59.6 carat diamond is sold for auction record of $83 million

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GENEVA -- A 59.6-carat pink diamond sold Wednesday for $83 million, a record for any gemstone at auction.

The oval-cut stone's price exceeded the previous record by 82 percent at an auction in Geneva held by Sotheby's, which called the gem, recently known as "The Pink Star," one of the earth's greatest natural treasures. Those prices include the buyer's premium. The buyer, according to Sotheby's website, was New York diamond expert Isaac Wolf, who it said has renamed the gem "The Pink Dream."

"It elicits almost a visceral response," auctioneer David Bennett said of the gem. "This stone checks every single box in terms of rarity, quality, size and everything. The crown jewels of England, which is one of the greatest jewel cases, does not have a diamond this size or this color."

The five-minute battle for the gem opened at 48 million Swiss francs, or $52.5 million, with a bid from the room. The price rose quickly in increments of 1 million francs. While there were several phone bidders, the winning bid came from the crowded auction room, from a representative for Mr. Wolf.

The auction concluded to the tune of Henry Mancini's "Pink Panther Theme." The "Pink Panther" was a fictitious gemstone featured in the 1963 movie of that title, starring Peter Sellers.

Steinmetz Diamonds -- the firm owned by Israel's richest man, Beny Steinmetz -- cut and polished the stone, which was mined by De Beers in Africa. After two years of preparation, Danish model Helena Christensen wore the stone around her neck to exhibit it to the public for the first time in Monaco in 2003. The gem is fancy vivid pink, the highest grade for the color of diamonds, and the purity of its crystals ranks among the top 2 percent in the world.

Mr. Bennett had set the previous record for any stone sold in auction, with the $45.6 million paid in 2010 for "Graff Pink" diamond. "The Pink Star" -- or, now, "The Pink Dream" -- is more than twice the size of the 24.78-carat "Graff Pink."

The sale crowns the Geneva fall auction season, highlights of which include the $36 million sale of the largest orange diamond known to exist, a $2.2 million price tag for a 1957 Patek Philippe watch and a record for a Rolex Daytona. Polished diamond prices have climbed 39 percent in the past decade, according to the PolishedPrices Diamond price overall index.

"The Pink Star/Dream" diamond, previously known as "The Steinmetz Pink," was sold privately in 2007 for an undisclosed amount and later renamed. It has been included in the "Splendor of Diamonds" exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, alongside the De Beers Millennium Star, the Allnatt diamond, and the Moussaieff Red. It was the largest internally flawless fancy vivid pink diamond ever graded by the Gemological Institute of America.

Wednesday's sale follows a Sotheby's auction in Hong Kong in October containing a white and a blue diamond valued at more than $28 million and $19 million, respectively.

Investment-grade diamonds attract buyers as both status symbols and hedges against financial market volatility. Colored stones, which account for about 0.01 percent of mined production, are prized for their rarity and command the highest price per carat.

Pink diamonds have set the highest auction prices for gemstones sold at auction. The 34.65-carat "Princie" fancy intense pink raised $39.3 million at Christie's New York in April.

Pink diamonds are Type II stones that derive their color from the process known as plastic deformation, in which pressure changes create structural anomalies during crystal growth.

The desirability of pink as a gem color has increased since pink diamonds were first discovered in India centuries ago. Famous examples include the Williamson, given to Queen Elizabeth at her wedding, and the Darya-i-Nur, the largest pink diamond in the world, which initially belonged to Mogul emperors in India and is now stored at the National Treasury of Iran.

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