A Colossal Yellow Diamond Comes to Christie’s Auction

This record-breaking diamond was discovered in the frozen Arctic tundra.

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In the Diavik mine, 200 kilometers south of the remote and barren Arctic Circle at the bottom of Lac de Gras in Canada’s Northwest Territories where the temperatures drop to negative 50 degrees Celsius, one of the most extraordinary diamonds ever was recovered. In fact, the 552.74 carat yellow rough diamond ranks the largest of its kind ever discovered in North America. 

Just locating the stone proved miraculous; the Diavik Diamond Mine, which opened in 2003 and is managed by Rio Tinto and is jointly owned by Rio Tinto and Dominion Diamond Mines, operates in one of the world’s most challenging yet pristine environments surrounded by delicate ecosystems. The mine uses state of the art technology and partners with the Indigenous people protect the environment and minimize its impact on the land, water, and wildlife.

The Canadian mine is one of the world’s most exciting sources for exceptional quality white diamonds, and occasionally yellow diamonds as well (on average, it uncovers five per year).

Some of the most memorable stones to come from Diavik include the Firefox, a 187.63 carat top-quality rough diamond found in 2015, which at the time was the largest known gem quality rough ever mined in North America. It was cut into several stones, including a pair of pear-shaped diamonds of 37.87 and 36.80 carats, auctioned at Christie’s New York in December 2018 for $1.5 million. Last November, Diavik revealed another exceptional diamond: the Diavik Helios, a 74.48 carat fancy yellow diamond.

When a particular massive 552.74 carat yellow diamond boasting a historically uniform rich color and clarity was uncovered in 2018, it made headline news. And finally, after two years of the rough stone passing through the hands of expert diamond cutters and polishers, the mammoth yellow diamond is being unveiled at Christie’s Magnificent Jewels New York sale on June 8th in the form of seven memorable gems including The Dancing Sun, a 204.36 carat fancy intense yellow modified cushion cut diamond. Though the pre-sale estimate is $3.5 to $5.5 million, if past sales are any indication, the stone could fetch much more.

The current record for a yellow diamond sold at auction is the Graff Vivid Yellow, a 100.09 carat vivid yellow diamond, which set an auction record when it sold for $16.3 million at Sotheby’s Geneva in May 2014.

Arguably the world’s most famous yellow diamond is the Tiffany Yellow Diamond, 287 carat rough unearthed in South Africa’s Kimberly mine in 1878 and acquired by Charles Lewis Tiffany for $18,000 the following year. Tiffany & Co.’s chief gemologist, George Frederick Kunz, supervised the cutting of the diamond into a cushion shape brilliant weighing 128.54 carats. It was such a beautiful freak of nature that Tiffany featured the sunburst yellow diamond in the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the 1939–40 World’s Fair in New York City, and it’s been on display numerous times in Tiffany’s flagship store. It was worn only twice, once by Audrey Hepburn and by Lady Gaga on the red carpet at the 2019 Oscars. It’s never been for sale.

This Tiffany diamond underscores the rarity and fascination with large yellow diamonds, and further illustrates why they command top dollar.