Jeweller Graff buys back ruby for record $8.6 million: Sotheby's

GENEVA (Reuters) - London luxury jeweler Laurence Graff has paid a record 8.2 million Swiss francs ($8.6 million) for a Burmese ruby, the top lot at a Geneva auction marked by strong prices for fine diamonds and rare colored stones, Sotheby’s said on Thursday.

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Graff, known as the “King of Diamonds”, was buying the ruby of 8.62 carats for the second time, having acquired it first at an auction eight years ago. He had named the ‘pigeon-blood’, or pure red with a hint of blue, gemstone the “Graff Ruby” at the time.

In between he sold it to Greek financier Dimitri Mavromattis, whose collection of 16 jewels was part of Sotheby’s semi-annual sale in Geneva on Wednesday night. In all, 403 gems netted a total of 91.8 million francs.

“This is the finest ruby in the world. We are very proud to have it in our possession for the second time,” Graff said in a Sotheby’s statement.

The cushion-shaped ruby, set in a diamond ring, is from the Mogok Valley of Myanmar, formerly Burma, which produces “arguably the rarest of all gemstones”, Sotheby’s said.

“It’s not a surprise, the ruby is a unique stone that bears his name. He likes unique stones,” Eric Valdieu, a Geneva-based jeweler formerly of Christie’s who attended the sale, told Reuters. “Its price more than doubled in just over eight years.”

“Colored stones brought strong prices,” Valdieu said, noting that a 27.54 carat Kashmir sapphire sold for a record 5.7 million francs. Sotheby’s said an Asian collector bought it.

Graff, who has a showroom on Geneva’s posh rue de Rhone, also scooped up a fancy intense blue diamond of 3.16 carats, also part of the Mavromattis collection, for nearly 3.1 million Swiss francs, bidding by phone, it said.

“Exceptional stones are achieving historic heights in a market that is not euphoric. The market is very selective,” Valdieu said.

“At that level, the competition is between buyers in the United States, Asia and ‘Old Europe’. There is still money in Europe for such objects,” he said.

A double-strand natural pearl necklace set with rose diamonds that belonged to Queen Josephine de Beauharnais, Queen of Sweden and Norway (1807-1876), sold for 3.3 million francs, roughly tripling its pre-sale estimate, Sotheby’s said.

The stunning necklace, which went to an anonymous buyer, is believed to have been also the property of Josephine de Beauharnais (1763-1814), first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte and Empress of the French, the auction house said.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Michael Roddy and Hugh Lawson