A trio of blue diamonds dominates spring auctions

As three historic blue diamonds vie for a place in the jewellery auction record books, Åse Anderson takes a closer look.

Shirley Temple blue diamond ring

Three historic blue diamonds are vying for their place in the jewellery record books this month.

Blue is the undisputed colour of the auction season with no fewer than three potentially record-breaking blue diamonds fronting this spring’s jewellery auctions.

While it remains to be seen if any of these blue diamonds can oust the 12.03ct Blue Moon of Josephine from the top spot as the world’s most expensive diamond, they are primed to smash at least a few records on the way.

All three blue diamonds not only dazzle with their incredible beauty and lustrous hues, but also have interesting backstories that add an extra dimension to their auction appeal.

Their incredible rarity means that blue diamonds garner worldwide attention whenever they appear on the auction block. Less than 0.0001 per cent of all diamonds mined across the globe are blue, and a study by the GIA has concluded that only 1 in 100 blue diamonds qualify to be graded as Fancy Vivid. The blue colour is created by minute traces of boron in the diamonds, which takes more than one hundred million years to develop.

The most famous blue diamond in the world is the 45.52ct Hope Diamond, which is on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. However, the world’s largest-known blue diamond is the 70ct Idol’s Eye owned by American aristocrat May Stanton. This was one of the earliest historic blue diamonds to appear at auction when it sold for £740 - equivalent to $86,000 today - at Christie’s London in 1865.

More recent blue gems whose names are etched in our memories include the Wittelsbach-Graff diamond bought by Laurence Graff for $23.4m at Christie’s London in 2008, and the 9.75ct Zoe Diamond that fetched $32.6m at Sotheby’s New York in 2014.

The bidding frenzy that blue diamonds consistently attracts was evident last autumn when Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau bought the Blue Moon diamond for $48.5 million at Sotheby’s Geneva, making it the most expensive gemstone in the world. It also set a new auction record for the price-per-carat for any diamond or gemstone, beating the $3.34m per carat achieved by the Zoe Diamond.  

The De Beers Millennium Jewel 4 is the largest blue diamond to ever appear at auction (sold for almost $32 million).

First up on the jewellery auction block this spring was the De Beers Millennium Jewel 4, a 10.10ct Fancy Vivid blue diamond, which went under the hammer for almost $32 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, becoming the most expensive jewel ever sold at auction in Asia. The largest oval-cut Fancy Vivid blue diamond to ever appear at auction, it was part of the De Beers Millennium Jewels collection exhibited at London’s Millennium Dome in 2000 to commemorate the turn of the century.

On 19 April, all eyes will be on a 9.54ct Fancy Deep blue diamond ring that belonged to the legendary star Shirley Temple. The Art Deco diamond ring was a 12th birthday gift from her father in 1940 and it is likely that the gemstone colour was chosen to coincide with the premiere of her film The Blue Bird. The blue diamond, which cost $7,210 at the time and remained in Shirley’s possession until her death in 2014, is now going under the hammer at Sotheby’s New York with a pre-sale estimate of $25-35 million.

One of the most expensive diamonds ever sold at auction, the Oppenheimer Blue sells for $57.5 million at Christie's.

Finally, the Oppenheimer Blue diamond rounds up the trio of these historic blues appearing on the auction block this spring. At 14.62ct, the emerald-cut stone is the largest Fancy Vivid blue diamond to ever be offered at auction. It is also the prime contender to oust the Blue Moon of Josephine from the top spot as the world’s most expensive diamond, if the final selling price nudges above the estimated $38-45 million. The blue gem is named after its previous owner Sir Philip Oppenheimer, whose family controlled De Beers for 80 years before selling its 40 per cent stake to Anglo American Plc. for $5.1 billion in 2012. As head of the Central Selling Organisation for 45 years, Sir Philip also oversaw a diamond sales cartel set up by De Beers to keep strict control over the diamond supply worldwide.

Dubbed “the gem of gems”’, the Oppenheimer Blue will lead the Magnificent Jewels Sale at Christie’s Geneva on 18 May. Whether they will knock any of the record breaking diamonds of 2015 off the top spot is difficult to predict, but there is no doubt that this spring it is the blues that rule the auction blocks.

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