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Extraordinary: The biggest and most expensive jewels ever auctioned

Aliya Ladhabhoy

What makes a jewel or a piece of jewellery sell for dizzying amounts of money? It could be the gem’s flawless colour, clarity, rarity or perhaps its historic legacy or a jewellery’s unique design.
Over the years, auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s have sold some of the most remarkable, rare gems that have gone on to set world records.
We curate a list of the most expensive jewels, which have been sold at auctions in recent years.
Pink Star, $71.2 million
The dazzling 59.60 carat oval mixed-cut pink diamond is the largest Internally Flawless Fancy Vivid Pink diamond that the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has ever graded. Auctioned by Sotheby’s in Hong Kong in April 2017, it sold for $71.2 million, setting a new world auction record for the most expensive diamond or jewel ever sold, The Pink Star was acquired by renowned jeweller Chow Tai Fook. The Pink Star has been renamed CTF Pink Star in memory of the late Dr. Cheng Yu-Tung, father of the current chairman and founder of Chow Tai Fook.
pink star
Source: Sotheby’s


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Oppenheimer Blue, $57.9 million
The sensational ring features a rare fancy vivid blue rectangular-cut diamond, weighing approximately 14.62 carats flanked by a trapeze-shaped diamond on either side and mounted in platinum and signed by Verdura. It sold for a staggering $57,973,000 at Christie’s Magnificent Jewels auction in Geneva in May 2016, making it the most expensive jewel to be auctioned at that time.
The diamond was named in honour of its previous owner, the connoisseur Sir Philip Oppenheimer. The Oppenheimers have been leaders in the diamond industry for generations and Sir Philip treasured this stone for its perfect hue, impeccable proportions and fabulous rectangular shape.
Oppenheimer Blue
Source: Christie’s
Pink Legacy, $50 million
The 18.96 carat fancy vivid pink diamond is one of the rare pink diamonds over 10 carats to be auctioned in history. The Type IIa gem sold for $50 million at a Christie’s auction in November 2018. At the time of the sale Rahul Kadakia, International Head of Jewellery at Christie’s, had noted that “to find a diamond of this size with this colour is pretty much unreal.’ The price of around $2.6m per carat set a new world record per carat for a pink diamond.
The diamond originally belonged to the Oppenheimer family. The diamond was bought by Harry Winston and was promptly renamed as The Winston Pink Legacy.
pink legacy
Source: Christie’s


The Blue Moon, $48.5 million
The 12.03-carat cushion-shaped fancy vivid blue diamond was named after the expression – once in a blue moon – to signify its rarity. It was discovered in South Africa in January 2014 and sold for $48.5 million at Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels auction in November 2015 in Geneva. The stone set a new auction record for the highest price per carat for a diamond or a gemstone, at more than $4 million per carat — a record that still stands.
The diamond was bought by the Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau Luen-hung, who named it after his daughter, Josephine.
blue diamond
Source: Sotheby’s
Graff Pink, $46 million
The 24.78 carat fancy intense pink diamond is one of the most significant diamonds to appear at an auction. It was sold by Sotheby’s at its Magnificent Jewels auction for a record-setting $46 million in Geneva in 2010. Famed diamond dealer Laurence Graff purchased the stone and renamed it Graff Pink.
The rare round-cornered rectangular step-cut diamond was once owned by Harry Winston and was away from the public eye for 60 years before it was put up for auction in 2010.
pink diamond
Source: Sotheby’s

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Queen Marie-Antoinette’s Pearl, $36.2 million
A pearl and diamond pendant that belonged to the last Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, fetched $36.2 million at a Sotheby’s auction in Geneva in November 2018. It sold for 18 times its presale estimates of between $1-2 million and set a world auction record for an antique jewel as well as for a natural pearl.
The pendant was part of one of Sotheby’s Royal Jewels from Bourbon Parma family auction. It was one of the most significant royal collections to be auctioned, setting a new world record and totally realized $53million for the auction house.
pearl pendant
Source: Sotheby’s
The Art of de Grisogono, $33.7 million
Designed by De Grisogono, the diamond and emerald necklace featuring a 163.41-carat D flawless diamond at centre was sold at Christie’s Magnificent Jewels sale in November 2017 for $33.7 million. It  set a world record for the most valuable D colour flawless diamond ever sold at auction.
The diamond was originally cut from a 404.2-carat rough diamond, the largest ever to be found in Angola in 2016. The one-of-a-kind necklace was crafted over six months and artisans spent 1700 hours to create the masterpiece.
The start of the necklace is flanked by baguette-cut diamonds ascending from around 0.5 to 8 carats one side and about 6,000 brilliant-cut emeralds on the other which are further accented by two rows of 66 pear-cut emerald drops.
flawless diamond
Source: Christie’s
Sunrise Ruby, $30.3 million
The 25.59 carat Burmese pigeon blood ruby ring by Cartier sold for a world-record $30.33 million at Sotheby’s Geneva auction in May 2015. Initially estimated to be sold between $12-18 million, it set the record price for a ruby to be sold at an auction – three times the previous record set by the Graff ruby. Pigeon blood red rubies are extremely rare. After the sale, the global chairman of Sotheby’s International Jewellery Division, David Bennett, had commented that, “during his 40 years in the industry, he has never before seen a ruby of this calibre”.
sunrise ruby
Source: Sotheby’s
The Cullinan Dream, $25.3 million
The 24.18-carat fancy intense blue diamond mounted in a platinum ring became the largest blue diamond ever sold at an auction after realizing $25,365,000 at Christie’s sale in June 2016. It is nearly 10 carats larger than the 14.62-carat Oppenheimer Blue which was sold a month earlier.
Drawn from the Cullinan mine in South Africa, formerly known as the Premier mine, the diamond is the largest of four blue diamonds cut from the 122.52 carat rough unearthed in 2014.
blue diamond
Source: Christie’s
Winston Blue, $23.8 million
The ’fancy vivid blue pear-shaped diamond, weighing approximately 13.22 carats, flanked on either side by a pear-shaped diamond was bought by Harry Winston from Christie’s Magnificent Jewels Geneva auction in May 2014 for $23.8 million. Back then, The Blue as it was called at the time of the auction was the largest flawless blue diamond in the world. It was renamed The Winston Blue.
winston blue diamond
Source: Christie’s