Swatch’s Harry Winston Buys Diamond for $26.7 Million

Harry Winston, the watch and jewelry brand that Swatch Group AG acquired this year, yesterday paid a record $26.7 million for a colorless diamond in Geneva.

The pear-shaped 101.73-carat stone, the largest flawless, colorless diamond to appear at auction, beat a minimum estimate of more than 19 million Swiss francs at hammer prices in the Christie’s International Geneva event last night. Its formal dollar price paid by the watch company, made available by the auction house shortly after the sale, included a final buyer’s premium and is the highest price paid for a colorless diamond.

“This stone is the highest quality and it still will be in 40 years’ time,” Kieran McCarthy, director of the London-based jeweler Wartski, said in an interview before the sale.

Demand for the rarest diamonds as an alternative asset and portable store of value has pushed up prices in recent years. The D-color stone, bought at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, was the biggest diamond of this optimum grade seen at auction. It was sold by a client who wishes to remain anonymous.

This was the first time the gem had appeared for sale and the corporate buyer is naming it the “Winston Legacy,” London-based Christie’s said. The stone was cut from a rough diamond, weighing 236 carats, that was found at the Jwaneng mine in Botswana. It took 21 months to polish, said Christie’s.

The Jwaneng (meaning “place of small stones”) open pit diamond mine, the world’s richest by value, is jointly owned by De Beers and the government of Botswana.

Diamond Investment

“Since the recession, buyers of diamonds have become even more investment-conscious,” McCarthy said. “They are translating cash into stores of wealth.”

At the top end of the market, D-color or “white” stones are regarded as less desirable than their even rarer colored equivalents.

Before this sale, the record auction price for a colorless stone was the 20.4 million Swiss francs ($21.5 million at the time) with fees paid for the 76.02-carat Archduke Joseph Diamond at Christie’s in November 2012.

The record price for any gem at auction is the 45.4 million francs ($45.6 million) paid by the London dealer Laurence Graff for a 24.78-carat emerald-cut “Fancy Intense Pink” at Sotheby’s, Geneva, in November 2010.

The largest colorless diamond known is a 530.20-carat stone that is part of the British crown jewels.

In other Geneva auctions this week, Sotheby’s sold jewelry owned by Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida for nearly $5 million, double its estimate. Christies sold a 1942 Rolex for $1.16 million, a record auction price for a wristwatch by the Swiss maker.

Christie’s also sold a 23.43 carat Gerard diamond ring for $3.6 million last night, and the Star of Kashmir, a sapphire and diamond ring, for $3.5 million. A pearl, diamond and emerald necklace sold for $8.5 million. A Graff flawless diamond ring sold for $4.5 million.

Muse highlights include Farah Nayeri on film, Amanda Gordon’s Scene Last Night, Jason Harper on cars and Rich Jaroslovsky on technology.

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