What do you give the seven year-old who has everything? How about a 12.03 carat blue diamond, of such rarity that there are only a handful in existence? Josephine Lau, the daughter of Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau, has the distinction of having three of the world’s rarest gems named after her. In addition to The Blue Moon of Josephine (see 3 below) Lau, who is in failing health, purchased a $28.6m 16.08 carat pink diamond which he named Sweet Josephine, and a $9.5m 7.03 carat vivid blue gem called Star of Josephine. Her teenage sister Zoe, hasn’t been left out. Lau paid US$32.6 m for a 9.75-carat diamond which he named the ‘Zoe Diamond’, and $11.9m for an exceptional ruby named ‘Zoe Red’.
With the record-breaking sale of the Pink Star Diamond last week, we take a look at the enduring appeal of precious gemstones at auction amid the continuingly boyant market for rocks on the blocks. These are the gemstones which cannot be outshone in the four ‘C’s – cut, clarity, colour and carat.
1)The Pink Star Diamond. In another era it would have graced the finger of an empress or been embedded in a royal crown but this week the Pink Star diamond, one of the rarest gems ever to come to auction, broke the world record in just five minutes of tense bidding at Sotheby’s Hong Kong when it sold to a Hong Kong jewellery company, Chow Tai Fook, for a remarkable $71m, over £57m.
The 59.6 carat stone, which was discovered by De Beers in a mine in Africa (exactly where is a closely guarded secret) in 1999, took two years to cut. It is the largest polished diamond in its class ever to come to auction. The Pink Star created a sensation and attracted a bid of $83m when it first came on the market in Geneva in 2013 but the buyer later defaulted.
At that time, Sotheby’s was forced to stump up the cash as it had guaranteed the seller a price of $60m (£48m). Rising demand from wealthy Asian buyers convinced the auction house that now was the ideal time to return to the salesroom with the flawless gem. The timing proved impeccable.
The market for rare, precious gemstones has been strong in recent years with some spectacular stones coming to market in the last decade. Previously the record was held the by the Oppenheimer Blue diamond (7) which sold for $57.5m (£46m) in Geneva in May 2016 at Christie’s.
2) The Fancy Vivid Orange – in November 2013 the largest vivid orange diamond in the world attracted the highest price paid per carat for any diamond at auction, selling for $35m (£22m), or $2.4m (£1.5m) per carat – $15m above its estimate. Named ‘fire diamonds’ by the gemologist Edwin Streeter, pure orange diamonds remain incredibly rare, with so few having been graded that the exact cause of their colour remains a mystery. The Fancy Vivid orange is four times the size of most orange diamonds.
3) The Blue Moon of Josephine. In November 2015, this ring-mounted blue diamond, was bought by Hong Kong tycoon Joseph Lau, who paid a record $48.4m (£31.7m) for the cushion-shaped stone. He bought it for his seven-year-old daughter, renaming it the Blue Moon of Josephine, after her.
4) The Pink Graff, In November 2010 this “fancy intense pink” diamond was bought at auction by British dealer Laurence Graff for $46.2m (£29m) Described as “one of the greatest diamonds ever discovered,” at the time it was the most expensive gemstone bought at auction. Its rarity comes from the purity of its colour. While most pink diamonds show some elements of purple, orange or grey, The Perfect Pink is just that, showing absolutely no trace of secondary colour.
5) The Sunrise Ruby In May 2015, an anonymous buyer made history by purchasing the Sunrise Ruby, a 25.59-carat “pigeon blood” coloured gemstone, for $30m (£19.1m), making it the world’s most expensive non-diamond gemstone.
6) The Flawless Pear. In 2013, Christie’s auctioned one of the largest pear-shaped diamonds known to date — weighing in at an extraordinary 101.73 carats. Awarded the highest ‘D’ colour grade by the Gemological Institute of America, the stone came with the coveted ‘Flawless’ clarity, and was bought for $26.7m (£17m). Perfectly symmetrical, the finished diamond was produced from a rough diamond of 236 carats sourced in Botswana, and took 21 months to polish.
7) The Oppenheimer Blue Diamond. In May 2016, this exceedingly rare blue diamond set a new record of $50.6m (£34.7m). The 14.62-carat gem was sold after 20 minutes of phone bidding at Christie’s auction house in Geneva to an unknown buyer.
8) The Fancy Vivid Pink Cushion. Wis the largest of its kind ever to come to auction, weighing in at 16.08 carats. The stone is set in a ring, and is surrounded by a double row of pavé white diamonds, a third row of small pink diamonds nestled underneath.
You may not have millions to spend at auction but for many women, a diamond or coloured gemstone ring will be their most expensive piece of jewellery and their most meaningful. If you are purchasing precious stones, the cut, colour, clarity and catat – the four Cs – are the most important attributes. Your jeweller should be able to give you a knowledgable explanation of each in relation to the gem you select.
If you are looking for something considerably less hard-going on the bank account, check out the Lily Blanche Luminous gemstone cocktail rings, in seven semi-precious stones and three precious metals. Wear them singly or in stacked in pairs for dramatic effect. Happy browsing!