November 16, 2016 / 10:06 PM / 2 years ago

Colored diamonds soar, Russian royal gems stall at Sotheby's

GENEVA (Reuters) - Colored diamonds fetched strong prices on Wednesday, with rare and large pink and blue stones finding new owners who paid in the double-digit millions for “rare treasures”, Sotheby’s (BID.N) said.

A model poses with 8.01 carat "Sky Blue Diamond" during a preview at Sotheby's auction house in Geneva, Switzerland November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy/File Photo

London-based jeweller Graff Diamonds Ltd bought the top lot, a step-cut fancy intense pink diamond weighing 17.07 carats, set in a ring, for 20.8 million Swiss francs ($20.75 million), far exceeding its pre-sale estimate of 11.8 to 14.7 million francs, the auction house said.

Graff also scooped up a fancy intense pink diamond ring weighing 13.20 carats for 16.2 million francs, it said.

The “Sky Blue Diamond”, a rare large blue stone set in a ring by Cartier, sold for 17.1 million Swiss francs ($17.06 million), it said.

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The emerald-cut blue diamond weighing 8.01 carats, from a private collection, had been estimated at $15 million to $25 million.

“Colored diamonds are very much in demand still, and very healthy,” David Bennett, worldwide chairman of Sotheby’s International Jewellery Division, told reporters after conducting the semi-annual sale at a Geneva lakeside hotel.

“People who want the rarest and the most beautiful are seeking out these rare treasures,” he said.

The stone was graded fancy vivid blue, the highest possible color grading, awarded to barely 1 percent of blue diamonds submitted to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), according to Sotheby’s.

At Christie’s on Tuesday, a pear-shaped pink diamond sold for 18.127 million Swiss francs ($18.11 million) to an Asian collector bidding by telephone. The sale, which fetched 97 million francs, was marked by “healthy prices”, it said.

In all, the Sotheby’s sale netted 136.7 million Swiss francs ($136.39 million), with 87.4 percent of the 341 lots sold. Four pieces brought more than $10 million each.

But a diamond necklace from the Russian crown jewels, commissioned by Catherine the Great (1729-1796), failed to sell, stranded on the block after failing to meet a secret reserve price set by the owner. Its pre-sale estimate was $3 million to $5 million.

The royal piece, with a diamond bowknot clasp, was kept in a strong room of the Kremlin during World War One and sold by the Bolshevik government as part of a 1927 auction.

A 19th-Century Russian historical piece, a parure of white and colored diamonds estimated at $3 million to $5 million, also stalled.

Catherine I of Russia, second wife of Peter the Great, may have given it to the Ottoman Sultan Ahmed III as part of a “ransom” to help negotiate the end of the siege of Pruth in 1711, Sotheby’s said.

Additional reporting by Marina Depetris; Editing by Andrew Roche and James Dalgleish

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