Just published by Thames & Hudson is a sumptuous new book all about a certain mythical green stone. Titled ‘Emerald: Twenty-one Centuries of Jewelled Opulence and Power’, the book delves into the long history and significance of the gemstone, going through the trade from ancient times to modern. There are many beautiful images of historically important pieces, jewels from private collections (a number of which are being seen by the public for the first time), celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and Angelina Jolie in their beloved own pieces, as well as examples of the best in contemporary design. Contributions to the text come from Joanna Hardy, a respected jewelry historian, Jonathan Self, a globe-trotting author and journalist with a personal love of emeralds, and Franca Sozzani, the editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia who puts emeralds into the context of fashion and art.
Emeralds are, of course, having quite the year, with the shade being named the 2013 Pantone Color of the Year, but also with the extensive promotions done by Gemfields and some truly amazing pieces commanding very high sums at auction. Hopefully the resurgence in popularity of emeralds, and other colored gemstones, is not a quickly passing trend.
This book is now in the Gem Standard Library.
The showroom buzz was palpable yesterday as Lot 372 emerged on a grinning model at the Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels sale in Geneva. After a long pause from auctioneer David Bennett, the opening bid was announced at 48 million CHF ($52 million) for the ‘Pink Star’, a 59.60-carat flawless pink diamond, which had four competing bidders. Note that the opening bid was higher than the final sale price of what was at that point the most expensive diamond, the 24.78 carat ‘Graff Pink’, which was sold in Geneva by Sotheby’s for $46.2 million in 2010. It was thought before the sale that the ‘Pink Star’ would go for $60 million or so, but it quickly climbed past that point and in the end, after five minutes of back and forth, the final total was $83.2 million dollars.
The buyer has been revealed as Isaac Wolf, a diamond cutter in New York, who immediately renamed the stone ‘Pink Dream’. It is the third name for the remarkable gem, which was first known as the ‘Steinmetz Pink’ when Steinmetz bought the 132.5-carat rough stone from De Beers (who mined it in Africa in 1999), and then from a private sale an anonymous buyer in 2007 christened it the ‘Pink Star’. It seems to be said every time a record of this nature is created, but one would think this stone should hold the mantle of ‘most expensive diamond’ for some time. However, things keep coming out of the woodwork!
There was still one more lot to go after the pink diamond, which was the Walska Briolette Diamond brooch, featuring a 96.62-carat yellow diamond. It sold for $10.5 million, making it an auction record for a Van Cleef & Arpels piece of jewelry.
Another record was set for a sapphire at auction, with the sale of an unmounted 114.73 ‘royal blue’ Burmese sapphire for $7.1 million. It had an estimate of $2.8 million.
Speaking of items going well over estimates, it seems that those who determine these things at Sotheby’s were being awfully conservative, particularly on large colored gemstones and natural pearls. I have provided a sampling below of the very notable ones, but it was a widespread trend over the 373 lots, perhaps reflecting a unexpectedly strong shift in tastes.
The piece everyone is talking about is, of course, the ‘Pink Star’. Incredibly, the 59.60 carat stone, the largest known fancy vivid pink diamond in the world, is also flawless. Speculation abound on how much it will sell for, keeping in mind that the current record is held by the 24.78 carat ‘Graff Pink’, which was sold in Geneva by Sotheby’s for $46.2 million in 2010. No estimate is given on the Sotheby’s website for this natural wonder and it will be the second last lot of the day.
Last lot honors go to the legendary ‘Walska Briolette Diamond’ brooch. The fancy vivid yellow 96.62 carat diamond was once owned by the many-times-married opera singer Ganna Walska, who was quite the jewelry connoisseur. In 1971, many pieces of her jewelry were sold at auction and Van Cleef & Arpels picked up this yellow diamond, making the brooch to house it. Each component of the brooch can be separated into wearable pieces, with the wings becoming earrings, the tail another brooch and the diamond a pendant.
There are many more beautiful colored stones coming up for sale, including a pair of sapphire earrings that are unusual for their matched shape and color, a 20.80 carat yellow diamond of exceptional color, a lovely 5.04 carat blue diamond and a 2.05 carat green diamond, among many more. A video featuring some of these pieces has been made by Sotheby’s and you can view it here. And if you are in the market for a sapphire ring, this auction is certainly for you. There are 25 available on my count!
The sale will be held in three sessions, beginning at 10:30am (Lots 1-147), then 2:30pm (Lots 148-297), and finally 7:00pm (Lots 298-373).