May 29, 2023

The De Beers Blue, the largest vivid blue diamond ever to appear at auction, fetched more than $57.4 million and approximately $3.8 million per carat. Both prices are outstanding for the 15.10-carat internally flawless step-cut gem but they fall just shy of world records for Fancy Vivid Blue diamonds. The total price was well above the gem’s estimate of $48 million.

This exceptional gem was sold at a standalone auction held Wednesday at Sotheby’s Pacific Place gallery in Hong Kong on Wednesday, marked by spirited bidding that lasted approximately eight minutes. The majority of the time was spent coaxing the bidders to surpass the HK$390 million mark ($49.7 million), which was the final hammer price. The addition of the buyer’s premium provided its final price at more than HK$450.9 million ($57.4 million).

As what is normal for these kinds of sales, the number of persons with the means and interest to purchase this type of special gem are few, so the bidding was reduced quickly to just three unidentified persons bidding by phone to Sotheby’s offices in London, Hong Kong and Beijing. It was the bidder through the London office that won the gem.

The rarity of this diamond can’t be overstated. Fancy Vivid Blue diamonds of this size and characteristics are exceptionally rare, with only five examples of more than 10 carats ever having come to auction.

Sotheby’s called the gem “perfect according to every critical criterion.” The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) graded the diamond as Fancy Vivid Blue, the highest color grading, awarded to fewer than 1% of blue diamonds submitted to the GIA. It boasts exceptional clarity, having been declared Internally Flawless by the GIA. It also was deemed to possess excellent polish and to be of Type IIb, a rare category, which represents fewer than 0.5 % of all diamonds.

GIA further noted that it is the largest internally flawless step cut vivid blue diamond it has ever graded.

Adding to the diamond’s value is its classic step-cut – a style most associated with white diamonds – that is immensely sought-after in rare colors, according to the GIA. “Achieving a Fancy Vivid color grade in a step cut or emerald cut adds to the rarity, since most other fancy shapes intensify the body color more efficiently in the face-up position than step cuts. To achieve a Fancy Vivid grade with a step cut or emerald cut, the inherent body-color has to be stronger than virtually every other fancy shape.”

The diamond is wonder of nature but its full potential as a truly exceptional gem was the result of expert diamond professionals who unearthed the rough and then cut and polished the gem into its current form. Blue diamonds are exceptionally challenging, according to Sotheby’s. Any miscalculation would result in a loss of its color, potentially destroying its beauty.

There are very few sources for blue diamonds, most of which are recovered from the Cullinan mine in South Africa, which has produced some of the most famous blue and colorless rough diamonds in history.

The De Beers Cullinan Blue came from a 39.34-carat rough diamond that was unearthed at the Cullinan mine in April 2021 by the Petra Diamonds mining company. Diamond mining giant, De Beers, and diamond manufacturer, Diacore, a master diamond cutter, purchased the rough for $40.18 million in July 2021. They worked together to cut and polish the rough into its finished form.

The record for the overall price for a Fancy Vivid blue diamond is still held by The Oppenheimer Blue that fetched more than $57.5 million in 2016; and the per cart price record for a Fancy Vivid Blue diamond remains the Blue Moon of Josephine at $4 million per carat.

An argument could be made that considering the hype it received, The De Beers Blue may have underperformed. Still, its $57.4 million price places it among the most valuable gems ever sold at auction.

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