GENEVA (Reuters Life!) - A rare pink diamond could set a world record next week in a revived international market chasing strong prices for top quality jewels, auction firm Sotheby's said on Wednesday.
The standout stone, estimated at $27-38 million, is among 550 lots on offer at a November 16 auction in Geneva.
Vintage pieces by French jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels which belonged to now deceased socialites Christina Onassis and Cristina Ford are also on the auction house's block.
The rectangular pink diamond, bought from American jeweler Harry Winston 60 years ago by the current anonymous owner, has top grading for purity and color. Set between small white diamonds on a platinum ring, it weighs 24.78 carats, about the size of a pinball or a large marble.
"During 35 years in the business at the top end of auctions, I have seen a lot of private collections around the world and I've probably only seen two or three other stones that come even close," David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby's jeweler department in Europe and the Middle East, told Reuters.
"It's like pink champagne," he said.
Colored diamonds -- blue, yellow and pink -- are especially prized by collectors in Asia and the Middle East.
"If it sells, it would be the record price for a gem sold at auction, even at the low estimate," Bennett told reporters.
The world's most expensive jewel ever sold at auction is the "Wittelsbach" blue diamond, a 17th-century stone of 35.56 carats that fetched $24.3 million in December 2008 at rival Christie's.
Christie's also sold a pink diamond of just 5 carats in Hong Kong in December 2009 for nearly $10.8 million, still a world auction record price per carat for a diamond and for a pink diamond, according to the auction house.
Diamonds and other rare gemstones are fetching strong prices, buoyed by online bidders joining the international jeweler market, according to Bennett, a British expert.
"The market is very strong indeed if you look at the results. We had our best sale ever in Hong Kong last month," he said, noting it netted $54 million.
"The whole year has been fantastic with low percentages of unsold lots. We've had large growth in the number of bidders and buyers. There's no question the Internet is expanding our client base rapidly," he said.
Sotheby's semi-annual jeweler sales in Geneva are estimated to fetch $60 million, according to the auction house.
Jewels from the estate of Cristina Ford, the glamorous Italian-born second wife of Henry Ford II, grandson of the Ford Motor Company founder, include emerald and diamond Van Cleef classics from the 1960s and 1970s, after the jet-set couple met at a party given by Monaco's Prince Rainier and Princess Grace.
A ruby and diamond bangle, necklace and ear clips, and necklace, formerly in the collection of Christina Onassis, daughter of the Greek shipping magnate, are reappearing on the block after being put up by their anonymous owner, a lady.
Christie's, which is putting nearly 300 lots under the hammer in the Swiss city on Wednesday, November 17, estimates their total value in excess of $40 million. Its star lot, a white pear-shaped diamond weighing 26.17 carats, from the famed Golconda mines in India, is estimated to fetch $3 million-$5 million.
Editing by Jonathan Lynn and Paul Casciato