'Pink Star' diamond sells for world record $83 million in Geneva

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - The "Pink Star", a flawless pink diamond the size of a plum, sold for 76.3 million Swiss francs in Geneva on Wednesday, a world record price for a gemstone at auction, Sotheby's said.

"The diamond was bought by Isaac Wolf and the diamond has been renamed The Pink Dream," said Matthew Weigman, Sotheby's worldwide director of sales communications.

Wolf, a New York-based diamond cutter, was represented by a bidder in the room and Sotheby's said the final sale price included the "buyer's premium," or commission fees.

In all, four people, including two Asian clients, bid on the oval-shaped diamond, which was mounted on a ring and weighed 59.60 carats, he said.

As Sotheby's auctioneer David Bennett brought down the hammer in the Geneva salesroom, applause erupted. "You'll forgive me," he said, as the theme song from the "Pink Panther" was played.

The Pink Star was the star lot at Sotheby's jewels sale in Geneva, held in a heavily guarded hotel showroom.

'HISTORIC SALE'

It was the highest jewellery sale total for a single auction in history - $199.5 million, Sotheby's said.

"This was a really historic sale. We broke a number of records," Bennett told reporters.

"The pink diamond, I have no hesitation in saying, is a truly amazing royal stone, fit for any royal collection, fit for any museum collection.

"There is no stone of that size and colour known, no other stone."

Noting that the diamond's pre-sale estimate was $61 million, Bennett said: "It surpassed our estimate. It's a large amount of money in itself, but I don't think this stone has a price."

The previous record was held by the "Graff Pink", a 24.78 carat fancy intense pink diamond bought in 2010 by Laurence Graff, a London-based jeweller known as "The King of Diamonds", for 45.44 million Swiss francs, or $45.75 million at the time.

"Frankly when I sold the Graff three years ago, I thought it would be a record for a very long time. Tonight's price is really quite extraordinary three years later," Bennett said.

"It means the three top prices paid for gemstones are all pink diamonds."

The Pink Star was cut and polished from a 132.5 carat rough diamond mined by De Beers somewhere in Africa in 1999, according to Sotheby's, which said it had no information on the precise geographic origin.

It was first sold in 2007 and the seller wished to remain anonymous, said a Sotheby's spokeswoman.

Signature pieces by top-end European jewellers including Cartier, Bulgari and Van Cleef & Arpels fetched steep prices at Sotheby's, especially from the Art Deco period of the 1930s.

The second highest price at the auction, 9.68 million Swiss francs, was fetched by a 1971 Van Cleef & Arpels brooch of a phoenix, set with diamonds, emeralds and a large cabochon sapphire with a detachable yellow briolette diamond hanging from the bird's beak.

The brooch previously belonged to the late Polish opera star and jewellery collector Ganna Walska.

Bidding on the night's third priciest lot, a pair of diamond earrings, described by Bennett as a "perfect match," opened at 5 million francs and was bought for 8.45 million francs by a telephone bidder. The stones weighed 23.77 and 23.78 carats.

Few lots were unsold at the auction and the prices achieves were generally many times more than their pre-sale estimates.

About a dozen jewels from the collection of French countess Odile de la Rochefoucauld were sold for the benefit of charity. They included a sautoir composed of 630 pearls sold for 180,000 francs.

"Believe it or not, it's 3.5 feet long and was used for skipping by the young girls in the house. But you don't have to use it for skipping, you can wear it," Bennett quipped.

At rival Christie's on Tuesday night, an orange diamond of 14.82 carats sold for 32.64 million Swiss francs.

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