The 15.10-carat D Beers Blue, which sold for $57.4 million at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong on April 27, 2022. (Photo courtesy of De Beers)
A milestone was almost passed on April 27, 2022, but not quite. The 15.10-carat De Beers Blue, which as was reported earlier in this blog series is the the largest vivid fancy colored blue diamond ever to appear at auction, was sold Sotheby’s Pacific Place Gallery in Hong Kong for more than $57.4 million. While substantially above the pre-sale estimated high price of $48 million, it still was just short of the record.
That title of most expensive blue diamonds to be sold at auction remains that of the 14.62-carat “Oppenheimer Blue,” in 2016 sold for $57,541,779, a mere $70,000 more than what was paid for the De Beers Blue in Hong Kong.
The price per carat paid for the De Beers Blue was $3.8 million, which was more than $100,000 par carat than what was paid for the Oppenheimer Blue. For much of the sale auctioneer, Ian McGinlay pleaded with the bidders to surpass the HK$390 million mark ($49.7 million). The buyer’s premium which was added to the price is what pushed it to HK$450.9 million, or $57.4 million.
The bidding war lasted eight-minute bidding war and there were four prospective buyers. The winning bid was made by telephone, and the identity of the buyer has not yet been revealed.
The 14-62 carat Oppenheimer Blue, which sold for a record $57.5 million in 2016.
ONCE IN A GENERATION STONE
Described by Patti Wong, chairman of Sotheby’s Asia, as “truly a once-in-a-generation stone, and quite simply the greatest blue diamond of its size I have ever seen,” the Cullinan Blue was the largest internally flawless step cut vivid blue diamond that the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has ever graded. It was judged to have excellent polish and to be of Type IIb.
It was one of only five fancy blue diamonds over 10 carats have ever come to auction to date, and the only once of them to exceed 15 carats.
The stone was discovered in South Africa’s Cullinan Mine in 2021, most probably from a 39.34-carat blue diamond mined at the site in April 2021, and was cut by Diacore, which also had cut the 203.04-carat De Beers Millennium Star and the 59.60-carat Pink Star.
The De Beers Cullinan Blue is, which was sold by the mine’s owner, Petra Diamonds, to a partnership between De Beers and Diacore for $40.18 million.
FANCY BLUES LARGER THAN 15 CARATS
But while the De Beers Blue was the largest fancy clue to diamond to come to auction, it is not the largest fancy blue diamond around. Among the stones that vie for that title is the Wittelsbach, a 35.56-carat fancy deep grayish blue VS2 diamond. It dates back to at least 1664, when it was given by Philip IV of Spain to his 15-year-old daughter Infanta Margareta Teresa, on her engagement to Emperor Leopold I of Austria. It left Spain in 1722, when the Archduchess Maria Amelia married the Bavarian Crown Prince Charles Albert and it became the family diamond of the House of Bavaria, the Wittelsbachs.
The last King of Bavaria to own the Wittelsbach was Louis III, who reigned until until Germany became a republic in 1918.
Another massive blue diamond is the 30.62-carats Blue Heart Diamond. Also known as the Unzue Diamond, after the Argentinian lady who owned it for 43 years, the heart-shaped gem is ranked the world’s fifth largest blue diamond, after the Sultan of Morocco, a 35.27-carat fancy grayish-blue diamond.
But undoubtedly the most well-known fancy blue is the Hope Diamond, which weighs in at 45.52 carats. Most probably mined in India, it was brought to Europe by the French explorer Jean-Baptiste Tavernier as a 115.28 carat stone, and acquired by King Louis XIV of France in 1668. Called the French Blue, it was cut from its original size to 67.125 carats.
The 35.56-carat Wittelsbach, which in 1664 was given by Philip IV of Spain to his 15-year-old daughter Infanta Margareta Teresa, when she was engaged to Emperor Leopold I of Austria.
During the French Revolution, it was spirited to to England, and became public again as part of the collection of Henry Phillip Hope in 1839. There it was listed as the Hope Diamond, having evidently been cut down again to the size it is today. Pierre Cartier reset the diamond in 1910 and sold it to a Washington DC socialite, Evalyn Walsh McLean, after whose death it was bought by Harry Winston in 1949.
In 1958, Winston donated the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., in whose National Museum of Natural History in remains today.