Roses are red and exceptionally rare diamonds are blue, and this spring’s auctions will offer a trio of historic blue diamonds. Riding the record-setting wave of the “Blue Moon of Josephine” sale at Sotheby’s last November, the auction house and its rival Christie’s have made blue diamonds the headlining lots of three upcoming Magnificent Jewels sales.
First up is the “De Beers Millennium Jewel 4“, which hits the auction block at Sotheby’s Hong Kong this week on April 5th. Estimated to fetch upwards of $35 million, the 10.10-carat Fancy Vivid Blue diamond – the largest oval fancy vivid blue diamond to ever appear at auction – was part of an exceptional collection of diamonds named “De Beers Millennium Jewels”. Comprising the 203.04-carat colorless “Millennium Star” and eleven rare blue diamonds, the collection took decades to assemble in advance of the celebration of the new millennium in 2000. The eleven blue diamonds, all originating from the Cullinan Mine, totaled an impressive 118 carats and were expertly cut into various shapes and sizes. Since their initial appearance at the Millennium Exhibition in 2000, only one of these rare blue stones has ever appeared on the open market – the 5.16-carat pear-shaped Fancy Vivid Blue “De Beers Millennium Jewel 11” sold for $6.5 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in April 2010.
Also at Sotheby’s, the Shirley Temple Blue diamond is set to shine in New York as the starring lot of the April 19th Magnificent Jewels sale. The 9.54-carat cushion-shaped Fancy Deep Blue diamond was purchased by Temple’s father in 1940 for $7,210 (roughly $120,000 today) as a birthday present for the actress, who turned twelve around the time she finished filming the movie “The Blue Bird”. Today, the magnificent stone is expected to bring in between $25 and $35 million.
Adding fuel to this blue fire was Christie’s recent announcement of yet another important blue diamond at auction this spring: The Oppenheimer Blue. At 14.62 carats, the ‘legendary’ diamond is the largest Fancy Vivid Blue ever to come to auction. While most of the record-setting blue diamonds are typically cushion-, oval- or pear-shaped, the emerald-cut Oppenheimer Blue is unique and striking in comparison to its blue peers. The exceptional stone was named after its previous owner, Sir Philip Oppenheimer, whose family controlled De Beers for 80 years before selling its 40 percent stake to Anglo American Plc for $5.1 billion in 2012. The Oppenheimer Blue is estimated to sell for $38 to $45 million at Christie’s Magnificent Jewels sale in Geneva next month.
Despite the recent decline in the jewelry market worldwide, the top of the market remains as strong as ever. Colored diamonds have continued to fetch blockbuster prices at auction in recent years, led by the “Blue Moon of Josephine” that sold for $48.5 million in 2015. The sale of the Blue Moon, purchased by Chinese billionaire Joseph Lau for his seven-year-old daughter Josephine, set new records for price of any jewel, price of any diamond, and price-per-carat for any diamond. The Blue Moon of Josephine ousted the former record holder for most expensive jewel as well as most expensive diamond: the Graff Pink that sold for $46.1 million at Sotheby’s Geneva in 2010. The previous record holder for price-per-carat for any diamond was “The Zoe Diamond”, another historic Fancy Vivid Blue diamond formerly in the collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon that sold for $32.6 million at Sotheby’s New York in December 2014.
Important blue diamonds, whose blue hue is caused by trace amounts of boron impurities, have increasingly come to auction over the last few years, making them seem less special than they actually are. However, when compared to important pink, yellow and colorless diamonds, exceptional Fancy Vivid Blue specimens are historically infrequent on the auction block. The few that have sold at auction, however, fetch astronomical figures, even rendering them recognizable by name to the general public. Of course, the most famous of all diamonds, blue or otherwise, is the 45.52-carat Hope Diamond, a Fancy Deep Blue stone dating from the 17th century and estimated to be worth somewhere between $250 and $350 million. Another equally famous blue diamond is the Wittelsbach-Graff, which was purchased by Laurence Graff at a Christie’s auction in 2008 for the then record price of $23.4 million.
While the Blue Moon of Josephine remains the record holder today, the competition for the next reigning fancy blue jewel is closing in. Both the Shirley Temple Blue and the Oppenheimer Blue each have important provenances that add to their respective values, so not only are the stones exceedingly rare for their blue color and size, they boast impressive and famous owners as well. Thus, this spring will certainly be a dazzling battle of the blues.