In this picture taken on September 19, 2013 a model holds a flawless oval diamond during a media preview at Sotheby's auction house in Hong Kong. The stone broke a world record when it fetched more than $30 million at auction on Monday.
Liz Taylor would have loved this rock.
A 118-carat, flawless D-diamond fetched $30.6 million when it was auctioned off by Sotheby's in Hong Kong on Monday. That beat the previous auction-price record for a white diamond of $26.74 million, paid for the "Winston Legacy" this spring at Christie's.
The 118-carat diamond, about the size of an egg, sold for the low end of its price estimate of $28 million to $38 million. Sotheby's declined to comment on the buyer or the buyer's nationality.
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Large, collectible diamonds have seen big prices recently as the super rich from emerging markets turn to large jewels as portable stores of wealth.
Mahyar Makhzani, the London- and Geneva-based managing director of the Sciens Colored Diamond Fund, estimated that more than 80 percent of large-diamond sales over the past three years have gone to Asian buyers.
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The stone, which weighed 299 carats when it was found in the rough in 2011, is the largest and most significant such diamond graded by the Gemological Institute of America. Sotheby's says it was discovered in southern Africa but won't name the country because the seller wishes to remain anonymous.
The auction's other highlight, a 7.6-carat flawless, round, vivid blue diamond which had an estimate of $19 million, failed to reach its reserve price.
The two gems were among 330 lots of rare jewelry that fetched a total of $95 million, $15 million less than expected.
"Hong Kong has in the last few years pulled itself up alongside Geneva and New York as one of the three major selling centers at auction" for diamonds, said Quek Chin Yeow, deputy chairman of Sotheby's Asia and an international diamond expert.
But he added that the results should not be taken as an indicator of how wealthy Asians are being affected by economic trends such as China's slowdown. That's because such stratospheric prices can only be afforded by the super rich, who he said are mostly immune from such fluctuations.
The world record price for a jewel at auction was set in 2010, when London jeweler Laurence Graff paid $46 million for a "fancy intense pink" diamond weighing 24.8 carats.
That record could be blown away in November, when Sotheby's puts a pink 59.60-carat diamond on the block that's expected to fetch more than $60 million in Geneva.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)
First published October 7 2013, 1:55 PM