Rahul Kadakia, Christie’s International Head of Jewellery, recalls an astonishing 20-minute bidding battle that ended with a world record price for any jewel sold at auction
At 14.62 carats the Oppenheimer Blue is the largest Fancy Vivid Blue diamond ever to appear at auction, and on 18 May, at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues in Geneva, it set a new world record for any jewel when it sold for CHF 56,837,000, equivalent to around $58 million.
‘Bidding took well over 20 minutes,’ recalls Rahul Kadakia, Christie’s International Head of Jewellery. ‘It started with multiple bidders, and then settled down with two collectors bidding competitively in varying increments to get to the final world record price.’
The diamond was named in honour of its previous owner, Sir Philip Oppenheimer, the racehorse owner whose family controlled the De Beers Group, and was the latest in a long line of distinguished blue diamonds to have appeared at Christie’s. They include a blue-diamond ring owned by Marie-Antoinette in 1983, The Tereshchenko Diamond in 1984, the Begum Blue in 1995, and the Wittelsbach Diamond in 2008.
Sir Philip developed his eye for extraordinary gems after leaving school, sorting and valuing rough diamonds into sales parcels at De Beers, first in London, and then in the cutting centre of Antwerp. After distinguished military service in the Second World War, he took took over the De Beers sales cartel in London and set up his own racing stable at Newmarket to own and breed thoroughbreds. He is remembered today as an architect of stability in the international diamond industry and for his incomparable collection of diamonds, led by the magnificent Oppenheimer Blue.
‘The room was filled with more than 300 clients,’ says Kadakia of the Geneva sale. ‘It seemed that for those 20 minutes the diamond belonged to everyone as they cheered each bid the stone received. The Oppenheimer Blue was the gem of gems, and we were incredibly proud to offer it in our 250th year in business.’