It was a big night for Sotheby’s in Hong Kong last night, especially when it came to the gems up for grabs. A “magnificent oval diamond” reportedly the size of a small egg was snatched up for a record $30.6 million at a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong on Monday night. A six-minute phone war commenced between two bidders for the record-setting 118-carat white diamond of African origin until one dropped out.
The New York City-based auction house holds two such auctions annually in Hong Kong, which has become one of the liveliest auction hotspots on the planet. “Hong Kong has in the last few years pulled itself up alongside Geneva and New York as one of the three major selling centers (for diamonds) at auction,” said Quek Chin Yeow, deputy chairman of Sotheby’s Asia who specializes in diamonds.
The 118-carat prize was initially valued in the range of $28 million to $35 million, and finally sold for $27.3 million. Including commission, the total price for the stone came to $30.6 million, a new record. The previous record was set by a white diamond that sold for $26.7 million this May at a Christie’s auction in Geneva.
The new record holder was a whopping 299 carats when it was first unearthed, making it the largest of its type according to the Gemological Institute of America. It was found in an unnamed southern African nation and its seller has requested to remain anonymous. A 7.6-carat blue diamond was also up for sale at an eye-popping $19 million, but remained unsold.
These were only two specimens of 330 pieces of jewelry, which raked in a total of $95.4 million, the highest on record for an Asian jewelry sale. As amazing as these figures may seem, the record price for a single precious stone was set in London in 2010 when Laurence Graff of London plopped down $46 million for a pink diamond weighing 24.8 carats.
Graff’s purchase may soon be undercut by a 59.60-carat pink diamond set to go on sale in Geneva this November. Some estimates suggest the gargantuan stone may go for more than $60 million.
On Tuesday, more than 400 Chinese ceramics and artworks will go on sale, with pre-sale predictions for the next wave of bidding exceeding $96 million. These sales figures underscore the reality that even amid an economic slump the über-rich remain largely unaffected. It also illustrates Hong Kong’s prowess in the auction sphere.
“The sale alone proves that we can actually sell major diamonds here in Hong Kong. It's a moving trend,” Yeow said. “The downturn everybody thinks is happening in Asia, or the slowdown… A lot of the collectors are still extremely wealthy individuals.”