Two weeks ago, I snapped my most popular Instagram pic of all time: a close-up of a pear-shape diamond perched between a thumb and forefinger—250 likes and counting. The rock was remarkable for several reasons: Not only was it D color and VVS1 clarity, it boasted the unique watery translucence associated with type IIa diamonds (referring to gems devoid of nitrogen), with the GIA paperwork to prove it.
Those qualities, however, weren’t the things that blew up my feed. What earned the most attention was simple: At 89.23 cts., the diamond is enormous. When I first saw it, I gasped. About the size of an avocado pit, it looked too big to be real, like a paste facsimile stolen from the prop department of a Hollywood film about the ludicrously rich.
The difference is that this beauty was 100 percent real. The prize lot of the Christie’s upcoming Magnificent Jewels sale, the 89 carater, which goes on the block Dec. 10 in New York, was temporarily on display at the Christie’s Los Angeles office (smack in the heart of Beverly Hills) as part of a global tour. Gabriel Ford, a PR manager, had kindly extended an invitation for me to preview the highlights of the sale. At the last minute, I dragged along my friend, jewelry partner in crime, and recent L.A. transplant Randi Molofsky to the viewing.
When we saw the assortment of jewels Ford had placed in velvet-lined trays for us to try on, we couldn’t hide our giddiness. I had no idea we would be allowed to play with such high-value baubles.
Our eyes immediately went to the pear-shape rock, which is expected to fetch in excess of $10 million. It was mounted as a pendant, but I had to wonder if its eventual owner would ever actually wear it. (If it isn’t the epitome of an investment diamond, I don’t know what is.) When I asked Tom Burstein, senior vice president of the jewelry department at Christie’s, if the gem would likely sell to a private buyer or to a member of the trade, he said it could go either way: “The trade—they’re treasure hunters, too.”
And indeed, there was Neil Lane, jeweler to the stars, waving hello to us behind the glass walls of the conference room.
Outrageous diamonds are Christie’s stock-in-trade—or so it seemed when we turned our attention to the next major lot, a suite of yellow and brown diamond jewelry (totaling more than 375 cts.!) anchored by a crazy necklace of diamonds in various fancy shapes, including a 52.3 ct. brown pear-shape center stone that looked super groovy against Randi’s black and red mod-like dress when she placed it around her neck.
Estimated to fetch between $3.5 million and $5 million, the colored diamond jewelry suite is signed Jahan—who is a Swiss jeweler with a mostly Middle Eastern clientele. I smiled when I learned the maker: About six years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Shahpour Jahan, a seventh- generation member of the family business, at his office in Geneva, where I tried on suite after suite of enormous rubies, sapphires, and emeralds with my friend Sandra Müller, a talented jeweler who hails from Switzerland but now lives in Los Angeles. Here’s a blog post I wrote about the experience.
In addition to the sale’s Kashmir sapphires, pigeon’s-blood rubies, natural pearls, signed period jewels, and massive colored diamonds (many of which are said to hail from Golconda, the mythical region of India that gave birth to the Hope Diamond, among other famous gems), two major lots from the Christie’s collection stood out:
The first was a diamond flower cuff bracelet ($600,000–$800,000) mounted in platinum and gold and centered on an old-cut navette-shape diamond weighing some 13 cts. Designed by JAR and formerly owned by the philanthropist Lily Safra, the bracelet is distinguished by the Paris-based jeweler’s signature: superb pavé setting, even when you look deep inside the curved folds of the camellia flower head.
The second was a fancy red diamond of 1.42 cts., recertified as Lot 11 from the 2013 Pink Diamonds Tender. The fancy red certification is no joke: The Christie’s catalog says the grading “is of ultimate rarity.” That the unmounted oval-cut diamond, which is estimated to sell for $1.5 million– $2.5 million, is the third largest such gem to be offered at auction, makes it all the more remarkable.
Leslie Roskind, senior vice president of the Christie’s jewelry department, told us that she has a client looking to build an entire necklace out of fancy red diamonds—a staggering thought when you consider their price and rarity. That should help put the exuberance of the jewelry auction market in perspective—especially when it comes to rare colored diamonds, which continue to break records.
“More people understand and value color today, as opposed to 20 years ago,” Roskind said. “There’s a level of client—their next-door neighbor has a 10 ct. diamond, and they want something different.”
Geez, must be nice.
Come next week, I’ll be paying close attention to the results, wondering about the lucky soul who gets to take home the sale’s most magnificent treasures.