Yellow Gem Fetches $12.4 Million; Lennon’s Peace Sign Sells

Yellow Diamond
''The Sun-Drop Diamond,'' a 110.03-carat stone sold at a Sotheby's auction in Geneva on Nov. 15. The diamond has been graded Fancy Vivid Yellow by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg.

A yellow diamond weighing 110.03 carats sold tonight at a Geneva auction for 11.3 million francs ($12.4 million) as collectors competed for high-quality gems.

The stone, named “The Sun-Drop Diamond” and estimated by Sotheby’s at $11 million to $15 million, was bought by a telephone bidder. It was a record auction price for such a color diamond, Sotheby's said.

The rough for the gem, discovered in South Africa in 2010, was cut and polished by Cora International, based in New York. The resulting stone, with a purity of VVS1, ranks as the largest-known pear-shaped fancy vivid yellow diamond in the world, said the auction house.

“There are certain categories of object like rare diamonds that have a supernatural life of their own,” Geoffrey Munn, managing director of the London jewelers Wartski, said before the sale. “These seem to be burning white hot at the moment with so much turmoil in the other markets.”

Buyers remained selective at the auction, which raised a total of 64 million francs. A suite of jewels that had formerly belonged to the rulers of the Ottoman Empire failed to sell against an estimate of $10 million.

Bed-In Placard

Earlier, a placard for John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1969 “Bed-In for Peace” sold for 97,250 pounds ($154,000) in London.

Offered by Christie’s International, the relic of the anti-Vietnam War movement was bought by a telephone bidder. It was valued at 80,000 pounds to 100,000 pounds.

The handwritten rectangle of card, reading “BED PEACE,” was placed on a window directly behind the Beatle and his wife when they spent seven days occupying rooms in the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Montreal, from May 26. Their non-violent protest had begun a week earlier during their honeymoon in the presidential suite of the Amsterdam Hilton.

The placard, signed and dated by the couple, was acquired by a sound engineer who attended the event. He passed it on to a colleague, whose family have been the owners ever since, said London-based Christie’s.

The biannual auction of rock and pop memorabilia also included a recently discovered letter from Paul McCartney inviting an unnamed drummer to an audition. The 1960 missive, found at a car boot sale in Bootle, Liverpool, sold to another telephone bidder for 34,850 pounds against an estimate of 7,000 pounds to 9,000 pounds.

Yesterday in Geneva, Christie’s held an auction of watches that raised 26.2 million Swiss francs ($28.6 million), a 33 percent increase on the equivalent event last November and far in excess of the low estimate of 15 million Swiss francs.

Watch Performance

Watches are one of the stronger performers at auction in 2011 and 96 percent of the 425 lots offered in this biannual sale in Switzerland found buyers.

A 1968 Patek Philippe pink-gold calendar wristwatch with moon phases was the most expensive item, selling for 2.1 million Swiss francs, double its upper estimate.

A James Bond Rolex, valued at 200,000 Swiss francs to 400,000 Swiss francs, was one of the few disappointments.

The 007-customized Rolex Submariner was worn by actor Roger Moore in the 1972 movie “Live and Let Die.” Sold as a film prop rather than a working timepiece, the watch was used for special effects -- as a magnet strong enough to catch bullets and unzip dresses, and a buzz-saw bezel that could cut through chains.

The Rolex failed to attract any bids during the morning session of the auction and was sold afterwards for 219,000 Swiss francs, said Christie’s.

(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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