After more than two years of pandemic lull, the auction industry is bouncing back from the crisis to pre-pandemic levels – if not better. In fact, 2022 has been a stellar auction year where numerous records were set. As we ring in the new year, let's look back on the "best of 2022" in the auction world.
Last autumn, to a medley of gasps and applauses, the 11.15-carat Williamson Pink Star – the second largest, internally flawless Fancy Vivid pink diamond to ever appear at auction, fetched HK$453 million (around US$58.1 million) at Sotheby’s Hong Kong to set a new auction record for pink diamond per carat.
Offered in a single-lot auction between two blockbuster sales, this Williamson Pink Star is without doubt last season's highlight. In the end, its price per carat reached a staggering HK$40.6 million, outperforming the previous auction record, achieved by the 18.96-carat 'Winston Pink Legacy' valued at HK$20.6 million per carat, by almost twofold.
The Williamson Pink Star (Auction record for pink diamond per carat)
11.15-carat Fancy Vivid Pink diamond, internally flawless
Auction House: Sotheby's Hong Kong
Auction Date: 5 October 2022
Estimate on request (Expected by the auction house to fetch more than HK$170,000,000)
Sold: HK$453,223,000 (around US$58.1 million)
Auctioneer Ian McGinlay started the bid at HK$140 million and elicited a rush of raised paddles. When the bid was upped to HK$200 million, the battle was between a gentleman in the salesroom and a telephone bidder represented by Patti Wong, Senior International Chairman of Sotheby’s.
The 20-minute tug-of-war saw both parties making cautious moves. After more than 30 bids, the gavel finally fell, with the floor bidder with paddle number 8808 placing a victorious bid of HK$392 million. Applause rippled through the salesroom; Patti Wong and Nathan Drahi, Managing Director of Sotheby's Asia, even walked over to congratulate the winning bidder, who was known to be a collector in Boca Raton, Florida.
Williamson Pink Star hammered for HK$392 million
Patti Wong (left), Senior International Chairman of Sotheby’s, eventually gave in
Patti Wong (left) and Nathan Drahi (right) walked over to congratulate the winning bidder
Across auction history, Williamson Pink Star is the second internally flawless Fancy Vivid pink diamond weighing over 10 carats to ever go under the hammer – the first being the 59.60-carat CTF Pink Star, which fetched a record-breaking HK$553 million (US$71.2 million) in 2017.
Pink is one of the rarest colours to occur naturally in diamonds. Of all the diamonds submitted to the GIA, less than 3% are classified as coloured diamonds, and less than 5% of those are considered predominantly pink. In 2002, GIA conducted a data analysis on over 1,400 pink diamonds, and only 4% of them could reach the grade of Fancy Vivid Pink, most of which are often small in size.
Not only is the Williamson Pink Star of the highest colour and clarity grades, it is also a Type IIa diamond, which achieved the highest level in terms of chemical impurities, where only less than 2% of all gem diamonds falls into this classification.
GIA report states that Williamson Pink Star reached the highest grades across various categories
Called ‘Williamson Pink Star’, it is named in homage to two legendary pink diamonds. The first is the celebrated ‘Williamson’ stone – a pink diamond presented as a wedding gift to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1947 by the Canadian geologist Dr. John Thorburn Williamson.
One of the Queen’s favourites, the pink stone was also originated in the Williamson mine in Mwadui, Tanzania, which was one of the oldest diamond mines in the world, reputed for producing fine ‘bubblegum’ pink diamonds.
The Williamson stone was refined from a rough stone of 54.50 carats into a 23.60-carat round brilliant-cut diamond. When the polishing was complete, the pink diamond was mounted as the centerpiece of a floral brooch designed by Cartier. Since then, the Queen had worn it on many occasions of her reign, including the Silver Jubilee.
Also yielded at Williamson mine was the Williamson Pink Star, crafted and polished from a 32-carat rough diamond into a cushion-cut by the master craftsmen at Diacore, who brought out the diamond’s innermost beauty to full display.
Williamson stone served as the centerpiece of Queen Elizabeth II's brooch
Williamson Pink Star was crafted into a cushion-cut diamond
The second is the record-smashing CTF Pink Star mentioned above. The giant 59.60-carat pink diamond, also cut by Diacore, was sold for HK$553 million (US$71.2 million) at Sotheby’s Hong Kong for 2017 to Chow Tai Fook, a renowned Hong Kong-based retail jewellery chain. Up to the present, it still holds the world auction record for any diamond, gemstone or jewel.
As for pink diamond per carat, the previous record was at HK$20.6 million, held by the 18.96-carat Winston Pink Legacy. It was acquired by famous American luxury jeweler Harry Winston for CHF 50.4 million (around US$50.66 million) in Geneva in 2018.
Following the recent closure of the Argyle mine, prices for top-quality large pink diamonds has surged over the past decade. Driven by rising demands and limited supply, it comes as no surprise that Williamson Pink Star could set a new per carat price record for a Fancy Vivid pink diamond.
CTF Pink Star | Sold at HK$553,037,500 in 2017
CTF Pink Star weighs 59.60 carats
18.96-carat Winston Pink Legacy | Sold at CHF 50,375,000 in 2018