Get Ready for a Record-Breaking Natural Diamond Auction Season
Why these investment-worthy diamonds have everyone’s attention.By Jill Newman |
What makes a natural diamond worth more than $30 million? A diamond that is incredibly rare and beautiful and a once-in-a-lifetime gem. A perfect example is the Fortune Pink which, at 18.18 carats, is the largest pear-shaped vivid pink diamond to ever come to auction. What’s more, the auspicious carat weight literally translates to definite prosperity in Asia.
The Fortune Pink sold for $28.8 million at Christie’s Magnificent Jewels sale on November 8th in Geneva. Just one look at the deep pink radiant diamond, it’s easy to see why industry experts call it a collector’s stone. It’s in a league of its own.
It’s not the only once-in-a-lifetime diamond to hit the auction block this month: Sotheby’s is offering a 5.53-carat fancy vivid blue diamond in its Geneva sale on November 9 for an estimate of $11 million to $15 million, but it’s likely to sell for much higher. It’s one of the eight fancy blue diamonds that are part of the De Beers Exceptional Blue Collection, which has a combined value upwards of $70 million.
Natural diamonds keep hitting new record highs…and there’s no end in sight. It’s been a record-breaking year for diamond sales, with several stones garnering jaw-dropping prices at Christie’s alone: In June, the auction house sold the Light of Africa, a 103-carat d-flawless stone, for $20 million; in May, it sold The Rock, a 228.31 carat pear-shaped diamond (the largest white diamond to ever come to auction) for $21.9 million, and the Red Cross Diamond, a 205.07-carat fancy intense yellow diamond, went for $14 million.
Why is the desire and excitement around important diamonds so great today?
Those astronomical auction prices are catching people’s attention, especially when it comes to potential sellers who have held on to their jewels and have been waiting for the best time to sell. “There is a lot of attraction in the market for important diamonds,” says Rahul Kadakia, Christie’s International head of Jewelry. “Diamonds have been making great prices at auction from the beginning of year, and there is confidence amongst collectors – both sellers and buyers.”
“Buyers are looking at what’s happening in the market and see gems, like art, as an asset class for investment,” says Kadakia.
Who’s a likely buyer for the Fortune Pink, which is worth more than $30 million? At this level of spending, investment is always part of the buying motivation, says Kadakia. “Yes, we hope it goes to client who will wear and enjoy it, but the investment element is there.”
With global volatility in the stock market and in real estate, among other asset classes, diamonds are increasingly being purchased as part of a diversified portfolio of assets. And it’s a lot easier to move a $30 million diamond than real estate or art.
That’s why Kadakia says we can expect to see even more rare diamonds come to market this year and into next. “Right now, we have two 100-carat plus diamonds coming to auction, and we expect to announce more very important stones coming out between now and the end of the season.”
Not all sellers are strategically waiting for the best time to sell. One woman decided to take a closer look at the diamond that had been tucked away in her sock drawer for decades. When she brought it to Sotheby’s, she was surprised to learn its value.
It turns out the stone, which is a 3.5-carat deep gray diamond that had been in her family for a century, was worth $600,000 to $800,000. It’s being offered at Sotheby’s New York auction in December. Quig Bruning, Sotheby’s senior vice president and the head of Jewelry, predicts it will ultimately sell for higher.
Prices are also being driven by new slightly younger jewelry buyers who are coming into the auction market for the first time, says Bruning. “There are people looking at diamonds and gemstones as storers of wealth and value,” he says.
Some of these newer buyers, he says, are looking for stones and designs that are a little different. Among those is a Hemmerle with a 10-carat fancy gray diamond set on an angle (estimate: $1.5 million to $2 million). “It’s a wildly cool stone and gray diamonds don’t come up frequently.”
Another unusual diamond is a 10-carat pear-shaped old mine cut diamond ring, which Bruning says, “is not a traditional pear-shaped; it’s a little lumpy but it has great character and charm, and the color is amazing.”
Fancy Color Natural Diamonds Still Command Top Dollar
When it comes to headline making stones, nothing beats fancy colored diamonds because they are simply so rare and unusual. The fact is, if a bidder loses out on the De Beers 5.53-carat vivid blue, there won’t ever be another like it again. “It’s a pure rich blue color that really appeals to anybody who cares about blue diamonds,” says Bruning. “Within our department we overuse the term sexy to describe diamonds, but this is a sexy diamond.”
Sotheby’s stellar line-up of fancy-colored diamonds this fall also includes the Golden Canary Diamond, a whopping 303.10-carat pear-shaped fancy deep brownish yellow diamond with an estimate of $15 million to $20 million; a 3.69-carat fancy gray-blue diamond, estimate: $600,000 to $800,000; and a 3.71-carat fancy pink diamond, estimate: $1 million to $1.5 million.
Big White Diamonds on the Rise, and Size Matters
It’s not just fancy color diamonds fetching top dollar at auction. Bonham’s has seen a growing interest (and prices) in large white diamonds, says Caroline Morrissey, director and head of Jewelry in New York. An American collector is offering five sizable white diamond rings at Bonham’s December sale in New York. Those include a 15-carat radiant-shaped diamond; a 9.07-carat Ashoka-shaped diamond; and a 13.70-carat pear-shaped diamond.
Some clients are selling because they don’t wear the jewels anymore, and some are buying with the intention of resetting them in more contemporary and understated styles.
One of Bonham’s standout diamonds is the Tiffany & Co. Soleste ring with a 10.56 carat round brilliant-cut diamond center surrounded by fancy pink and round brilliant-cut diamonds. It’s coming to the auction house’s Hong Kong sale on November 26with an estimate of about $400,000 to $800,000 at present exchange rates.
“The stone really draws you in,” says Morrissey about the Tiffany’s diamond ring. “The play of color is incredible, and it’s set quite low so it’s incredibly wearable despite its size.”
These headline making prices have caught the attention of first-time jewelry investors. Since Covid, more customers are also comfortable making big purchases online. “A new type of customer entered the market, who will buy big stones sight unseen,” Morrissey points out. “People realize the auction is a very transparent process, and they have the confidence to go through the process online.”
Kadakia is also seeing an influx of millennial buyers online. One example is $4.5 million dollar jewel that sold this year in New York to a Singapore buyer online.
With all these multimillion diamonds, will we see buyer fatigue?
With one jaw-dropping rare diamond after another hitting the auctions, might buyers start to think that if they miss out on one, there will be another? According to the industry experts, the fact is that there are a finite number of rare diamonds. There are far more Picasso paintings than vivid blue diamonds in the world.
“The reality is, when you have auction where a stone sells for $50 million plus, people that have no interest in jewelry will suddenly take notice,” says Bruning. “That investor is going to be looking for other opportunities in the market for them to jump in.”