A 118.28 ct Diamond Achieves Record Price

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Patti Wong, chairman of Sotheby’s Asia and Sotheby’s Diamonds, holds a 118.28 ct D-Flawless stone that became the most expensive colorless diamond ever sold at auction.
On Oct. 7, a 118.28 ct D-Flawless diamond broke a world record when it sold for $30.06 million at Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels & Jadeite auction in Hong Kong.

The oval-cut had garnered a price estimate of $28 to $35 million. Another anticipated record-breaker, a 7.59 ct Fancy Vivid blue Internally Flawless diamond, fell $3 million short of its estimated $19 million sale price. An Internally Flawless round brilliant, the gem's cut is rare for a fancy-color diamond, as it's designed to maximize brilliance and minimize color.

The colorless—which ranks as the largest oval-cut D-flawless GIA has ever graded—was mined in southern Africa about two years ago and cut from a 299 ct rough. Because it is newly cut, said Patti Wong, chairman of Sotheby’s Asia and Sotheby’s Diamonds, the buyer has the opportunity to name it.

It’s not just the size of this diamond that makes it exceptional. The pre-sale price estimate was made public, said Wong, a contrast from the usual auction practice of noting “estimate upon request” for major stones.

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On Oct. 7, the 118.28 ct diamond sold for $30.06 million at Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels & Jadeite auction in Hong Kong. Photo courtesy of Sotheby's.
“I believe that if you have something good, flaunt it,” she said before the auction, adding that the estimate was “very defensible in light of prices realized [for very large colorless diamonds] during the previous four auctions.” In May, the 101.75 ct D-Flawless Winston Legacy sold for $26.7 million at Christie’s Geneva.

Wong said that auctioning the diamond in Hong Kong instead of Geneva or New York reflected a natural evolution of the market.

“All of the previous hundred-carat D-Flawless [and Internally Flawless] sold at auctions have been in Geneva,” she said. “But in the past five years, many of the record prices have been set at Hong Kong sales.” She cited the 6.01 ct Fancy Vivid blue that achieved the highest-ever per-carat price for a blue diamond ($1.686 million) in 2011 and the 5 ct Vivid Pink that shattered the per-carat price record for any diamond ($2.16 million) in 2009.

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The oval-cut diamond was fashioned from this 299 ct rough found in southern Africa
in 2011. Photo courtesy of Sotheby's.

The fast growth of Asian economies is a key reason Hong Kong has become one of the world’s top auction venues, with dealers from around the world flocking there to buy and sell.

“Ten years ago, Asian private buyers bought almost everything at the sales here,” Wong said. “These buyers, and the previews of major pieces offered at other locations, helped the auction houses establish a solid base here. Now all the world’s top dealers are coming here, which is why records are being set.”

Award-winning industry journalist Russell Shor is senior industry analyst at GIA. A longtime senior editor at JCK, he authored the 1993 book "Connections: A History of the Diamond Trade and Its People."