A dazzling blue diamond once owned by mining magnate Philip Oppenheimer fetched a record $50.6 million (about R802 million) at auction in Geneva Wednesday, auction house Christie’s said.
The 14.62-carat “Oppenheimer Blue” is the largest stone in the exceptionally rare Fancy Vivid Blue category ever to go under the hammer, according to Christie’s.
The anonymous buyer will have to part with a total of $57.54 million, all fees and commissions included, a Christie’s spokesperson said.
Before the auction experts said it was in with a chance of beating the record of $48.4 million set by Sotheby’s in November with Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau’s purchase of the 12.03-carat “Blue Moon of Josephine”.
It did so after more than 20 minutes of bidding to become the most expensive polished diamond ever sold at auction, easily topping its pre-auction valuation of $38-45 million.
“This is the cut diamond and the jewel of all the record,” a Christie’s spokesman said after the auction attended by hundreds of people in a Geneva palace.
A recent spate of eye-popping bids at Geneva’s semi-annual magnificent jewel auctions has highlighted the surging value of precious stones, with some of the world’s ultra-rich increasingly investing in hard assets as a safeguard against stock market volatility.
Sir Philip Oppenheimer (1911-1995), a cousin of South Africa’s Sir Harry Oppenheimer of De Beers Mining, led a powerful cartel called the Central Selling Organization for 45 years, tightly controlling roughly 80% of the international diamond trade in a bid to prevent wild price swings.
Among his major credits was convincing the Soviet Union to sell its significant diamond reserves through his London-based cartel.
De Beers, the giant mining company built by the Oppenheimer family, also flourished in the latter half of the 20th Century, thanks in part to Sir Philip’s outsized influence in the sector.
The blue stone has passed through several hands since Oppenheimer’s death and Wednesday marked its first appearance at public auction.