By Nina Larson, AFP
GENEVA–A spectacular and rare orange diamond, the largest known gem of its kind, was on Tuesday auctioned for a record US$35.54 million in Geneva. “It’s a world record price for an orange diamond, it’s a world record price per carat for any colored diamond,” the Christie’s auction house said of the sale. “It’s a tremendous price, a magnificent price,” it added, likening the purchase of such a prized colored diamond to buying a Picasso or Van Gogh painting. The price works out at US$2.4 million per carat, beating the previous record of US$2.15 million for the Vivid Pink Diamond sold in Hong Kong in 2009. “At the back of the hall, 29 million francs (US$31.5 million, 23 million euros). Sold!” the Christie’s auctioneer said as the fiery almond-shaped gem was snapped up in a room of about 200 people in a luxury Geneva hotel. The total sale price was boosted by another US$4.04 million in taxes and commission. The man who made the purchase swiftly got up and left the room to a round of applause. Christie’s did not reveal his identity.
The deep orange gemstone, found in South Africa, weighs a whopping 14.82 carats. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has handed it the top rating for colored diamonds: “fancy vivid.” Pure orange diamonds, also known as “fire diamonds,” are extremely uncommon and few have been auctioned, with the largest never more than six carats. “To have one that’s over 14 carats is exceptional,” Christie’s international jewelry director David Warren told AFP. He said “The Orange” was “the largest recorded vivid orange diamond in the world.”
In 1990, the 4.77-carat yellow-orange Graff Orange diamond was sold for US$3.92 million and in 1997 the vivid orange Pumpkin diamond of 5.54 carats was sold for US$1.32 million. Christie’s had estimated “The Orange” would rake in US$17 million to US$20 million. Rare and Expensive ‘freaks of nature’ Colored diamonds, once considered a curiosity, are rarer than white diamonds and today attract higher prices per carat than even the most flawless, translucent stone. That, Warren explained, was because, “colored diamonds are real freaks of nature. They begin as white diamonds, and it’s some accidental coloring agent in the ground that will turn it a particular color.” Green diamonds, for instance, are colored by radioactivity in the ground, blue diamonds get their color from boron, and yellow diamonds, which in rare cases turn orange, are colored by nitrogen.