Hong Kong jeweller pays record HK$553m for ‘Pink Star’ diamond

Chow Tai Fook beats previous record set in May 2016 for Blue Oppenheimer gem as Sotheby’s opts for auction in Hong Kong to take advantage of Asian interest

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 April, 2017, 10:44pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 April, 2017, 11:19am

Prominent Hong Kong jewellery company Chow Tai Fook ­has paid a record price for the illustrious Pink Star diamond.

The firm is paying HK$553 million (US$71.2 million) including fees, smashing the record for the most expensive ­precious stone sold at auction and relieving auction house Sotheby’s of unwanted inventory that it was forced to take on three years ago.

The company also used the opportunity to indicate that Henry Cheng Kar-shun, its chairman, was at least well enough to be in charge of such a major purchase.

“The Pink Star was acquired by renowned jeweller Chow Tai Fook, with the winning telephone bid placed by Dr Henry Cheng Kar-Shun, chairman of the company,” a press release from Sotheby’s said. Cheng hasn’t been seen in public since he reportedly suffered a stroke in January and wasn’t seen to vote at the recent election for Hong Kong Chief Executive.

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The 59.6-carat diamond measures 2.69cm by 2.06cm and is set on a ring. It is the largest “internally flawless fancy vivid pink” diamond ever graded by the Gemological Institute of America, the industry arbiter, and more than twice the size of the 24.8-carat Graff Pink, the previous record holder for the most expensive pink diamond which fetched US$46.2 million including fees in Geneva in 2010.

The previous record holder for any diamond was the Oppenheimer Blue, a 14.6-carat “vivid blue”, which sold for 56.9 million Swiss francs (HK$441 million) in Geneva last May.

Chow Tai Fook, which is owned by the family of late local tycoon Cheng Yu-tung, often bought gems at public auctions.

It bought a 5.03-carat green diamond, Aurora Green, for HK$130 million last year and a 507-carat Cullinan Heritage rough diamond for HK$275 million in 2010. The Cullinan Heritage was subsequently cut and turned into a necklace.

Asia overtook the US last year as the largest auction market, prompting Sotheby’s to opt for Hong Kong instead of Geneva to sell the Pink Star. The Swiss city is the traditional centre for sales to dealers.

“Industry buyers remain the biggest market for large precious stones, but we are seeing great potential for growth among Asian private collectors. That’s why we are not selling this in Geneva,” Sotheby’s Asia chairwoman Patti Wong said.

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The auction house initially sold the Pink Star in 2013 after New York cutter Isaac Wolf, acting on behalf of Ukrainian investors, made a record bid of 68 million Swiss franc for it.

But his backers failed to come up with the money, according to Wong.

Sotheby’s had made a pre-sale guarantee to the seller for the diamond, then estimated at US$60 million, and had to buy it when the sale fell through. It placed the diamond on its inventory with a value of US$72 million and last year sold stakes to New York dealer Mellen Inc and Diacore, the original cutter of the diamond and formerly known as Steinmetz Diamonds.

The auction took place in the first week of this year’s major auctions in Asia.

There have been relatively few blockbusters on offer given global collectors’ reluctance to sell, but results have been boosted by the sale of well-known works such as Andy Warhol’s Mao (1973) at Sotheby’s for HK$86 million and Zeng Fanzhi’s Mask Series 1996 No. 6 (1996) at Poly Auctions for HK$89 million excluding fees.

The latter was sold to a Shanghai-based financier – an example of how the wealthy in the mainland still have ample liquidity for investing in art despite the country’s capital controls.