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'Sun-Drop' Diamond Auctioned For Over $10.9M

By FRANK JORDANS   11/15/11 04:52 PM ET   AP

GENEVA -- The Sun-Drop Diamond of South Africa, a giant pear-shaped yellow gem weighing 110.3 carats, has sold for more than $10.9 million at auction Tuesday, beating previous records for a jewel of its type.

Including commission the unidentified telephone bidder paid almost $12.4 million for the gem, putting it within the $11 million to $15 million range Sotheby's had estimated before the sale.

"It's a record for a yellow diamond at auction," said David Bennett, the head of Sotheby's jewelry division. He added that it was the eighth most expensive diamond ever sold at auction.

After Sotheby's sold a 24.78-carat fancy intense pink diamond for a record-breaking $46 million last year, some had expected the auction's headline piece to finish higher.

"When it gets to this price there are only half a dozen people who can actually participate," said Mourad Hatik, a Geneva jewel trader. "If they decide they already have a similar stone, then the price doesn't go up."

Still, exceptional gems such as the Sun-Drop will always attract bidders, he said. "There is very little quality to buy."

The Sun-Drop, which was found in South Africa last year, was put up for sale by New York-based company Cora International.

Gemologists had rated it as fancy, vivid yellow – the highest possible color grading. Yellow diamonds are created by nitrogen impurities being trapped within carbon molecules and hardening over the course of millions of years.

Other lots at the $70 million sale in Geneva's Beau-Rivage hotel included a white cushion-shaped diamond weighing 38.88 carats that sold for almost $7 million, including commission.

A 12.01-carat emerald from Colombia's Muzo mine sold for $1.4 million, while a blue diamond ring was snapped up for $4.3 million.

However, several precious jewels – including an elaborate gold and diamond 'peace dove' brooch, a blue diamond ring estimated at over $7.5 million, and a suite of imperial jewels – failed to find a buyer.

The set comprising a necklace, brooch and pair of earrings was given by the Ottoman Empire's Sultan Abdul Hamid II to the wife of the Khedive of Egypt in the late 19th century.

Sotheby's said some of the gems may have been part of a peace offering given by Russian Czar Peter the Great's wife Catherine to Ottoman Sultan Ahmed II in 1711. A bid of $9.3 million wasn't enough.

Below, some of the most expensive items ever sold:
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  • Marilyn Monroe 'Subway' Dress

    Monroe's famous frock, which she wore (and made history with) while standing on top of a subway grate, <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2011-06-19/entertainment/hollywood.auction_1_monroe-dress-bids-auction?_s=PM:SHOWBIZ" target="_hplink">sold for a whopping 5.6 million at a Beverly Hills auction</a> on June 18, 2011. The buyer was unidentified.

  • The Graff Pink

    Laurence Graff, of Graff Diamonds, who also owns the blue Wittelsbach-Graff diamond, renamed this pink emerald cut diamond 'The Graff Pink' after <a href="http://in.reuters.com/article/2010/11/16/us-auction-jewels-idINTRE6AF5AO20101116" target="_hplink">he bought it for over $46 million in November of 2010 at a Geneva auction. </a>

  • Detective Comics No. 27

    Just three days after a perfect sample of Action Books No. 1, the first one with Superman, sold for one million dollars, <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/chapter-and-verse/2010/0226/Batman-knocks-out-Superman-in-a-new-round-of-comic-book-wars" target="_hplink">Detective Comics No. 27, in which Batman debuted, sold for $1,075,000 at a Dallas auction in February, 2010</a>. The buyer chose to remain unidentified. (Photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/rob_react/" target="_hplink">Rob React</a>, Flickr)

  • Stefano Canturi's Barbie

    <a href="http://www.fashionwindows.net/2010/10/barbie-by-stefano-canturi-sells-for-a-record-price-at-auction/" target="_hplink">Sold for $302,500 at Christie's in New York on October 20, 2010</a>, Australian designer Stefano Canturi's Barbie wears more expensive jewelry than most women. The one-carat, emerald-cut pink diamond and three-carats of white diamonds in her necklace made up the bulk of this Barbie's value.

  • Leonardo Da Vinci's Codex Leicester

    <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/1994-11-13/news/mn-62284_1_seattle-art-museum" target="_hplink">Bought by Bill Gates in 1994 for an amazing $30.8 million</a>, the Codex Leicester is one of the very few records left of Da Vinci's notes, musings and manuscripts. After purchasing it, Gates distributed it via CD-ROM to anyone that wanted a copy.

  • Badminton Cabinet

    <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A56502-2004Dec10.html" target="_hplink">Sold to Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein for $36.7 million</a>, the Badminton Cabinet, named after Badminton, England, is the most expensive piece of furniture ever sold. Prince Hans-Adam bought it at an auction at Christie's in New York in December of 2004.

  • Star Spangled Banner Sheet Music

    The Star Spangled Banner sheet music, one of 11 original copies and now almost two-centuries-old, <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2010-12-03/us/new.york.star.spangled.banner_1_institutions-or-university-libraries-copy-sheet-music?_s=PM:US" target="_hplink">sold for $506,500 in December of 2010 at a Christie's auction in New York</a>. It is the only privately owned copy in the world.

  • Nude, Green Leaves And Bust

    Predictably, the most expensive painting ever sold, <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-09/picasso-s-nude-outshone-by-record-106-5-million-price-review.html" target="_hplink">auctioned off in May of 2010 for $106.5 million</a>, is a Picasso. This painting of Picasso's lover is said to have been painted in one day.

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Filed by Clare Richardson  |