The Graff Pink Diamond, an exceptionally rare pink diamond and the most expensive single jewel ever sold at an auction, fetching a staggering US$ 45.6 million (£29 million), at a Sotheby's auction in Geneva, on November 16, 2010, was previously un-named and owned by the renowned American jeweller Harry Winston, the King of Jewellers and Jewellers to Kings, royalty and celebrities around the world. Harry Winston sold the 24.78-carat, modified emerald-cut, pink diamond mounted on an exquisitely crafted silver ring, flanked by two shield-shaped white diamonds, undoubtedly a creation of the New York's 5th-Avenue Harry Winston Jewelers, to an anonymous private collector in the 1950s, in whose possession the stone remained for nearly 60 years, still un-named, until it appeared at a Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels sale, at Geneva, held on November 16, 2010. Immediately after the sale, Laurence Graff, the successful bidder for the diamond, and the renowned British jeweller and owner of Graff Diamonds International, popularly known as the "King of Diamonds" and by jewelry business insiders as the "New Harry Winston," christened the hitherto un-named pink diamond "The Graff Pink," a reflection of his commitment as he put it "to invest a great deal of judgement and skill in rare diamonds" and as a connoisseur of rare diamonds, his enthusiasm to identify and associate the name of "Graff" with the finest pink diamond in the world, which he described as the finest pink diamond he had ever seen in the history of his long career, so exceptionally rare and so magnificent, which he doubted would ever have a competitor in the future to challenge its outstanding characteristics.
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has graded the Graff Pink Diamond, as having the shape and cutting style of a modified emerald-cut, with a carat weight of 24.78-carats, naturally colored with a color grade of fancy intense pink and even color distribution, and a clarity grade of VVS2. The GIA colored diamond grading report, under additional grading information also states that the diamond is "potentially flawless" after repolishing.
The emerald-cut diamond is a square or rectangular step-cut diamond, whose facets are rectilinear and arranged parallel to the girdle, with truncated corners, giving an octagonal outline or shape, and having a keel running the length of the pavilion terminus.The emerald-cut diamond normally has 58 facets, consisting of 25 crown facets, 8 girdle facets and 25 pavilion facets. Because of the long, almost rectangular facets, and shallow pavilion and crown, emerald-cut diamonds are not bright and fiery as brilliant-cut diamonds. The large table and long rectangular facets, accentuate the clarity, color and lustre of the diamond, instead of the sparkle and brilliance characteristic of brilliant-cut diamonds. The table of an emerald-cut is like a big, clear, unobstructed window into the center of the stone,and will reveal even the slighest inclusions inside the stone. As such the emerald-cut is only suitable for flawless, internally flawless or very, very, slightly included (VVS1-2) clarity grades of diamonds. Hence, the unknown master cutter who originally cut the Graff Pink diamond had deliberately chosen the emerald-cut, fully aware of the great potential of the rough diamond, its high clarity and color grade and the homogenous distribution of color in the stone. However, the cut employed is actually a modified emerald-cut, as the truncated corners, instead of having a single side has at least three sides, making the outline or shape,16-sided instead of 8, and making the corners of the diamond more rounded.
The Fancy Intense Pink color grading given to the diamond indicates the high saturation of the pink color, just two grades below the highest saturation, Fancy Vivid Pink, under the GIA nine-grade scale for colored diamonds.
The clarity grade of VVS2, very very slightly included is a reference to a single minute flaw, that is unnoticeable to the naked eye, but could be removed by a slight recutting and polishing, making the diamond potentially flawless, as stated in the grading report.
Graff Pink Diamond mounted on a ring flanked by two shield-shaped white diamonds
After acquiring the diamond in November 2010 Laurence Graff decided that the diamond should be slightly re-cut and totally re-polished, to realize the full potential of the stone both in terms of clarity as pointed out by GIA and perhaps also its color. He then sent the diamond to his team of expert engineers, gemologists and master cutters probably based in Antwerp, to make a careful and detailed study of the stone, with a view of slightly modifying its cut to increase its clarity and color intensity. After weeks of careful study the experts embarked on its modification under the guidance of Laurence Graff himself, and after several weeks of slow, careful and painstaking work the modification was completed sacrificing just 0.9 carats of the diamond. The result was amazing and exceeded all expectations. The re-cut and re-polished Graff Pink Diamond, now weighed 23.88 carats and had an increased color grading of Fancy Vivid Pink, the highest color grading attainable by a colored stone, and an increased clarity grade of Internally Flawless (IF) from its previous very very slightly included grade (VVS2).
To view image of the recut and repolished, 23.88-carat, fancy vivid pink, internally flawless Graff Pink Diamond, please click the following link:- http://www.graffdiamonds.com/_html/index.php?sectionid=2&pgid=590
By re-cutting and repolishing the Graff Pink Diamond, the most expensive diamond ever sold at an auction, and achieving an upgrade both in its color and clarity, this was the second instance Laurence Graff had positively interfered with the credentials of a famous diamond, and achieved stupendous results. The first was the much criticized recutting and repolishing of the historic 35.52-carat Wittelsbach diamond, purchased by Laurence Graff at a Christie's auction in London in December 2008 for US$ 24.3 million, which after the sacrifice of just 4.45 carats became the 31.07-carat, Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond, achieving a substantial GIA upgrade both for its color and clarity, but retaining the overall look of the original stone, by not interfering with the original double stellate brilliant facet pattern of the historic 17th-century diamond, cut in Europe but originated in the famous Kollur mines of Southern India. The GIA color grade of Fancy Deep Grayish-Blue was raised to Fancy Deep Blue, and the GIA clarity grade of Very Slightly Included (VS2) was elevated to Internally Flawless (IF) after the re-cutting.
The Graff Pink Diamond is a Type II diamond as it does not contain detectable quantities of nitrogen impurities. It is Type IIa, as it does not contain boron or hydrogen impurities that can impart a rare blue color to diamonds, classified as Type IIb, and constitute less than 0.1% of all naturally occurring diamonds. In that sense, Type IIa diamonds are chemically pure diamonds, and constitute about 1-2% of all naturally occurring diamonds. In fact 98% of all naturally occurring diamonds are Type I, as they contain detectable quantities of nitrogen impurities that can impart a yellow color to diamonds. Thus, describing the Graff Pink diamond as a Type IIa diamond that are less than 2% of the world's naturally occurring diamonds, in press reports of the sale of the Graff Pink Diamond, is factually correct, but does not convey the notion of rarity implied in the statement. In the world of diamonds 1-2% is not considered as rare, as all colorless or white diamonds (D to F color grade) are also Type IIa and come under this 2%.
The correct notion of the rarity of Pink diamonds can be given only when considering the three Sub-types of Type IIa diamonds :-
Sub-type 1 - Chemically pure and structurally perfect diamonds. These diamonds are absolutely colorless in the absence of all factors that can cause color in diamonds, such as impurities and structural distortions. They are known by various epithets such as "purest of the pure," "whiter than white," "diamonds of the purest water" etc. They are also known as "top color" or "D-color" diamonds. Color grades D, E and F of the GIA color-grading system fall under this category. They constitute 1-2% of all naturally occurring diamonds.
Sub-type 2 - Chemically pure but structurally imperfect diamonds. Structural distortions arise by the twisting and bending of the carbon-tetrahedral units in the giant diamond molecule or creation of vacant positions in the crystal lattice, either during their formation deep inside the earth's crust or during their violent rise to the earth's surface during volcanic eruptions. Such distortions or plastic deformation causes lattice defects, such as dislocations, slip planes, vacant positions dispersed or clustered in the crystal lattice etc. that imparts rare fancy colors to diamonds, such as pink, red, orange, violet and brown. The distorted or defective areas in the giant molecule, sometimes referred to as "graining" in common parlance, absorb most of the colors of light of the visible spectrum, except the color of light perceived by the human eye as the color of the diamond, which is reflected. The occurrence of most of these colors in nature are less than 0.1% of all naturally occurring diamonds. The probability of occurrence of pink diamonds can be calculated, from statistics of diamond production at the Argyle Diamond Mine in the remote North West Kimberly region of Australia. Pink diamonds produced in the Argyle Diamond Mine are quite small, and averages about 1.0-carat in size. The frequency of production of pink diamonds is 1.0 carat of pink diamonds for every 1 million carats of rough diamonds. The annual production of rough diamonds at Argyle, is around 50 million carats and only 50 carats of pink diamonds are produced. Thus, the probability of occurrence of pink diamonds at Argyle is 1/1,000,000 = 0.000001. An extremely low probability of occurrence indeed !!!
Sub-type 3 - Naturally irradiated diamonds - These diamonds are chemically pure, but due to long period of exposure to natural radiation, such as alpha, beta and gamma radiation, emanating from naturally radioactive sources, such as uranium compounds, that knocks off carbon atoms, produces vacant positions in the diamond crystal lattice. Such vacant positions produce green color centers, that impart a green color to colorless diamonds and yellowish-green color to yellow diamonds. When irradiated diamonds are heated to temperatures above 600°C, the green color changes to brown, which is believed to be caused by the aggregation of vacant positions, with or without the involvement of nitrogen. The occurrence of such green diamonds are extremely rare, even rarer than pink, orange, blue and purple diamonds.
Nothing much is known about the early history of the Graff Pink diamond, except for the fact that the diamond was the property of Harry Winston prior to 1950s. The date/year of origin, mine of origin, weight of the rough diamond, the name of the diamond cutter/cutters involved, the jewelers who set the modified emerald-cut diamond on a silver ring, the exact year the diamond ring was sold to the anonymous collector, in whose custody the stone remained for the last 60 years, are all unknown.
However, going by the fact that the diamond is a pre-1950 diamond, but still discovered in the 20th-century, the possible mines where the diamond could have arranged can be predicted. Before the 19th-century the only source of pink diamonds in the world was the Kollur mines, near Golconda, in southern India. The famous and historic pink diamonds in the world, such as the 186-carat Darya-i-Nur, the 60-carat Nur-ul-Ain, 56.71-carat Shah Jahan, 32.34-carat Agra, 20-carat Hortensia and 9.01-carat Conde Pink, all originated in these mines. The discovery of diamonds in Brazil, in the early 18th-century provided an alternative source of diamonds for the world, as production in Kollur was rapidly declining, but we do not have any famous pink diamonds on record that originated in the alluvial diamond mines of Brazil. In the late 19th-century after the discovery of diamonds in South Africa, the diamond mines of South Africa, such as the Kimberley diamond mine, Dutoitspan diamond mine, Jagersfontein Mine and Premier diamond mine, became the main source of pink diamonds, and diamonds such as the Steinmetz Pink, the world's largest fancy vivid pink diamond, Graff's Pink Sunrise diamond, Rose of Dubai diamond, Mouwad Lilac diamond, Mouwad Pink diamonds etc. originated in these mines. The 23.56 fancy-pink Williamson diamond was the first notable diamond to be produced in the Williamson diamond mine in Tanzania, after the discovery of the kimberlite pipe in 1940 by Dr. John williamson. While the African diamond mines, still produce the occasional pink diamonds, another consistent source of small pink diamonds emerged. This was the Argyle Diamond Mine of northwestern Australia. Every year the Argyle Diamond Mine produces around 50 high-quality small intense pink diamonds, with an average size of 1.0-carat each, that are sold at special auctions, known as "tenders," held in major cities around the world, such as New York, Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong, London and Geneva.
Thus, the 24.78-carat Graff Pink Diamond, most probably originated in one of the diamond mines of South Africa, considering the fact that it is a pre-1950, 20th-century diamond, a period when most of these mines were in active production.
List of Famous Pink Diamonds as at year 2011
|Value / Price realized at Auctions (USD)||
|3||Steinmetz pink||59.60||Estimated 100 million||fancy vivid pink|
|4||Shah Jahaan||56.71||light pink|
|5||Agra||32.34||4 million sterling pounds in 1990 (about 6 milion USD)||fancy light pink|
|6||Pink Sunrise||29.79||fancy pink|
|7||Rose of Dubai||25.02||
6 million in 2005
|8||Graff Pink before and after recutting||24.78 23.88||45.6 million 2010||fancy intense pink, after recutting fancy vivid pink|
|9||Mouawad Lilac||24.44||1.1 million in 1976 Estimated 20 million in 2007||fancy purplish pink|
|10||Williamson||23.56||Wedding Gift to Queen Elizabeth||fancy pink|
|11||Graff Pink Orchid||22.84||fancy purplish pink|
|12||Mouawad Pink||21.06||fancy pink|
|13||Hortensia||20.00||light orange pink|
|14||1994 Christie's Geneva Auction||19.66||7.4 million in 1994||fancy pink|
|15||Perfect Pink||14.23||23.2 million in 2010||fancy intense pink|
|16||May 2011, Sotheby's Geneva Aiction||10.99||10.8 million in 2011||fancy intense pink|
|17||Graff Pink Supreme||10.83||fancy pink|
|18||Argyle Pink Diamond||10.11||Canadian Dollar 8-12 million||fancy intense orangish-pink|
|19||April 2011 Christie's New York Auction||10.09||Unsold - Estimated 12-15 million||fancy vivid purplish-pink|
|20||Conde Pink||9.01||light pink|
|21||1995 Sotheby's Auction||7.37||6.0 million in 1995||fancy intense purplish-pink|
|22||Christie's New York, Dec.2010||6.89||6.9 million in 2010||fancy vivid purplish-pink|
|23||The Vivid Pink||5.00||10.8 million 2009||fancy vivid pink|
In the list of famous pink diamonds above, the 24.78-carat Graff Pink diamond occupies the 8th position. However, after the diamond was slightly recut, decreasing its weight to 23.88 carats, it is pushed down to the 9th position, the 24.44-carat Mouwad Lilac being instead elevated to the 8th position.
The Graff Pink Diamond set a new world record for the most expensive single jewel ever sold at an auction, when it as sold for US$ 45.6 million, at the Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels Sale held in Geneva on Tuesday, November 16, 2010, a coveted position previously held by the Wittelsbach-Graff diamond when it was sold for US$ 24.3 million in December 2008, at a Christie's auction in London, and before Dec. 2008 by the "Star of the Season Diamond" that sold for US$ 16.5 million at a Sotheby's auction in Geneva in May 1995. A pre-sale estimate of US$ 27-38 million was placed on the diamond. Thus, the sale price exceeded the upper pre-sale estimate by almost US$ 8 million.
The diamond was one of around 500 lots that went under the hammer at the auctions, that also included items that once belonged to Christina Onassis, daughter of the Greek shipping tycoon, Aristotle Onassis, Cristina Ford, the second wife of Henry Ford's grandson, Henry Ford II, Countess Mona von Bismarck, an American socialite and fashion icon and His Highness Abbas Hilmy II Bey the last Khedive (viceroy) of Egypt and Sudan. A pre-sale exhibition of the lots were held from November 13 to 15 at Geneva. David Bennet, chairman of Sotheby's jewelry department in Europe and the Middle East, commenting on the interest generated by the proposed sale of the 24.78-carat pink diamond ring, said, "I cannot exaggerate just how rare this stone is.This sale is one of the most exciting of my 35-year career. It is one of the most desirable diamonds ever to come to auction and its beauty has haunted me since the very first time I set eyes on it some years ago. There's only one or two other stones I've seen like this in the 35 years I've been doing this job. I just love it."
What makes it so immensely rare is the combination of its exceptional colour and purity with the classic emerald-cut a style of cutting normally associated with white diamonds and one that is so highly sought-after when found in rare colours such as pink and blue.The stone's character is further enhanced by the gently rounded corners which impart a unique softness and charm to this truly outstanding gemstone.There is something so exuberant, joyful and intensely feminine about a pink diamond that makes them absolutely irresistible."
There were four active bidders for the diamond at the Geneva auction, who bid fiercely till the last, until David Bennet, who conducted the auction, brought down the hammer in favor of Laurence Graff, who bid by telephone, perhaps in the comfort of his resort in Gstaad,to the applause of all assembled in the packed sales room. Commenting on the sale soon after his successful bid, Laurence Graff said, "It is the finest pink diamond I've seen in the history of my career and I'm delighted to have bought it. It is so exceptionally rare, so magnificent, I doubt if there will ever be a pink diamond to compare. Commenting further on the sale he continued, "Notable diamonds like the Graff Pink very rarely come onto the market. They take millions of years to form, are of a size and quality and almost incomprehensibly rare and once they are acquired by a collector they are rarely released. We will continue to invest a great deal of judgement and skill in rare diamonds such as the Graff Pink as we have done for many years. We are known throughout the world for the most fabulous diamonds and this is set to continue"
David Bennet, who was exhilarated by the price realized by the diamond, said, "It is a world record price for a jewel at an auction, It's like pink champagne. Laurence Graff is a great connoisseur of gem stones. He certainly now owns two of the greatest stones in the world. 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. The market for fine gemstones and fine jewellery is as good as it has ever been, it is very, very strong."
The five-carat Vivid Pink Diamond sold at Christie's Hong Kong auction on December 1, 2009
The unprecedented demand for high quality pink diamonds, was first noticed on December 1, 2009, when an exceptionally beautiful, rare pink diamond, with the highest color grading of fancy vivid pink, intentionally named "The Vivid Pink," but only 5 carats in weight, sold for an unprecedent US$ 10.8 million, at a Christie's auction in Hong Kong, creating a new world record of US$ 2.1 million, for the highest price per carat for any diamond sold at an auction. The demand was again clearly seen just two weeks after the record set by the Graff Pink on November 16, 2010, when another exceptional quality fancy intense pink, rectangular-cut 14.23-carat pink diamond, sold for US$ 23.2 million, on November 29, 2010, at another Christie's auction in Hong Kong. The demand seems to continue into the current year 2011, as indicated by the price realized by a 10.99-carat, fancy intense pink diamond, sold at a Sotheby's auction in Geneva, on May 17, 2011, that registered a price of US$ 10.8 million. However, the erratic behaviour of the auction market was also highlighted one month earlier on April 12, 2011, when a 10.09-carat fancy vivid purplish-pink diamond, with a pre-sale estimate of US$ 12-15 million, fail to record even its reserve price, at a Christie's auction in New York. The unprecedented demand for high-quality pink diamonds at a time when most regions of the world were still recovering from the global economic recession of 2008/2009, was attributed to the natural behaviour of the super-rich still looking for safe havens to invest their excess money.
14.23-carat "The Perfect Pink Diamond" sold at Christie's Hong Kong auction on November 29, 2010
10.99-carat fancy intense pink diamond sold at Sotheby's Geneva Auction on May 17, 2011
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1) Rare pink diamond is sold for world record £29m to British billionaire jeweller - Mail on line - www.dailymail.co.uk
2) Rare Pink Diamond Bought by Graff for Record $46 Million at Geneva Auction - Nov.16, 2010. www,bloomberg.com
3) Graff Pink Diamond - en.wikicollecting.org
4) Graff Pink Diamond - en.wikipedia.org
5) Important Gemstones - www.graffdiamonds.com
Dr Shihaan Larif
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