Christie's sale of Magnificent Jewels and the Princie Diamond in New York on 16 April 2013 broke records for the highest price ever paid for a Golconda diamond. Expected to achieve between US$20 million to US$30 million, the 34.65ct. cushion-cut fancy intense polished pink 'Princie' diamond sold for US$39,323,750 (£25,560,438 or €29,886,050), including its premium, or US$1,135,000 per carat.
The price achieved makes this the most valuable Golconda diamond ever sold at auction as well as the most valuable diamond ever sold at Christie's and in the United States. This Type IIA diamond, which originated from the ancient Golconda mines in South Central India, was purchased by an anonymous collector bidding by phone.
The sale price represents a new record for any jewel sold at Christie's, surpassing the previous house record of US$24.3 million set in December 2008 for the sale of the Wittelsbach Diamond.
The diamond was first recorded as belonging to the Royal family of Hyderabad, rulers of one of the wealthiest provinces of the Mughal Empire. First offered at auction in 1960 as 'Property of a Gentleman' (later revealed to be the Nizam of Hyderabad himself), the diamond was purchased by the London branch of Van Cleef & Arpels for £46,000, which corresponds to US$1.3 million today. Since then, it hadn't been up for sale for more than half a century. The diamond was named at a party at the firm's Paris store, where it was christened the 'Princie' in honor of the 14-year-old Prince of Baroda, who attended the party with his mother Maharani Sita Devi.
Pink diamonds are the rarest of diamonds, caused by stress in the crystal lattice as they rose up from the earth's mantel to the surface, which makes them a complete freak of nature. To get an idea of the rarity of the 'Princie', if you excavated a weight of earth the same size as the Rockefeller Center in NYC, where the auction took place, you might find a 1.0ct pink diamond. There is a 23.6ct pink diamond set in the Queen's Williamson Diamond brooch - part of her private collection of jewels at Buckingham Palace - and Lawrence Graff bought a type IIa emerald-cut fancy intense pink weighing 24.78ct for US$46 million in 2010 - the most expensive single jewel ever sold at auction.
Further highlights of the day-long auction at Christie's included top-quality white diamonds and natural pearls. The second-highest price of US$4,435,750 was achieved for a rectangular-cut D colour diamond of 30.32ct, or US$146,300 per carat. A superb marquise-cut D colour diamond ring by Harry Winston fetched US$3,259,750, and a three-strand natural pearl necklace was purchased by a buyer from the Middle East for US$1,131,750. The total sale of over 290 jewels realised a combined total of US$81,358,700 (£52,883,155 or €61,832,612), marking the highest various owner jewellery sale total in the United States.
Rahul Kadakia, Head of Jewellery for Christie's Americas and Switzerland, commented: "A major event took place in the global auction industry with the record breaking sale of the 'Princie' diamond at Christie's New York. Aside from Christie's sale of the legendary Collection of Elizabeth Taylor, this was the most successful jewellery auction ever held in the United States, and Christie's was proud to have orchestrated the sale of such an historic gemstone."