Jewels auction exceeds $50 million, new record set

Thu Oct 21, 2010 11:36am EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A rare two-stone ring set a new world record price per carat for a blue diamond at auction when it was sold in a jewels sale that exceeded $50 million, Christie's said on Thursday.

The Bulgari Blue Diamond, a ring designed in the 1970s that was sold from a private European collection, was the top seller in the auction of more than 450 jewelry pieces. It fetched $15.7 million, or $1.4 million per carat.

"A world record price was achieved on October 20 for The Bulgari Blue, a much-celebrated stone that came up for sale at Christie's for the first time in almost 40 years," said Rahul Kadakia, head of jewelry for Christie's Americas.

The jewel had been bought in Rome in 1972 for $1 million, which is the equivalent of about $5 million today. It had been given as a gift from the collector to his wife to celebrate their first son's birth, according to Christie's.

"With a sold price of $15.7 million, the stone tripled its value in that time, demonstrating the incredible resilience of diamonds in today's volatile economic environment and the true, lasting value of fine jewelry," Kadakia added.

Diamonds and other colored-stone jewelry have increased 20 percent from just a year ago, making them a good hedge for investors in tough economic times.

The ring features a 9.87 carat colorless triangular-shaped diamond paired with a triangular 10.95 carat "Fancy Vivid" blue diamond, the largest such blue diamond of this cut ever offered at auction. One in about 10 blue diamonds of this size has a color pure enough to qualify as "Fancy Vivid."

A rectangular-cut 17.65 carat diamond ring by Harry Winston sold for $2.1 million.

Other items in the sale included "ear pendants" designed by Joel Rosenthal that were originally owned by actress Ellen Barkin and worn to the 2005 Oscars. The 2-3/4 inch long imperial topaz, ruby and diamond earrings, which were expected to sell for $300,000 to $500,000, exceeded estimates and changed hands for $650,500.

The auction also included jewels from Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Boucheron.

<p>The Bulgari Blue Diamond, a two-stone ring, is seen in this handout photograph October 18, 2010. REUTERS/ CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2010/Handout</p>