'Raj Pink' diamond, top gems, fail to sell at Sotheby's sale

Stephanie Nebehay
Key Points
  • Rare pink diamond stranded on auction block in Geneva
  • Lots fail to meet secret reserve price set by sellers
  • Laurence Graff buys diamond earrings, emerald necklace
The gem, called ‘The Raj Pink,’ is the world’s largest known Fancy Intense Pink diamond is expected to fetch up to $30 million at auction.
Source: Sotheby's

A large pink diamond, rare for its color and clarity, was among several major jewels that failed to sell on Wednesday at Sotheby's auction in Geneva.

The 37.3-carat cushion-shaped stone, known as the "Raj Pink" and mounted on a ring, was billed as the star lot at Sotheby's semi-annual jewelry sale in the Swiss city. The pre-sale estimate for the diamond, found in South Africa in 2015, was $20 million to $30 million.

Bidding opened on it at 9.9 million Swiss francs ($10.02 million) and climbed to 14 million Swiss francs before stalling.

"It was not sold," David Bennett, worldwide chairman of Sotheby's international jewelry division who conducted the auction, told the crowded saleroom. The "Raj Pink" was named by its current owner, who wished to remain anonymous, Sotheby's said. The name is based on the Sanskrit word for king.

Other major lots were left hanging, failing to meet the secret reserve price set by their sellers.

They included a blue diamond ring by jeweler Moussaieff with the last bid of 12.4 million Swiss francs and a pair of yellow diamonds that formerly belonged to the German princely family of Von Donnersmarck, which reached 7.8 million Swiss francs.

Only 303 of the 349 lots found new owners, according to Sotheby's figures. In all, the sale netted 77.9 million francs.

A Harry Winston fancy light pink diamond ring, described as an "absolutely sensationally beautiful stone" by Bennett, brought the strongest price of the night and set a world record for that category at auction, Sotheby's said.

It sold for 12.6 million Swiss francs to a telephone bidder who purchased it from a European noble family which owned the 1970 piece by the New York jeweler, Sotheby's said.

Graff Diamonds Ltd, founded by London luxury jeweler Laurence Graff, scooped up two lots - a pair of flawless diamond earrings for 2.4 million francs and a 19th-century emerald and diamond necklace and matching earrings for 1.63 million francs, Sotheby's said.

"Pieces must be exceptional to sell today at the same level as two years ago," Eric Valdieu, a Geneva-based jewelry dealer formerly of Christie's, told Reuters after the auction.

The "Raj Pink" was not an easy stone to sell, he said, adding: "It was a modern, recent stone and not a 10 out of 10 in terms of its color and form. It had no history," Valdieu said.

Tobias Kormind, managing director of 77Diamonds.com, Europe's largest online diamond jeweler, said in a statement that Sotheby's sale did not bode well for prices: "I'm worried for the top end of the diamond market."

At rival Christie's on Tuesday night, an emerald and diamond necklace set with the largest flawless white diamond ever to come to auction sold for a world record 33.5 million Swiss francs ($34 million), the star lot at its Geneva sale.