GENEVA -- Christie's auctioned off the Archduke Joseph Diamondfor nearly $21.5 million Tuesday night, a world auction record price percarat for a colorless diamond.
The Archduke Joseph Diamond wasthe first of two out-of-this world diamonds being auctioned off thisweek in Geneva. Sotheby's on Wednesday will auction what it calls anexceptionally rare fancy deep blue briolette diamond of 10.48 caratsexpected to get up to $4.5 million.
Christie's kicked off Geneva'sjewelry auctions, held in five-star hotels along the Swiss city'selegant lakefront, that seem a continent if not a world away from thegrim austerity gripping much of Europe.
The Archduke JosephDiamond went for $21,474,525 including commission at Christie's auction.That was well above the expected $15 million and more than triple theprice paid for it at auction almost two decades ago. The 76.02-caratdiamond, with perfect color and internally flawless clarity, came fromthe ancient Golconda mines in India.
The seller, Alfredo J.Molina, chairman of California-based jeweler Black, Starr & Frost,said immediately afterward that there were two main bidders and that hewas delighted with the result. Molina said the winning bidder, whowished to remain anonymous, is going to donate the diamond for displayat a museum.
"It's a great price for a stone of this quality,"Molina told The Associated Press. "It's one of a kind, so it's likesaying 'Are you pleased when you sell the Mona Lisa?' Or 'Are youpleased when you sell the Hope Diamond?' It's all what the market willbear, and the stone sold for a very serious price."
Named forArchduke Joseph August of Austria, the great-grandson of both a HolyRoman emperor and a French king, the diamond passed to his son, ArchdukeJoseph Francis, who put it in a bank vault, then to an anonymous buyerwho kept it in a safe during World War II. From there it surfaced at aLondon auction in 1961, then at a Geneva auction in 1993, whenChristie's sold it for $6.5 million.
It wasn't the onlymega-diamond to go under the hammer at Tuesday's auction in the hotelroom packed with well-heeled bidders. Beneath a row of three enormouschandeliers that cast panther-like shadows on the ceiling, theparticipants eagerly pounced at the jewels while competing with biddersfrom around the world calling in to Christie's employees seated in rowson both sides of the room.
But perhaps the buyers weren't entirelyimmune to the harsh financial climate in Europe - or at least someGeneva version of it. Two plus-sized diamonds did not sell Tuesdaynight. A yellow diamond with 70.19 carats failed to sell because thefinal bid was 2.8 million Swiss francs, just slightly below the reserveprice. A 12.16 carat pink diamond didn't sell because the final bid was1.8 million francs, well under the reserve price.
On Wednesday, inaddition to the blue briolette diamond, Sotheby's also is putting onthe block a conch pearl, enamel and diamond Cartier bracelet thatformerly belonged to Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain that's expected tosell for up to $1.4 million.
The Archduke Joseph Diamond joins along list of other fabulous jewels, watches and other luxury goods soldin Geneva. Here's a look at the city's most eye-popping diamonds put upfor auction in recent years:
In May2012, Sotheby's sold the 34.98 carat Beau Sancy diamond to an anonymousbidder for $9.7 million. Marie de Medici had worn it at her coronationas Queen Consort of Henry IV in France in 1610. Then the diamond passedamong the royal families in France, England, the Netherlands andPrussia. It was sold by the Royal House of Prussia.
Sotheby's alsosold for $3.87 million the Murat Tiara, a pearl-and-diamond tiaracreated for the marriage of a prince whose ancestors included thehusband of Caroline Bonaparte, Napoleon's sister. Christie's auctionedoff a 32.08-carat Burmese ruby and diamond ring that sold for $6.7million, a world record price for a ruby sold at auction.
InNovember 2011, the Sun-Drop Diamond of South Africa, a giantpear-shaped yellow gem weighing 110.3 carats, sold for more than $10.9million at auction, beating previous records for a jewel of its type.Including commission, the unidentified telephone bidder paid almost$12.4 million for the gem. Other lots at the $70 million sale included awhite cushion-shaped diamond weighing 38.88 carats that sold for almost$7 million, including commission.
InMay 2011, Christie's fetched $10.9 million for a 56-carat heart-shapeddiamond that was internally flawless and $7.1 million for a 130-caratBurmese sapphire. Sotheby's got $12.7 million for a rareemerald-and-diamond tiara that a fabulously wealthy German prince, GuidoHenckel von Donnersmarck, commissioned for his second, Russian-bornwife around 1900. An intensely pink 11-carat diamond from the mines ofIndia sold for $10.8 million.
InNovember 2010, a rare pink diamond smashed the world record for a jewelat auction, selling for more than $46 million to well-known Londonjeweler Laurence Graff. Four bidders competed for the pink diamond,which was last sold 60 years earlier by New York jeweler Harry Winston.The seller chose to remain anonymous. The 24.78-carat "fancy intensepink" diamond immediately became known as "The Graff Pink."