November 16, 2016 / 10:06 PM / a year 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.

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.

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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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