How many individuals around the world can really afford to acquire a unique, one of a kind diamond estimated at $35 million?
The De Beers Millennium Jewel 4, a 10.10 Fancy Vivid Blue oval shaped diamond
It seems that Sotheby’s auction house is on a roll ever since it sold the 9.75 carat Fancy Vivid Blue pear shaped diamond in New York back on November 20, 2014, which was renamed at the time “The Zoe Diamond”. Back then, everybody thought that the new $3.35 million per carat was going to remain in place for a very long time. The Zoe diamond broke a $1.8 million per carat record set a mere few months earlier on May 14, 2014 by the 13.22 carat Fancy Vivid Blue Internally Flawless diamond that was sold in Geneva by rival Sotheby’s rival Christie’s and renamed “Winston Blue”.
The Zoe Diamond
A year later, on November 11, 2015, the now famous 12.03 carat Fancy Vivid Blue diamond named “The Blue Moon” broke the Zoe’s record and set yet a new record of $4.03 million per carat to a long time collector, billionaire Joseph Lau. Lau renamed it after his 7 year old daughter, calling it “The Blue Moon of Josephine”. That’s a lot of records in blue diamond prices for an 18 month span! That is also quite a lot of birthday presents – both diamonds were bought by Lau and intended for each of his daughters – Zoe and Josephine.
The Blue Moon of Josephine
A new blue diamond is going up for auction in April. The 10.10 Fancy Vivid Blue oval shaped diamond, called the De Beers Millennium Jewel 4, will be offered by Sotheby’s in Hong Kong. Not only is this diamond the largest ever oval shaped blue diamond ever offered at auction, it is also renowned worldwide because it is a member of the De Beers Millennium Collection. It is also one of just a dozen blue diamonds larger that 10 carats that exist in the world. That is quite a lot of credentials for this humble diamond and it will attract some big name buyers. Will this diamond be renamed “The Zoe Millennium Blue” or any other derivative? Maybe the Josephine Millennium Blue? Or perhaps bought by another collector looking for big ticket items?
The De Beers Millennium Jewel 4
De Beers Millennium Collection
Back in 2000, De Beers helped London celebrate the new millennium by displaying a special exhibit in London’s Millennium dome. As De Beers is a diamond mining and selling company, their contribution was to display 12 of the most magnificent diamonds of the millennium. In total, they displayed 12 diamonds, 1 impressive colorless diamond called the Millennium Star, and 11 blue diamonds. The Millennium Star is the highlight of the collection at 203 carats as it is the largest D color flawless pear shaped diamond in the world.
The De Beers Millennium Collection
The Millennium Star originated in the Democratic Republic of Congo and is the only diamond from the collection from there. The rest of the De Beers Millennium Jewels are the eleven blue diamonds whose collective weight totals 118 carats and were cut in a variety of different shapes. Each of them were discovered at De Beers’ Premier mine of its greater Cullinan mine in South Africa.
Myself (center) on a visit to the Cullinan mine in South Africa
The eleven diamonds range in size from 5.16 carats to 27.64 carats. That largest diamond is the fabled heart shaped blue diamond called the Heart of Eternity. The Heart of Eternity was cut by the Steinmetz Group, who owned the diamond before selling it to the De Beers Group. Together with the Millennium Star, the Heart of Eternity was on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. as a special exhibit called the Splendor of Diamonds Exhibition in the summer of 2013. The rest of the collection was not in the Smithsonian, but this 10.10 carat diamond is the only oval diamond in the collection.
The diamonds in the Smithsonian Splendor of Diamonds Exhibition. Counter-clockwise from center:
The 203.04 ct ‘De Beers Millennium Star’, the 59.60 ct Fancy Vivid Pink ‘Pink Dream’, the 27.64 ct Fancy Vivid Blue Heart of Eternity, the 5.54 ct Fancy Vivid Orange ‘Pumpkin Orange’, the 5.11 ct Fancy Red ‘Moussaieff Red’, the 5.51 ct Fancy Deep Blue Green ‘Ocean Dream’, and the 101.29 ct Fancy Vivid Yellow ‘Allnatt’
All of this proved too tantalizing for its London audience. Interestingly, a group of thieves was tempted by the display and planned an elaborate heist to acquire the jewels for themselves and pull of the biggest diamond heist in history. Having caught wind of the scheme, the London police replaced the diamonds in the exhibit with fakes and waited in order to catch the criminals in the act. They were discovered and overpowered by the police, and sentenced to jail time of up to 18 years each. These thieves certainly understood the draw and temptation, not to mention the value, of blue diamonds!
The 10.10 Fancy Vivid Blue oval shaped diamond set as a ring for the auction
The collection was displayed on behalf of De Beers in conjunction with Steinmetz, but is actually owned by a private Asian collector who has decided to put the oval diamond up for auction. What happened to the other blue diamonds? The 11 blue diamonds include nine that were graded Fancy Vivid by the GIA, the highest possible color grade, and the final two Fancy Intense, the next highest color grade. So far, only one of these diamonds has been released to the market. On April 7, 2010, Sotheby’s Hong Kong sold the De Beers Millennium Jewel 11, a 5.16 carat Fancy Vivid Blue IF pear shaped diamond. The diamond sold for $6.4 million, or $1.247 million per carat.
The De Beers Millennium Jewel 11, a 5.16 carat Fancy Vivid Blue IF pear shaped diamond
Now, 6 years later the 10.10 carat Fancy Vivid Blue diamond is the next diamond from the collection to go under the hammer. It certainly has pressure to sell for a new record, but will it break the $4.03 million per carat most recently set? It remains to be seen whether buyers will extend that 18 month streak.
The De Beers Millennium Jewel 4 diamond will be the sixth Fancy Vivid Blue diamond above 10 carats to hit the auction since April 26, 2004, when a 10.80 carat Fancy Vivid Blue was sold for a total $4.244 million, or $393k per carat. That is less than 10% of the current record holder of $4.03 million for the Blue Moon, and is also a massive price appreciation for eleven and a half years!
Here is the list of Fancy Vivid Blue diamonds above 10 carats that were sold at auction since 2004:
April 26, 2004 10.80 ct sold for $392,993 per carat
November.17, 2004 10.62 ct sold for $414,648 per carat
October 1, 2010 10.95 ct $1.44 million per carat
May 14, 2014 13.22 ct sold for $1.8 million per carat
November 11, 2015 12.03 ct sold for $4.03 million per carat
The last in the list will be the 10.10 carat diamond on April 5, 2016, and the jury is out as to what it will be sold for!
Graphical representation as to the progress in price for Fancy Vivid Blue diamonds above 10 carats
Given the past eighteen months’ impressive diamond prices, it is interesting that the auction house chose to sell the diamond in such a public setting rather than privately. After all, private transactions usually gain higher prices than auctions! For example, the current red diamond record price is $2.4 million while I know for a fact that in a private transaction, a red diamond was sold for more than $3.5m per carat. This preference for buying privately could be because the buyers do not need to hide the extent of how much money is at their disposal, because the buyers prefer to remain anonymous, or even because the buyers do not want the selling price known publicly in case they should choose to resell it at a later time. Regardless of the reason, the choice to sell the diamond publicly and risk earning less money for it was a choice.
This choice was probably made in order to make the record price as public as possible. If a diamond is sold privately, it is a secret if it broke an official record. This situation also exists in the art world. In art, the current record is $179 million, while a private transaction is said to have broken $500 million for a work of art by a Middle Eastern country for their museum – it but cannot be publicized officially since it was not done in a public auction.
The act of making this (hopefully) record breaking price public will serve to reinforce the latest trend in the blue diamond market. Blue diamonds have always been recognized for their beauty, as the most famous diamond in the world is a blue diamond – the Hope Diamond. However, in recent years blue diamonds have begun to be recognized for their incredible wealth concentration and growth as well. Just a cursory glance at the graph above is a testament to this, although I have also published a few articles detailing blue diamond price increase over the last decades.
What do you think? Will this blue diamond break the record price set by the blue diamond? Can blue diamonds continue in this trajectory? Let me know what you think in the comments!
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