[Above]  An extremely rare 15.38 carat pear-shaped pink diamond — called the ‘Unique Pink’ — sold for $31.6 million at Sotheby’s in Geneva making it the most expensive fancy vivid pink diamond ever to sell at auction.

The spectacular diamond, set in a simple ring, sold to an Asian private buyer who bid for the rare gem over the telephone. A Sotheby’s spokesperson said they were not yet able to reveal the buyer’s identity.

Frank Everett hits the books to reveal the exceptional provenance behind the highlights of Sotheby’s upcoming Magnificent Jewels sale on 25 April in New York. With a history that includes two celebrated design houses and three incomparable women, the outstanding 34-carat Stotesbury Emerald leads the auction, reappearing for the first time since 1971, alongside intricate pieces by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Sotheby’s Sale April 25

The fine Jewels of London

Jewels in Bloom

[Below] Jewel in the crown: The 24.78 carat fancy intense pink diamond, mounted as a ring was bought by billionaire jeweller Laurence Graff [Above]

A rare pink diamond was sold for a record-breaking £29million at auction last night, the most ever paid for a jewel.

The rectangular diamond which weighs 24.78 carats was bought by the British billionaire jeweller Laurence Graff, 72.

Dubbed ‘The King of Bling’ – Mr Graff said that he had bought the gem for himself and immediately named it ‘The Graff Pink’.

He paid nearly double the previous record which was for the 17th century stone the ‘Wittelsbach’ blue diamond two years ago. Mr Graff was the buyer on that occasion, too.

‘It is the most fabulous diamond I’ve seen in the history of my career and I’m delighted to have bought it,’ said Graff, who left school at 14 to work in London’s East End and now resides in the Swiss resort of Gstaad.

The pink diamond is among less than two per cent of the world’s diamonds categorised as ‘potentially flawless’ because it needs re-polishing.

‘It is a world record price for a jewel at auction,’ said David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby’s jewellery department in Europe and the Middle East, as he brought down the hammer to applause in the packed sales room. ‘It’s like pink champagne.’

The stone’s rare, perfect pink colour is thought to have been caused by it absorbing light in an unusual way when it was formed deep inside the earth over millions of years.

It is set between shield-shaped diamond shoulders on a silver ring.

‘Laurence Graff is a great connoisseur of gem stones. He certainly now owns two of the greatest stones in the world,’ said Mr Bennett.

‘There were four active bidders for the diamond, which at that level is quite extraordinary. It tells you a lot about the health of the market.’

Bennett, noting that pure diamonds and vintage pieces by French jeweller Van Cleef & Arpels commanded high prices, said: ‘he market for fine gemstones and fine jewellery is as good as it has ever been, it is very, very strong.’

Mart van Drunen, a jeweller from Amsterdam, added: ‘Everybody was surprised it went that high. He [Laurence Graff] clearly wants to have all the rarest diamonds in the world.’

Rich buyers from developing countries have been buying into the high end of the market in recent years but experts say emerging middle classes particularly in India are also helping to lift prices.

Furthermore, ongoing doubts about the stock market have helped drive up the value of gold and precious jewels, said van Drunen.

The sale price was almost double the £15.3 million achieved by the blue 35.56-carat Wittelsbach-Graff diamond owned by a 17th-century Spanish king two years ago. That was also bought by Mr Graff

Spectacle: Sotheby’s agents applaud while those watching gasped as the bids kept rising

Four bidders competed for the pink diamond, which was last sold 60 years ago by the famous New York jeweler Harry Winston. The seller chose to remain anonymous, said Sotheby’s.

In Marilyn Monroe’s 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, while singing Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend, she stops to deliver the line: ‘Talk to me Harry Winston, tell me all about it.’

Graff had the blue diamond recut after purchase, to the displeasure of purists who considered it an act of vandalism against a unique object.

It wasn’t immediately known whether he planned to alter the pink diamond, which Sotheby’s says has a flaw unnoticeable to the naked eye but may be graded as internally flawless after re-polishing.

Sotheby’s said it sold jewels worth £66million yesterday also a world record for a single sale.

The auction included items once belonging to Christina Onassis, the daughter of the Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, and Cristina Ford, the second wife of Henry Ford’s grandson Henry Ford II.

‘I think this tells you a bit about the health of the market,’ said Mr Bennett of Sotheby’s.

Mr Graff is the son of Jewish Orthodox East End immigrants.

He spent his first seven years living in a single room in Whitechapel and left school at 14. He took his first job, cleaning toilets, at 15.

Mr Graff opened Hatton Garden’s first retail jeweller in 1962 and rose to become the world’s leading dealer in diamonds and gems.

His personal fortune is estimated to be around £1.2 billion and Graff has more than 30 retail outlets worldwide.

The foundation of his fortune has been having the Sultan of Brunei as a major client.

The Sultan was the world’s richest man in the Eighties and Nineties and Mr Graff has previously bought some of the world’s greatest treasures at auction on his behalf.

Mr Graff has a private jet and luxurious homes in England, France, Switzerland and New York. His clients include Elizabeth Taylor to Donald Trump, celebrities like the Beckhams and Oprah Winfrey to royal families around the world.

He is probably Britain’s richest living art buyer, previously spending £15.2million on Andy Warhol’s Elvis x 2 and Campbell’s Soup Can.

Harry Winston

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