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Natural fancy Blue diamond history and as investments

A chemically pure and structurally perfect diamond is perfectly transparent with no hue, or color. However, in reality almost no gem-sized natural diamonds are absolutely perfect. The color of a diamond may be affected by chemical impurities and/or structural defects in the crystal lattice. Depending on the hue and intensity of a diamond's coloration, a diamond's color can either detract from or enhance its value. For example, most white diamonds are discounted in price when more yellow hue is detectable, while intense pink or blue diamonds (such as the Hope Diamond) can be dramatically more valuable. Out of all colored diamonds, red diamonds are the rarest. The Aurora Pyramid of Hope displays a spectacular array of naturally colored diamonds, including red diamonds.

The cause the coloration, whilst pure diamonds are perfectly transparent and colorless. Diamonds are scientifically classed into two main types and several subtypes, according to the nature of impurities present and how these impurities affect light absorption

Rare blue diamond sets record at auction

The precious gem had been expected to sell at auction for $2.2 million. (AFP: Bonhams)

An extremely rare blue diamond has sold for $9.5 million at a London auction, setting a world record for price per carat.

The fancy deep-blue diamond weighing 5.30 carats sold at Bonhams Fine Jewellery sale in central London for a record $1.8 million per carat, beating the previous record of $1.68 million.

The gem, which was bought by international diamond house Graff Diamonds, attracted bids from within the auction room and around the world via 25 telephone lines and smashed pre-auction estimates of $2.22 million.

The diamond is set in a Trombino ring made by Italian jeweller Bulgari around 1965.

"We are delighted with the price it has made," Bonhams Jewellery director Jean Ghika said.

"It was a sensational stone which charmed everyone who viewed it prior to the sale," Ms Ghika said.

"Blue diamonds, especially those over 5 carats, are extremely rare to see on the market and continue to be highly sought-after. We are honoured to have handled the sale of such a unique gem."

Blue diamonds seldom hit the market and have been coveted by royals and celebrities for centuries.

The most famous example is the Hope Diamond, which was bought by King Louis XIV of France in the 17th Century.

The 45.52-carat gem was stolen from the Crown Jewels by thieves during the French Revolution and is now on show at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington DC.

The diamond is set within a mount pave-set with brilliant-cut diamonds and courses of baguette-cut diamonds.

The term "fancy" is used to describe a diamond of intense colour. The blue is derived from small amounts of boron impurities within the diamond.

AFP / ABC News

The Blue Hope Diamond

The history of the stone which was eventually named the Hope diamond began when the French merchant traveller, Jean Baptiste Tavernier, purchased a 112 3/16-carat diamond. This diamond, which was most likely from the Kollur mine in Golconda, India, was somewhat triangular in shape and crudely cut. Its color was described by Tavernier as a "beautiful violet."

Tavernier sold the diamond to King Louis XIV of France in 1668 with 14 other large diamonds and several smaller ones. In 1673 the stone was recut by Sieur Pitau, the court jeweler, resulting in a 67 1/8-carat stone. In the royal inventories, its color was described as an intense steely-blue and the stone became known as the "Blue Diamond of the Crown," or the "French Blue." It was set in gold and suspended on a neck ribbon which the king wore on ceremonial occasions.

King Louis XV, in 1749, had the stone reset by court jeweler Andre Jacquemin, in a piece of ceremonial jewelry for the Order of the Golden Fleece (Toison D'Or). In 1791, after an attempt by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to flee France, the jewels of the French Royal Treasury were turned over to the government. During a week-long looting of the crown jewels in September of 1792, the French Blue diamond was stolen.

Blue Hope Diamond

In 1812 a deep blue diamond described by John Francillion as weighing 177 grains (4 grains = 1 carat) was documented as being in the possession of London diamond merchant, Daniel Eliason. Strong evidence indicates that the stone was the recut French Blue and the same stone known today as the HopeDiamond. Several references suggest that it was acquired by King George IV of the United Kingdom. At his death, in 1830, the king's debts were so enormous that the blue diamond was likely sold through private channels.

The first reference to the diamond's next owner is found in the 1839 entry of the gem collection catalog of the well-known Henry Philip Hope, the man from whom the diamond takes its name. Unfortunately, the catalog does not reveal where or from whom Hope acquired the diamond or how much he paid for it.

Following the death of Henry Philip Hope in 1839, and after much litigation, the diamond passed to his nephew Henry Thomas Hope and ultimately to the nephew's grandson Lord Francis Hope. In 1901 Lord Francis Hope obtained permission from the Court of Chancery and his sisters to sell the stone to help pay off his debts. It was sold to a London dealer who quickly sold it to Joseph Frankels and Sons of New York City, who retained the stone in New York until they, in turn, needed cash. The diamond was next sold to Selim Habib who put it up for auction in Paris in 1909. It did not sell at the auction but was sold soon after to C.H. Rosenau and then resold to Pierre Cartier that same year.

In 1910 the Hope diamond was shown to Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean, of Washington D.C., at Cartier's in Paris, but she did not like the setting. Cartier had the diamond reset and took it to the U.S. where he left it with Mrs. McLean for a weekend. This strategy was successful. The sale was made in 1911 with the diamond mounted as a headpiece on a three-tiered circlet of large white diamonds. Sometime later it became the pendant on a diamond necklace as we know it today. Mrs. McLean's flamboyant ownership of the stone lasted until her death in 1947.

Harry Winston Inc. of New York City purchased Mrs. McLean's entire jewelry collection, including the Hope diamond, from her estate in 1949. This collection also included the 94.8-carat Star of the East diamond, the 15-carat Star of the South diamond, a 9-carat green diamond, and a 31-carat diamond which is now called the McLean diamond.

For the next 10 years the Hope diamond was shown at many exhibits and charitable events world wide by Harry Winston Inc., including as the central attraction of their Court of Jewels exhibition. On November 10, 1958, they donated the Hope diamond to the Smithsonian Institution, and almost immediately the great blue stone became its premier attraction.

The Hope diamond has left the Smithsonian only four times since it was donated. In 1962 it was exhibited for a month at the Louvre in Paris, France, as part of an exhibit entitled Ten Centuries of French Jewelry. In 1965 the Hope diamond traveled to South Africa where it was exhibited at the Rand Easter Show in Johannesburg. In 1984 the diamond was lent to Harry Winston Inc., in New York, as part of the firm's 50th anniversary celebration. In 1996 the Hope diamond was again sent to Harry Winston Inc., in New York, this time for cleaning and some minor restoration work.

The weight of the Hope diamond for many years was reported to be 44.5 carats. In 1974 it was removed from its setting and found actually to weigh 45.52 carats. It is classified as a type IIb diamond, which are semiconductive and usually phosphoresce. The Hope diamond phosphoresces a strong red color, which will last for several seconds after exposure to short wave ultra-violet light. The diamond's blue coloration is attributed to trace amounts of boron in the stone.

In the pendant surrounding the Hope diamond are 16 white diamonds, both pear-shapes and cushion cuts. A bail is soldered to the pendant where Mrs. McLean would often attach other diamonds including the McLean diamond and the Star of the East. The necklace chain contains 45 white diamonds.

Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean wearing the Hope Diamond with the McLean Diamond (31.26 Carats) and Star of the East (94.8 Carats) attached

In December of 1988, a team from the Gemological Institute of America visited the Smithsonian to grade the great blue stone using present day techniques. They observed that the gem shows evidence of wear, has a remarkably strong phosphorescence, and that its clarity is slightly affected by a whitish graining which is common to blue diamonds. They described the color as a fancy dark grayish-blue. An examination on the same day by another gemologist using a very sensitive colorimeter revealed that there is a very slight violet component to the deep blue color which is imperceptible to the naked eye. Still, one can only wonder that the original 112 3/16-carat stone bought by Tavernier was described as "un beau violet" (a beautiful violet).

Hope diamond data

  • Weight: 45.52 carats
  • Dimensions: Length 25.60 mm x Width 21.78 mm x Depth 12.00 mm
  • Cut: Cushion antique brilliant with a faceted girdle and extra facets on the pavilion.
  • Clarity: VS1. Whitish graining is present.
  • Color: Fancy dark grayish-blue

Encyclopedia Smithsonian

World's Biggest Round Blue Diamond May Fetch $19 Million

The world's biggest round "fancy vivid" blue diamond is estimated to sell for more than $19 million at an auction in Hong Kong in October.

The brilliant-cut internally flawless stone, weighing 7.59 carats, will be auctioned by Sotheby's (BID) on Oct. 7 as part of the company's 40th anniversary sales in Asia, according to an e-mailed release from the New York-based auction house.

"The Premier Blue," a 7.59-carat colored diamond. The round, brilliant-cut, internally flawless blue stone is the largest of its type to appear at auction and will be sold by Sotheby's in Hong Kong on Oct. 7.

Colored stones, which account for about 0.01 percent of mined diamonds, dominate the top end of the jewelry market. Their scarcity and aesthetic appeal have triggered record auction prices in recent years, led by the 45.4 million Swiss francs ($45.6 million) paid by the London-based jeweler Graff for a 24.78-carat "Fancy Intense Pink" at Sotheby's, Geneva, in November 2010.

"The market for colored stones is strong because of their rarity," Guy Burton, a director at the London-based jeweler Hancocks, said in an interview. "People buy them for investment purposes, and they can be seen as a hedge against what happens in other markets."

"The Premier Blue," as it has been named, is the largest round fancy vivid stone of that color to have been graded by the Gemological Institute of America, said Sotheby's, who have not revealed the identity of the seller.

It was sourced from the Premier (formerly known as Cullinan) mine near Pretoria, South Africa, the world's main provider of blue diamonds, said Sotheby's.

Record Prospect

"Round stones are the most popular," said Burton, "and colored diamonds have an obvious appeal to buyers in Hong Kong and mainland China. If I were a betting man, I'd bet that this should make some kind of record. A lot depends on how aesthetically pleasing it is."

The pigmentation of blue diamonds is caused by the presence of boron atoms. The higher the concentration of that element, the deeper the color.

"Fancy Vivid" is generally the grade with the highest saturation of color, Tom Gelb, educational director of the Natural Color Diamond Association, said in an email.

A 5.30-carat cushion-cut blue diamond graded "fancy deep" sold for 6.2 million pounds ($9.6 million) at Bonhams in London on April 24. The price of $1.8 million per carat was an auction record for a blue diamond, said Bonhams, which had 25 telephone bidders registered for the lot.

The buyer at Bonhams was once again Graff. The jeweler paid 16.4 million pounds for the historic blue 35.56-carat "Wittelsbach Diamond" at Christie's International in December 2008.

Sotheby's 40th anniversary auction of jewels and jadeite in Hong Kong in October will comprise about 330 lots and is estimated to raise more than $HK600 million ($77.4 million).

Bloomberg