* Jewellery auctions have been setting price records
* Coloured diamonds in high demand, specialist says
* Asian clients keen for stones with high gradings
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, May 7 Huge yellow and blue diamonds are
expected to fetch strong prices at Geneva jewellery sales next
week, as investors seek rare stones fresh to a healthy market,
auction houses said on Wednesday.
The "Graff Vivid Yellow", star lot at Sotheby's on
May 13, is a yellow diamond weighing 100.09 carats that was cut
by the London-based top jeweller Laurence Graff.
"Once it gets to 100 carats it's into the realm of extreme
rarity," David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby's jewellery
department for Europe and the Middle East, told Reuters.
"It is this extraordinary deep daffodil yellow. It is a
charming stone, full of life, full of colour," he said in an
interview in the showroom where the jewels were displayed.
Sotheby's estimates that the yellow cushion-shaped diamond,
whose owner is not being identified, will fetch $15-$25 million.
A white round diamond of 103.46 carats, also cut by Graff
and described by Sotheby's as one of the largest brilliant-cut
diamonds in the world, is also going on the block with an
estimate of $3.5-$5 million.
"It has the wow factor," Bennett said of the stone mounted
on a ring, which has toured the world to attract bidders.
A smaller but stunning 31.34-carat white diamond, "The
Victory Diamond" which belonged to Florence Gould,
daughter-in-law of the American railroad magnate Jay Gould, is
estimated at $5-$8 million.
"She was one of the three or four greatest jewel collectors
of the 20th century, alongside people like the Duchess of
Windsor and Daisy Fellowes," Bennett said, recalling the
high-society ladies who frequented the French Riviera in the
"She apparently wore it quite a lot, including one imagines
on this rather famous trip in Cambodia when she went into the
jungle bedecked with jewellery, which is a wonderful story."
Sotheby's disclosed in February that it had acquired the
"Pink Star" diamond, which had fetched a world-record price of
76.3 million Swiss francs (then $83 million) in November, after
its buyer failed to pay up.
"ALMOST A DREAM"
A blue diamond of 13.22 carats, described as the largest
flawless fancy vivid blue diamond in the world, is the star lot
at arch-rival Christie's sale on May 14. The auction house is
privately owned by French entrepreneur Francois Pinault.
The pear-shaped stone is estimated at $21-$25 million. "We
are quite confident that it should sell towards the high end of
the estimate or above," said Jean-Marc Lunel, senior
international specialist of Christie's jewellery department.
"It is absolutely perfect, absolutely pure externally and
internally. It is almost a dream," he told Reuters.
In the past decade, only three blue diamonds of 10 carats or
more with the same vivid grading for intensity have been sold at
auction, all weighing less than 12 carats and none flawless, he
"It is most probably from a mine in South Africa known as
Premier mine and now as Cullinan, where most of the blue
diamonds are from. Probably in the last 30 years," Lunel said.
Based on results from sales in Hong Kong and New York this
year, the jewellery market is quite strong, Lunel said.
"The market for coloured diamonds is really, really high,
because they are so rare," he said.
"For what is really exceptional, not seen on the market,
there are really clients looking for such investments," Lunel
added. "Chinese clients are not only buying in Asia but in New
York and Geneva as well."
Eric Valdieu, a Geneva-based jewellery dealer formerly of
Christie's, says both major houses had good rates of more than
80 percent of lots sold at Hong Kong and New York auctions.
"It is a sign that the market is resisting and still
strong," Valdieu said. "The better the quality, the quicker the
sale in trade and at auction. That is even more true when things
are a bit more difficult economically, like at the moment."
Asian clients are most keen for new stones with top gradings
from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).
"Now with Asia looking for diamonds which have exceptional
cut, polish and symmetry, all stones are being cut by computers
to get the GIA's triple-X rating," Valdieu said.
"All diamonds between one carat and 30 carats are being cut
now to get that grade of triple X because Asian clients require
such perfection. But perfection doesn't exist in nature and is
not always synonymous with beauty."
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Michael Roddy and