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May 19, 2016
Last night, the "Oppenheimer Blue" became the highest priced gemstone ever sold at auction. The 14.62-carat fancy vivid blue diamond, dubbed "the gem of gems," fetched an astounding $57.5 million at Christie's Geneva.
Two bidders battled back and forth for more than 20 minutes in a dramatic exchange that included 44 individual offers. The bidding started at 30 million Swiss francs (about $30.4 million) and rushed forward in increments of 1 million, 500,000 and 200,000 Swiss francs.
Watching the action in real-time via streaming video, viewers around the world joined in the excitement as the bidding moved well above the pre-sale high estimate of 45 million Swiss Francs ($45.6 million).
Rahul Kadakia, Christie’s International Head of Jewelry, finally put the hammer down at 50.6 million Swiss francs ($51.2 million) to the roar of the showroom crowd. With commissions and fees included, the final price was 56.8 million Swiss francs ($57.5 million). That number was $9 million more than the previous record-holder, the "Blue Moon of Josephine," which sold at Sotheby's Geneva in November 2015 for $48.5 million.
Both diamonds boast the top color grade of "fancy vivid." While the 12.03-carat cushion-shaped Blue Moon of Josephine was rated internally flawless, the rectangular-cut Oppenheimer Blue was one grade below at VVS1 clarity.
The Oppenheimer Blue's price per carat price of $3.93 million came up just shy of the record of $4.03 million held by the Blue Moon of Josephine.
Named after Sir Philip Oppenheimer, one of the leaders of the diamond industry for generations, the Oppenheimer Blue was the largest fancy vivid blue diamond ever offered at auction.
Kadakia had called the Oppenheimer Blue "the gem of gems,” and “one of the rarest gems in the world.” He was impressed by its perfect hue, impeccable proportions and fabulous rectangular shape. The magnificent gem was offered for sale in its original platinum mounting by Verdura.
During the auction, he encourage the bidding by reminding the audience that this type of gem comes around only once in a lifetime. According to Christie's, less than .0001 percent of all diamonds mined are blue. Blue diamonds owe their color to the presence of boron in the chemical makeup of the gem.
Credit: Image courtesy of Christie's. Screen capture via Christies.com.