Archduke Joseph diamond fetches $21.5 million at auction

Wed Nov 14, 2012 2:57pm EST
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By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - A huge, internally flawless diamond from India's fabled Golconda mines was sold at auction in Geneva on Tuesday night for a record 20.355 million Swiss francs ($21.48 million), Christie's said.

The rare, colorless stone weighing 76.02 carats, and roughly the size of a large strawberry, once belonged to Archduke Joseph August of Austria (1872-1962), a prince of the Hungarian line of the Habsburgs.

Its pre-sale estimate was 15-to-25 million Swiss francs and it fetched more than double the price paid for it at auction almost two decades ago.

"It is a world record for a Golconda diamond and a world record price per carat for a colorless diamond," Francois Curiel, director of the international jewelry department at Christie's, told reporters.

The previous record was held by the "Beau Sancy", a pear-shaped diamond of 34.98 carats, sold by rival Sotheby's for 9 million Swiss francs last May.

"The market is not on the best form at the moment. The sale tonight was almost flabbergasting," Curiel said.

He added that the buyer, who bid by telephone, wished to remain anonymous, but said the last bidder to drop out of the sale was Fred Mouawad, an international dealer with offices in Dubai, the Middle East and Geneva.

The seller was Black, Starr & Frost, an American jeweler founded in 1810 and based in California.   Continued...

An employee poses with the Archduke Joseph diamond during an auction preview at Christie's in Geneva in this file photo taken November 8, 2012. The 76 carat diamond is expected to fetch between 15 million and 20 million US dollars when it goes up for auction by Christie's in Geneva on November 13. REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud