Sotheby’s New York headquarters, with the 303.1-carat Golden Canary set against its facade. (Photos in montage courtesy of Sotheby’s)
2022 seemed to have the making a of a record year for diamond auctions, with the clearest indication being the sale on October 5 of an internally flawless fancy vivid pink diamonds of 11.15 carats, which broke records when it was sold at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong for $57.7 million. This was a new world record for price per carat paid at auction for any diamond, at it appeared to a be a spectacular prelude for an end-of-year auction season that a number of a spectacular fancy-colored diamonds set to go on the block.
But to quote the British poet T.S. Elliot the year ended “not with a bang but a whimper,” with almost none of the expected of the highly anticipated sales achieving results that seemed within their grasp, and some not even taking place, as diamonds on offer failed to achieve their reserve price, and one was withdrawn from a sale under a bizarre cloud of suspicion.
One stone that came closest to fulfilling its potential was the 303.1-carat fancy deep brownish-yellow Golden Canary, billed as the world’s largest internally flawless diamond. It sold for $12.4 million at Sotheby’s in New York on December 6, making it the third most valuable yellow diamond ever sold at auction.
Re-cut from the shield-shaped 407-carat Incomparable Diamond into a more traditional pear shape, it was sourced from an 890-carat rough stone extracted in the 1980s in what is today the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it had almost has been discarded by miners, who at forst thought it was a worthless rock.
Sotheby’s took the unusual step of not giving the Golden Canary a reserve price, starting bidding at $1. Its final price was respectable, but still $3 million of the $15 million high estimate that had earlier been suggested.
De Beers’ Exceptional Blue Collection. (Photo courtesy of De Beers)
BLUE COLLECTION COMES UP SHORT
But what happened with Golden Canary sale was more impressive than what De Beers experienced at the end of the year with its Exceptional Blue collection.
The company had earlier announced that it would be selling the eight fancy-color blue stones that it was made up of over the coming year. With an estimated value of more than $70 million, they ranged in size from 1.22 carats to 11.29 carats, and they were cut from five rough stones all mined at the Cullinan Mine in South Africa, which De Beers had sold to Petra in 2005.
On November 9, a 5.53-carat from the collection failed to find a buyer at Sotheby’s in Geneva within its $11 million to $15 million price range, and it was withdrawn from the sale.
The on December 7, at Sotheby’s in New York, both a 3.24-carat diamond an a 2.08-carat stone from the collection did not meet their reserve prices, and both were withdrawn.
It was a far cry from the sale that took place at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong, when the 15.1-carat De Beers Blue was sold for approximately $57.5 million. In so doing, the step-cut internally flawless fancy vivid blue diamond achieved the highest price ever achieved paid for a diamond on the open market, equaling the amount paid for the 14.62-carat Oppenheimer Blue in 2016.
A PSYCHIC AND STOLEN JEWELRY
A stranger case involved a 13.15-carat pink diamond that was withdrawn at the last moment from Christie’s Magnificent Jewels auction in New York on December 6.
The fancy-vivid-pink, VVS1-clarity stone, emerald-cut had a pre-sale of $25 million to $35 million, which some thought as conservative, given the result that had been achieved with the 11.5-carat pink diamond in Geneva.
In its statement confirming that the diamond was being withdrawn ahead of the auction. Christie’s did not provide a reason for the decision.
But an online newsletter called Court Watch appears to have cracked the mystery. It revealed that a that a self-claimed psychic by the name of John Lee, who had been arrested in New Jersey in late November for mail fraud charges in Florida, was allegedly involved in a plot to steal $90 million dollars’ worth of jewelry from a wealthy individual based in Doha, Qatar. Among the pieces taken were the 13.15-carat pink diamond.
According to the Court Watch report, an employee of the wealthy Qatar resident reached out to Lee via an online platform, seeking his guidance about relationships and love. Beginning in June 2022, the employee began sending items of jewelry to Lee, who it was believed could cleanse them of bad spirits. All told, 17 pieces of jewelry were transferred, including diamonds, rubies and sapphires.
One of these items, allegedly, was the 13.15-carat pink diamond. Reportedly, when Christie’s realized that it had been put up for sale by someone other than its owner, it withdrew the stone from the sale.
A Christie’s spokesperson told Court Watch, “We can confirm that we cooperated with the authorities, but Christie’s does not comment on ongoing investigations to which we are not a party.”