- Oppenheimer Blue surpasses Blue Moon as most expensive gem
- Private collector wins jewel after 25-minute bidding war
A blue diamond set a record price for any jewel in auction when it went under the hammer for $58 million in a Christie’s sale in Geneva.
The Oppenheimer Blue, at 14.62 carats, was estimated to be worth as much as $46 million. The stone now belongs to a private collector after a 25-minute battle between bidders on three continents, Christie’s said late Wednesday after the sale. The gem is named after its previous owner, Sir Philip Oppenheimer, whose family controlled De Beers for 80 years before selling out.
Blue diamonds are the rarest in the world. The previous record was set by Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau, who paid almost $50 million for a 12.03-carat, fancy blue diamond called “Blue Moon” at Sotheby’s last year. The world’s biggest and scarcest diamonds have been resilient to the recent slump in prices.
“Diamonds have never been this sexy,” Tobias Kormind, managing director at online jewelry designer 77Diamonds.com said in a statement.
The auction market for gems has been stronger than for art lately. Last week’s bellwether Impressionist, modern, postwar and contemporary art auctions at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips in New York raised 50 percent less than last year. The sale of the Oppenheimer Blue follows a record-breaking $175 million jewelry auction by Sotheby’s in Geneva Tuesday.
Prices for rough diamonds -- what mined gems are called before they’re cut and polished -- slumped 18 percent last year, the most since the financial crisis in 2008.
The blue comes from boron trapped within the lump of compressed carbon.