May 18 (Bloomberg) -- A pink diamond the size of a SIM card sold last night in Switzerland for 9.6 million francs ($10.9 million) as collectors continued to battle for rare gems.
The price paid by a telephone bidder was the third highest for a pink diamond at auction, said Sotheby’s. The privately owned diamond, not seen on the market for more than 30 years, was estimated to fetch as much as 14.8 million francs at hammer prices, the most highly valued of 491 items being offered by Sotheby’s in its biannual jewel auction in Geneva.
“It’s difficult to predict what big stones will make,” Sam Taub, director of the Antwerp wholesalers CLS Diamonds, said in an interview. “Each bidder has a different personal reason for wanting to buy. At this level, diamonds aren’t a commodity market.”
Diamonds are selling for higher figures than those achieved before the financial crisis. Rare colored stones continue to command one-off prices. Gems lighter than 4 carats, and some collectors’ items, are now about 10 percent more expensive than they were three years ago, Taub said. Values of smaller white stones have been pushed up by speculative trade buying in India, he said.
The emerald-cut “fancy intense pink” stone sold tonight weighed 10.99 carats and was mounted on a platinum ring.
Earlier in the evening, an emerald and diamond tiara sold for 11.3 million francs, an auction record for this particular type of jewelry. The winning bid was taken on the telephone by Lisa Hubbard, Sotheby’s New York-based chairman of jewelry, against competition from five other bidders, said Sotheby’s.
The tiara had been estimated to sell for between 4.6 million francs and 9.2 million francs.
The bejeweled headdress had been commissioned in about 1900, possibly from the jeweler Chaumet, by the Prussian mining magnate Guido Count von Henckel, First Prince von Donnersmarck, for his Russian second wife Princess Katharina. The tiara featured 11 Colombian pear-shaped emerald drops weighing more than 500 carats in total, said Sotheby’s.
The tiara beat the HK$48.5 million ($6.2 million) paid for that containing the Shizuka Diamond (101.27 carats) at Christie’s International, Hong Kong, in May 2008.
Yesterday’s sale totaled 78.9 million francs including fees, beating a hammer-price estimate of 42 million francs. Sotheby’s sold 90 percent of the lots.
At Sotheby’s equivalent sale in Geneva in November, London dealer Laurence Graff paid 45.4 million francs, a record for any gem at auction, for a 24.78-carat “fancy intense pink.”
“That wasn’t a diamond price,” Taub said, referring to the Graff stone. “It was a collectors’ item.”
(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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