Two diamonds larger than 200 carats shared top billing at Christie's Magnificent Jewels Sale in Geneva last night. "The Rock," the 228.31-carat, pear-shaped gem touted as the largest white diamond ever to appear for sale at auction, fetched 21.68 million Swiss francs ($21.84 million), while the 205-carat, long-standing symbol of the world’s largest humanitarian network, the "Red Cross Diamond," earned 14.18 million Swiss francs ($14.29 million).
Designated as Lot 26, The Rock found a buyer within two minutes. Bidding started at 14 million Swiss francs and accelerated in increments of 500,000 until it hit 18 million Swiss francs. After three smaller bids, auctioneer Rahul Kadakia smashed the hammer down at 18.6 million. The final price, which fell in the lower range of the pre-sale estimate of 19 million to 30 million, included the buyer's premium.
About the size of a chicken egg, The Rock was accompanied by a letter from the Gemological Institute of America stating that it is the largest existing D-to-Z color, pear-shaped diamond ever graded by the laboratory. The GIA gave it a color grading of G and a clarity grading of VS1.
The Red Cross Diamond (Lot 61) entered the sale with an estimated value of 10 million Swiss francs. Bidding started at 6 million and climbed methodically upward in increments of 500,000 all the way to 10.5 million. At that juncture, auctioneer Max Fawcett allowed bids in increments of 50,000. After 11 minutes and 32 individual bids, Faucett closed the bidding at 12.05 million Swiss francs. With the buyer's premium, the final tally was 4 million Swiss francs higher than expected.
This was the third appearance of The Red Cross Diamond at Christie’s. In April of 1918, the stone was first offered for sale at Christie’s London by the Diamond Syndicate in aid of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St John, whose symbol is the Maltese cross. A striking feature of the faceted gem is the eight-pointed Maltese Cross, which is clearly visible on the table facet of the diamond.
The cushion modified brilliant-cut diamond, which carries a color grade of fancy intense yellow and a clarity grade of VS2, was purchased by the famous London firm S.J. Phillips for a then-staggering £10,000 (approximately $786,000 today). Now 104 years later, the sale of the 205.07-carat canary yellow diamond will benefit the efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The most surprising performer of the evening was an exceptional 19th century natural pearl and diamond tiara once owned by the Fürstenbergs, one of the most important aristocratical families in the Habsburg Empire. The cleverly designed tiara was estimated to earn 400,000 to 600,000 Swiss francs. Instead, it fetched 2.39 million Swiss francs ($2.4 million), nearly four times the high estimate.
Designed by Gustav Flach in the late 1800s, the tiara could take on so many looks, depending on the elements that were added or subtracted from the original piece. By removing the diamond motives, the 23 natural pearls seemed to just hang among the hair. The wearer could remove the smaller pearls and leave the big ones, or remove all the pearls and wear the tiara with just the diamond motives. The pearls could be removed and replaced by other precious stones. What's more, each of the diamond motives could be linked together to create a necklace, or worn individually as a brooch or hair pin.
Credits: Images courtesy of Christie’s.