“It is a truly exceptional pear-shaped diamond” and “it is perfectly symmetrical,” Max Fawcett, head of the jewelry department at Christie’s in Geneva, told AFP a few days before the sale. According to the expert, there is only a “handful” of diamonds of this ilk.
He had to make sparks. But “The Rock”, a white diamond of 228.31 carats, the largest ever sold at auction, was sold on Thursday for 17.8 million euros, less than its estimate and far from a record in its category.
Auctioneer Rahul Kadakia, international director of the jewelery department at Christie’s, lowered his hammer to CHF 18.6 million (€17.8 million) after just a few minutes of bidding, to applause despite everything, in a packed room of a Geneva palace.
The hammer price does not include the buyer’s premium (commission) which Christie’s was yet to disclose later. It was estimated between 20 and 30 million dollars (between 19 and 28.4 million euros).
With 228.31 carats, the gemstone, whose seller is from North America but who remains anonymous, had everything to seduce gemstone enthusiasts and investors.
A golf ball
The latest record for a similar white diamond (163.41 carats) brought the stone to $33.7 million (price including buyer’s premium) – or $206,236 per carat, at a sale in November 2017 in Geneva. According to Christies, this was a record for all auction houses combined.
“The Rock” measures 3.1 cm wide by 5.4 cm long, is taller than a golf ball, and also weighs, at 61.3 grams, more than a tennis ball. Extracted from a mine in South Africa in the early 2000s, it was then sold by Christie’s as part of an over-the-counter sale to a private collector.
Another diamond mined in 1901
“The Rock” is not the only star of these auctions. “The Red Cross Diamond,” a 205.07-carat cushion-shaped canary yellow diamond, is also on offer. The sale should be driven by the very particular context, at a time when the war in Ukraine is once again bloodying the Old Continent.
“It is estimated between 7 and 10 million Swiss francs. I expect it to achieve fantastic results when it is sold. A large part of the proceeds from its sale will be donated to the International Committee of the Red Cross” , Fawcett said.
The original gem was mined in 1901 at a De Beers company’s South African mine and is said to have weighed around 375 carats, according to Christie’s. As well as ranking among the largest diamonds in the world, a striking feature of the stone is its pavilion, which is naturally faceted in the shape of a Maltese cross.