December 10, 2008 / 3:31 PM / 10 years ago

Christie's sells diamond for record $24.3 million

LONDON (Reuters) - Christie’s on Wednesday sold an extremely rare, 17th-century fancy deep grayish-blue diamond for 16.39 million pounds ($24.3 million), a world record price for any diamond or piece of jewelry sold at auction.

An historic 17th century cushion-shaped fancy deep grayish blue diamond weighing 35.56 carats is shown in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Christie's/Handout

The pre-sale estimate was around 9 million pounds.

Bond Street jeweler Laurence Graff bought the 35.56-carat, historic Wittelsbach diamond, which came to the international market for the first time in almost 80 years, in a highly competitive auction, a Christie’s spokesperson told Reuters.

Large blue diamonds of high clarity, like the gem sold on Wednesday, are very rare. Its provenance enhanced its value.

“The importance of the piece, the rarity of it, was recognized,” said Keith Penton, head of Christie’s jewelry department in London.

He said there was strong interest in the diamond from jewelers and private collectors.

The diamond, which originated from an Indian diamond mine, was part of the dowry of the Infanta Margarita Teresa (1651-1673) upon her engagement to Leopold I of Austria.

After the princess’s death her husband kept the dowry and the diamond was passed on to his heirs.

In 1722 the diamond entered the Wittelsbach family. It was sold from a private collection.

Alisa Moussaieff, another top Bond Street jeweler who observed the sale, said she was not surprised at the record price.

“He (Graff) paid a fair price for a very fine gem,” Moussaieff told Reuters. “For special pieces (diamonds) the prices are as strong as ever.”

The previous record price for a diamond sold at auction was $16.5 million, for a 100-carat diamond sold in Geneva in 1995, the Christie’s spokesperson said.

The Wittelsbach diamond was likely to be used as a piece of jewelry — as a ring or a pendant, jewelers said.

Laurence Graff was unavailable for comment.

Reporting by David Brough; editing by Sue Thomas

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