Image: An employee poses with a 24.78 carat Fancy Intense Pink diamond at Sotheby's in Geneva
VALENTIN FLAURAUD  /  Reuters
A rare pink diamond could set a world record next week in a revived international market chasing strong prices for top quality jewels, auction firm Sotheby's said on Wednesday.
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updated 11/16/2010 6:00:24 PM ET 2010-11-16T23:00:24

A rare pink diamond smashed the world record for a jewel at auction Tuesday, selling for more than $46 million to a well-known gem dealer.

London jeweler Laurence Graff paid $46,158,674, for the 24.78-carat "fancy intense pink" diamond, which he immediately named "The Graff Pink."

"It is the most fabulous diamond I've seen in the history of my career and I'm delighted to have bought it," Graff said in a statement released by auction house Sotheby's, which offered the stone at its Geneva sale.

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The sale price was almost double the $24.3 million achieved by the blue 35.56-carat Wittelsbach-Graff diamond in 2008. That was also bought by Graff.

"This is the highest price ever bid for a jewel at auction," said David Bennett, the head of Sotheby's jewelry division, as the auction room in Geneva's luxury Beau Rivage hotel erupted into applause.

"Everybody was surprised it went that high," Mart van Drunen, a jeweler from Amsterdam, commented after the sale. "He clearly wants to have all the rarest diamonds in the world."

Rich buyers from developing countries have been dipping their hand in the high end of the market in recent years, but experts say emerging middle classes particularly in India are doing as much if not more to lift prices. Ongoing doubts about the stock market have also helped drive up the value of gold and precious jewels, said van Drunen.

Four bidders competed for the pink diamond, which was last sold 60 years ago by New York jeweler Harry Winston. The seller chose to remain anonymous, said Sotheby's.

Graff had the blue diamond recut after purchase, to the displeasure of purists who considered it an act of vandalism against a unique object. It wasn't immediately known whether he planned to alter the pink diamond, which Sotheby's says has a flaw unnoticeable to the naked eye but may be graded as internally flawless after re-polishing.

Sotheby's said it sold jewels worth $105.1 million Tuesday, also a world record for a single sale. The auction included items once belonging to Christina Onassis, the daughter of the Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, and Cristina Ford, the second wife of Henry Ford's grandson Henry Ford II.

"I think this tells you a bit about the health of the market," Bennett told reporters after the sale.

One Israeli diamond dealer, who asked to remain anonymous, summed it up differently: "These are crazy prices," he said.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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