Sotheby’s Sells Record $141 Million in Jewelry Auction

Sotheby’s set a record for the biggest jewelry auction, raising $141 million in Geneva as a 100-carat Graff diamond ring was reoffered after a first round of bidding failed to reach a high enough price.

A buyer confused about currency conversions asked that bidding restart after the daffodil-yellow diamond was pulled from the sale late last night, said Catherine Allen, a spokeswoman for the auction house. The ring then sold for a hammer price of 12.8 million Swiss francs ($14.4 million), missing the low estimate of 13.4 million francs.

“Fancy color diamonds are more volatile and risky from a value standpoint, but also have greater opportunity for significant returns” compared with the broader diamond market, said Vashi Dominguez, a London-based online gem dealer. “Within fancy color diamonds, generally pink commands the highest prices, followed by blue, and yellow is on the other side of the spectrum.”

The auction allowed Sotheby’s to reclaim the record for a jewelry auction from Christie’s International. Sotheby’s renounced a previous claim to the top sale after Isaac Wolf, a bidder in a $199.5-million jewelry auction in November, couldn’t pay the $83 million he bid for a pink diamond.

The previous record Christie’s had set was $137.2 million in December 2011 with the auction of a collection that had been owned by Elizabeth Taylor.

‘Magical Number’

The transaction that almost failed yesterday was the most ever paid for a yellow diamond in auction.

“100 carats is a magical number when it comes to diamonds,” David Bennett, head of jewelry for Sotheby’s in Europe and the Middle East, said in a statement.

The event also set per-carat records for fancy pink diamonds and round colorless diamonds, as gems of those colors were sold for $7.3 million and $6.2 million respectively, including the buyer’s premium.

The Geneva spring auction season will climax today as Christie’s is scheduled to sell The Blue, the largest flawless vivid blue diamond in the world. The estimate is $21 million to $25 million. Sotheby’s will also put 300 watches on the block, including a collection of Rolex Submariners, in a sale it estimates may raise 7 million Swiss francs.

The yellow Graff gem features on a list of the world’s largest cut diamonds in the book “Famous Diamonds” by Ian Balfour. Including the buyer’s premium, the price was 14.5 million francs.

A 1927 Patek Philippe watch made for collector Henry Graves Jr. sold for 1.2 million Swiss francs at Christie’s two days ago as the auction house sold 23.8 million francs of timepieces. A Rolex customized for the Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said al-Said, fetched 485,000 francs.

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