Sotheby’s Sets World Record With $175 Million Jewelry Auction

  • Rare pear-shaped 15.38-carat pink diamond sold for $32 million
  • Sotheby’s sells 83% of lots after weaker timepiece auction

A model shows the 'Unique Pink' a rare and exceptional Fancy Vivid Pink diamond weighing 15.38 carats during a press preview by Sotheby's auction house on May 9, 2016 in Geneva. Photographer: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Sotheby’s beat its own world record for a jewelry sale, amassing $175 million at an evening auction of precious stones in Geneva where a pink diamond was sold for $32 million.

The Unique Pink, a 15.38-carat pear-shaped diamond, was estimated to be worth as much as $38 million. The stone was put up for sale by Ehud Laniado, who also sold the Blue Moon of Josephine, which was the most expensive polished diamond sold in auction when purchased in November 2015 for almost $50 million.

“We’re slowly seeing a market for diamonds going beyond jewelry and becoming an asset,” Laniado said in a phone interview. “I think that tendency will move to the big white stones as well.”

The auction market has been choppy, as 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. Sotheby’s only managed to sell 53 percent of the lots in a Geneva watch sale that raised $4 million on May 14.

The Unique Pink diamond went to a phone bidder from Asia who wants to remain anonymous.

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, as a stronger dollar and collapse in oil income for buyers in Russia and the Middle East outweighed record purchases in the U.S. The world’s biggest and rarest diamonds tend to be more resilient to a slump in prices.

Sotheby’s set its previous record for a jewelry auction last year, when it raised $161 million.

— With assistance by Thomas Biesheuvel

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