Between 2001 and today, stock prices are up about 30 percent. Diamonds, however—at least certain huge diamonds – have done far better.
Sotheby's yesterday sold a 74.79 carat white diamond for $14.2 million, far above the pre-sale estimate of $9 million to $12 million. Five bidders were vying for the unnamed rock, which has a coveted "D" color designation.
Sotheby's says the same diamond sold in 2001 for $4.3 million, meaning the value more than tripled and provided an annual return of more than 20 percent.
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The pear-shaped diamond was part of a record-breaking jewelry sale for Sotheby's, which brought in $53.5 million—the most ever for a spring jewelry auction. Many of the pieces were from the family of Jay Gould, the financier, railroad magnate and archetypal "robber baron" of the 19th century.
One sale doesn't make a trend, and the jewel market is highly prone to fakes, theft and sudden price shifts. But the white diamond's sale offers further evidence of the roaring bull market in hard assets (diamonds being the hardest of assets). From collectible cars and coins to stamps, wine, art and real estate, the wealthy continue to move more of their money into investments they can touch, feel and, if possible, enjoy.
Especially in today's volatile financial markets, top-quality hard assets have become increasingly attractive as safe stores of value. The Sotheby's sale follows a string of other big diamond sales in recent years, including the $115 million Liz Taylor jewelry sale in 2011.
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"I generally think of top-quality diamonds not in terms of wealth creation, but instead as wealth retention, tangible assets that have global appeal and global value," said Lisa Hubbard, chairman of Sotheby's North and South American International Jewelry division
Sotheby's released very little information about the age or origin of the $14 million stone. It would only say that it's not "historic" in terms of age.
Still, the pear-shaped super-bling was a great investment for the seller. And, if nothing else, a great accessory for the buyer.