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby’s jewelry department in Europe and the Middle East and co-chairman of Sotheby’s Switzerland, before a crowd of 150 people gathered for the sale at a luxurious Geneva hotel. The sale price was slightly less than the estimations of experts who had valued the yellow diamond at between US$11 and 15 million.

We are thrilled with the price achieved by this spectacular daffodil yellow diamond. It is one of the most impressive I have had the pleasure of selling, said David Bennett in a statement.

The Sun-Drop Diamond has immense presence and is truly stunning. Today’s strong sell though rates are a reflection of the continued strength and resilience of the international jewellery market” he said.

And that wasn’t the only record set at the Geneva auction. A very fine 12.01 carat Muzo Emerald ring was sold for US$1.4 million, a world record price per carat for an emerald, more than double its estimate. The buyer remained anonymous.

Strikingly, the previous record for a yellow diamond was set last month by ‘Vivid Yellow’, a pear-shaped fancy vivid 32.77 ct. yellow diamond that sold for US$ 6.5 million at Christie’s auction in October.

Sotheby’s Geneva has a successful history of selling exceptional diamonds, notably auctioning a fancy intense rectangular pink diamond of 24.78 carats studded in a ring for $46.1 million on 17th November 2010, which established a new world auction record for a diamond and any jewel.

Four bidders competed for the pink diamond, which was last sold 60 years ago by the famous New York jeweler Harry Winston. “It is a world record price for a jewel at auction, said David Bennett, as he brought down the hammer to receive an applause in the room packed with diamond buyers and enthusiasts. The buyer was Laurence Graff of London immediately named the pink diamond as “The Graff Pink Diamond”. The seller chose to remain anonymous.

Graff said that he had bought the gem for himself’. “It is the most fabulous diamond I’ve seen in the history of my career and I’m delighted to have bought it,” he said. He paid nearly double the previous record price, paid by himself for the 17th century stone the ‘Wittelsbach’ blue diamond three years ago.

The pink diamond is among less than two per cent of the world’s diamonds categorised as potentially flawless because it needs re-polishing. The stone’s rare, perfect pink colour is thought to have been caused by its absorbing light in an unusual way when it was formed deep inside earth over millions of years ago. It is set between shield-shaped diamond shoulders on a silver ring.

In Marilyn Monroe’s 1953 film ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’, while singing Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend, she stops to deliver the line: “Talk to me Harry Winston, tell me all about it.”

In February 2010, Chow Tai Fook jewellry of Hong Kong bought 507 carats rare and perfect with top-IIA 507 South African rough diamond known as The Cullinan Heritage, for US$35.3 million.

This egg sized 507 carats rough diamond, ranked one of the 20 biggest, high quality diamonds to have been found, was mined by Petra Diamonds Ltd along with three other large stones: 168 carat, 58 carats and another of 53 carats, on 24 September 2009 in the famous Cullinan mine, northeast of Pretoria, where the largest diamond in history named Cullinan diamond of 3,106 carats was found more than 100 years ago. It was cut into nine separate stones and many are in the British Crown Jewels today.

“The Cullinan mine has again given the world a spectacularly beautiful and important diamond,” said Petra’s chief executive Johan Dippenaar. A 480 carat diamond found at the end of 2008 fetched $18m.

Dr Cheng Yu-Tung,chairman Chow Tai Fook group and Hong Kong billionaire, said: Such high quality diamonds are rare in the world. Chow Tai Fook jewellery has repeatedly successfully purchased world-class gems, in addition to relying on the abundant strength derived from a constant strive for perfection and enthusiasm to provide customers with high quality products.

Chow Tai Fook jewellery with 80 years history has stores in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia and there are more than 1,000 chain stores, and further expansion goals to 2020 will have 2,000 branches. At present, Chow Tai Fook jewellery sales amounted to US $ 4 billion a year, employing staff by more than 30,000.

ELIZABETH TAYLOR DIAMONDS

The next glamorous event will be the auction of Cleopatra’s jewellery on 13 and 14 December in New York by Christie’s. Elizabeth Taylor’s passion for jewelry was well-known, but it is her in-depth knowledge about fine jewellery that truly impresses everyone, Franois Curiel, international jeweller and President of Christie’s Asia, said in a statement.

The highlights of the items will be the 33-carat D-flawless Krupp Diamond, a pearl that once belonged to the Spanish crown, and three diamond rings won in a game of ping pong with her husband Richard Burton. The first part of the two-day sale, involving 80 of Taylor’s jewels, will take place on the evening of 13 Dec. The auction house will sell 189 additional jewels on 14 Dec. For the first time, part of the second day’s auction will be available for online bidders.

From the first time I met her in 1998, it was clear that she possessed an expert’s eye for craftsmanship, rarity, quality and history. I hope that the next owner of each of these iconic pieces will enjoy and respect these jewels just as much as she did, and as she herself said: Give them a really good home, Francois elaborated.

The jewels that will come under the hammer are: The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond of 33.19 carats, D-color, potentially internally flawless, a gift from Richard Burton on May 16, 1968. Estimated worth: $2.5 million to $3.5 million. Taylor wore this ring every day and it was purchased at an auction for $300,000 in 1968 as the Krupp Diamond.

Also, a suite of emerald and diamond jewelry by BVLGARI. Estimated worth: $4 million, a suite of ruby and diamond jewellery by Cartier estimated $600,000 and other gifts from Richard Burton from 1962 to 1967 and other husbands and many more jewels that are expected to bring $30 million on sale will be auctioned. Part of the sale will go for charities.

Cartier’s said the sales will showcase the greatest private collection of jewellery ever assembled in one place.”

No doubt her jewels are as beautiful as she was. Dear reader, don’t you like to beautify your Cleopatra more with Liz’s jewels?

M.S. Shah Jahan, is the CEO of Taipan Trading Company, a Gem and Precious Stone Consultancy Company based in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

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