GENEVA (Reuters) - A large diamond of a rare pink hue fetched 28.725 million Swiss francs ($28.55 million) on Tuesday, the star lot of Christie's semi-annual jewelry sale in Geneva, where designer eye candy drew strong prices.
A Chinese client based in Hong Kong bought the cushion-shaped pink diamond weighing 16.08 carats and graded vivid fancy pink, which is set in a platinum and gold ring surrounded by a double row of pave-set white diamonds, the auction house said. Its pre-sale estimate was $23 million to $28 million.
The seller was not identified and the buyer, who has named the pink diamond "The Sweet Josephine," wished to remain anonymous, Christie's said. The diamond's origin was not disclosed.
"It is absolutely a top price for a stone of this quality, because of its color. There are few pink-pink the way this one was," said Francois Curiel, chairman of Christie's Luxury Group and its veteran jewelry expert, who conducted part of the evening auction in a packed salesroom.
"It shows we are dealing with a very healthy stone market," he told reporters. "There is lots of cash in the world right now. At the moment, works of art, diamonds and jewels are a safe haven."
In almost 250 years of auction history, only three pure vivid pink diamonds of over 10 carats have appeared for sale, according to Christie's.
A pear-shaped flawless white diamond weighing 50.48 carats fetched 7.89 million Swiss francs in heated bidding, the evening's second-highest lot, selling to a dealer in the room.
Jewels by Harry Winston, Van Cleef & Arpels, Boucheron, Cartier and Bulgari soared above pre-sale estimates, including a Bulgari coral onyx and diamond bracelet-watch designed as a coiled serpent.
In all, some 80 percent of the 400 lots on offer sold for 110.26 million Swiss francs, Christie's said, eclipsing expectations.
Christie's, founded in 1776, is now owned by French retail magnate Francois Pinault's holding company Artemis SA.
A large blue diamond, one of the world's rarest, could fetch $35 million to $55 million at auction on Wednesday, rival Sotheby's said last week, as an industry group reported strong prices for color diamonds ahead of the holiday season.
A Modigliani nude painting was sold to an unnamed Chinese buyer at Christie's on Monday for $170.4 million, the second-highest price ever for a work of art at auction, as deep-pocketed collectors continue to pay, and pay big, for some rare masterpieces up for sale in this year's autumn auctions season..
"China has been very active yesterday in New York and tonight in Geneva," Curiel said.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Peter Cooney