10 history-making pink diamonds offered at Christie’s

As Christie’s offers the largest fancy vivid purple-pink diamond ever to come to auction, jewellery specialist Marie-Cécile Cisamolo puts it in the context of other fabulous pink stones that have bedazzled our salerooms

Prices for top-quality, large pink diamonds have increased exponentially in recent years, driven by collector demand and increasingly limited supply. Pink diamonds gain their highly desirable colour as a result of a rare, naturally occurring slippage of the crystal lattice in the stone while it is forming deep within the Earth’s crust. Here we look back at some of the biggest and the best stones and pink diamond rings offered at Christie’s in recent times.

As the annual cherry blossom season reaches its peak, Christie’s is set to make history by offering the largest fancy vivid purple-pink diamond ever to appear at auction. The outstanding highlight of Hong Kong’s Magnificent Jewels sale on 23 May, ‘The Sakura’ weighs 15.81 carats — almost one carat more than the previous record-holder — and carries an estimate of HK$195-300 million.

The Sakura. A 15.81 carat Fancy Vivid Purple Pink Internally Flawless Type IIa diamond ring. Estimate HK$195,000,000-300,000,000. Offered in Magnificent Jewels on 23 May at Christie’s in Hong Kong

The Sakura. A 15.81 carat Fancy Vivid Purple Pink Internally Flawless Type IIa diamond ring. Estimate: HK$195,000,000-300,000,000. Offered in Magnificent Jewels on 23 May at Christie’s in Hong Kong

The size is significant because, in the increasingly rarefied world of pink diamonds, large rough stones are almost impossible to find and exceedingly difficult to cut. The stone is also prized for its clarity: while the majority of pink diamonds are graded SI (Slightly Included), and can look hazy even when less included, 'The Sakura' is graded Internally Flawless. The pink-purple colour is well-balanced and strongly saturated — an exceptionally sweet hue that matches the colour of cherry blossom. In other words, it’s not only a large and striking diamond, but an auspicious one, too.

Flanked on either side by shield-shaped diamonds, this pink stone is set on a platinum and 18k rose-gold ring designed by the British jeweller Graff. When it went under the hammer in Hong Kong, ‘The Vivid Pink’ sold for more than double its low estimate, achieving the highest price per carat ever paid for a pink diamond at the time ($2,155,332). That record remained unbroken until the sale of ‘The Pink Promise’ and ‘The Pink Legacy’, in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

The Vivid Pink. An exquisite coloured diamond and diamond ring, by Graff. Sold for HK$83,540,000 on 1 December 2009 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

The Vivid Pink. An exquisite coloured diamond and diamond ring, by Graff. Sold for HK$83,540,000 on 1 December 2009 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

This example is certified ‘IIA’ by the Gemological Institute of America — meaning it has a particularly rare, almost homogenous colour.

This square-shaped diamond, which is a particularly light shade of pink, was given by Cardinal Mazarin to Louis XIV in 1661. It then spent 225 years as part of the French crown jewels, passing through the hands of four kings, four queens, two emperors and two empresses, before its 1887 sale when the royal treasury was dispersed and its whereabouts became unknown.

Le Grand Mazarin. An historic coloured diamond of 19.07 carats. Sold for CHF 14,375,000 on 14 November 2017 at Christie’s in Geneva

Le Grand Mazarin. An historic coloured diamond of 19.07 carats. Sold for CHF 14,375,000 on 14 November 2017 at Christie’s in Geneva

In 2017, while on a site visit to a client’s house, ‘Le Grand Mazarin’ was revealed from inside an old parcel paper to Christie’s jewellery specialist Jean-Marc Lunel. ‘Holding such an important piece of French royal history in my hands was unbelievable,’ he would later recall of the historic diamond’s rediscovery.

Stored in a bank vault since the 1940s, this unique purplish-pink diamond is set in a Belle Epoque ring made by Dreicer & Co. and formerly belonged to the reclusive American mining and railroad heiress, Huguette M. Clark. When it sold for almost double its upper estimate in 2012, it became the most expensive pink diamond ever seen at auction in the United States.

The Clark Pink. A cushion-cut Fancy Vivid purplish-pink diamond of 9.00 carats. Sold for $15,762,500 on 17 April 2012 at Christie’s in New York  

The Clark Pink. A cushion-cut Fancy Vivid purplish-pink diamond of 9.00 carats. Sold for $15,762,500 on 17 April 2012 at Christie’s in New York  

The ring was the top lot in a collection of 17 of Clark’s jewels that were auctioned by Christie’s in 2012. Two years later, Christie’s sold Clark’s collection of paintings by artists including Monet, Renoir and Whistler.

Mounted on an 18k gold ring by the famous New York jeweller Harry ‘King of Diamonds’ Winston, this ring was nicknamed ‘The Martian Pink’ by his son Ronald, who was inspired by the 1976 launch of a US satellite to photograph the ‘red planet’ Mars, and the stone’s similar strong pink colour.

The Martian Pink. A coloured diamond ring of 12.04 carats, by Harry Winston. Sold for HK$135,060,000 on 29 May 2012 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

The Martian Pink. A coloured diamond ring of 12.04 carats, by Harry Winston. Sold for HK$135,060,000 on 29 May 2012 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

The Martian was certified as having virtually no nitrogen in its crystalline structure and, unlike most pink diamonds, which exhibit tones of purple, orange or grey, it shows absolutely no trace of any secondary colour. As a result, it sold for more than double its low estimate when it went under the gavel in Hong Kong in 2012.

Only a few mines in the world produce pink diamonds, and of those diamonds that are cut and polished only one in roughly 10 million will possess a colour pure enough to be graded Fancy Vivid.

A rare coloured diamond ring of 9.14 carats. Sold for CHF 18,127,500 on 15 November 2016 at Christie’s in Geneva

A rare coloured diamond ring of 9.14 carats. Sold for CHF 18,127,500 on 15 November 2016 at Christie’s in Geneva

This large example, which is mounted between tapered baguette-cut diamond shoulders on a platinum ring, was certified Fancy Vivid in June 2016 by the Gemological Institute of America, helping it push past its top auction estimate and achieve more than $18 million when it sold in Geneva in the same year.

At the time of this stone’s sale in 2010, it was one of only 18 pink diamonds weighing more than 10 carats to have ever appeared at auction. And of those 18, none apart from this diamond had ever been graded Fancy Intense Pink at the time of its sale, which placed it in a league of its own.

The Perfect Pink. A superb coloured diamond and diamond ring. Sold for HK$179,860,000 on 29 November 2010 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

The Perfect Pink. A superb coloured diamond and diamond ring. Sold for HK$179,860,000 on 29 November 2010 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

Flanked on either side by two clear diamonds mounted in 18k rose gold and white gold, the pink diamond sold for almost 30 per cent more than its upper estimate when it appeared in the Hong Kong saleroom, demonstrating a strong demand for coloured diamonds in Asia.

Mounted in a diamond twin-surround and with a diamond-set hoop, this ring set a new world-record price for any pink diamond when it sold at Christie’s in Geneva in 2015. Owned by an American family for 15 years prior to the sale, the stone was at the time the largest cushion-shaped pink diamond classified as Fancy Vivid Pink to ever come to auction.

The Sweet Josephine. The largest cushion-shaped Fancy Vivid Pink diamond sold at auction. Sold for CHF 28,725,000 on 10 November 2015 at Christie’s in Geneva

The Sweet Josephine. The largest cushion-shaped Fancy Vivid Pink diamond sold at auction. Sold for CHF 28,725,000 on 10 November 2015 at Christie’s in Geneva

After the sale the diamond, which sold for around $5.5 million more than its lower estimate, was named ‘The Sweet Josephine’ by the winning bidder in honour of his seven-year-old daughter.

This pink diamond was discovered about 300 years ago in India, and was initially owned by the Nizams of Hyderabad. It was first auctioned in 1960, where it was purchased for £46,000 by Van Cleef & Arpels. The diamond was promptly named ‘Princie’, and the house threw a christening party for the stone in its Paris showroom.

The Princie Diamond. An historic cushion-cut Fancy Intense Pink diamond of 34.65 carats. Sold for $39,323,750 on 16 April 2013 at Christie’s in New York

The Princie Diamond. An historic cushion-cut Fancy Intense Pink diamond of 34.65 carats. Sold for $39,323,750 on 16 April 2013 at Christie’s in New York

Of the seven million diamonds that have passed through the Gemological Institute of America, no more than 40 have exhibited a rare orange glow when examined under ultraviolet light, and the Princie is the largest of all of them. This fluorescent quality pinpoints the stone’s origin to the Golconda mines of India.

As it is the largest Golconda-type Fancy Intense pink diamond to ever be graded by the GIA, it’s little wonder that it sold for almost $40 million when it appeared in the sale room in New York in 2013, making it the most expensive pink diamond ever sold at Christie’s — until the sale of The Pink Legacy in 2018.

This spectacular Fancy Vivid Pink stone set a new price-per-carat world record for any pink diamond when it sold in 2018 at Christie’s in Geneva — a whopping CHF2,665,344 (almost $500,000 up on that set by The Pink Promise the previous year).

The Pink Legacy. A rectangular-cut Fancy Vivid Pink diamond of 18.96 carats. Sold for CHF 50,375,000 on 13 November 2018 in Magnificent Jewels at Christie’s in Geneva

The Pink Legacy. A rectangular-cut Fancy Vivid Pink diamond of 18.96 carats. Sold for CHF 50,375,000 on 13 November 2018 in Magnificent Jewels at Christie’s in Geneva

Renamed ‘The Winston Pink Legacy’ by its new owners, Harry Winston, the diamond is as remarkable for its saturated, evenly balanced pink colour as for its size. 

In fact, only one in 1,000,000 diamonds possess a colour deep enough to qualify as Fancy Vivid, and those exceeding 10 carats are virtually unheard of. As Rahul Kadakia, Christie’s international head of Jewellery put it at the time: ‘You may see this colour in a pink diamond of less than one carat. But this is almost 19 carats and it’s as pink as can be. It’s unbelievable.’