Diamond World Sees Treasure in Asia

SINGAPORE — Flawless white or “colorless” diamonds may be the most sought after when it comes to engagement rings, but colored or “fancy” diamonds are far more rare and can be hugely more valuable. Where a one-carat white diamond may cost from $3,000 to $10,000, a pink, red or blue diamond of the same weight can easily sell for more than $1 million.

In November, Laurence Graff, the London-based international jeweler, paid a record $46.1 million at Sotheby’s Geneva for a ring featuring a 24.78-carat fancy intense pink diamond, equivalent to $1.86 million a carat. The record price for a blue diamond at auction, $1.4 million per carat, is held by the Bulgari Blue, which sold in October at Christie’s in New York to an Asian buyer for $15.7 million.

The top price for a red diamond was hit in November 2007 with a 2.26-carat fancy purplish-red diamond ring at Christie’s Geneva, which sold for the equivalent of $1.18 million a carat.

Even relatively common yellow diamonds can outsell most whites. The top price per carat for a fancy vivid yellow diamond was achieved by a 13.83-carat marquise diamond, the Burden Yellow, which sold at Sotheby’s New York in 1997 for $3.3 million, or $238,612 per carat.

Although colored diamonds are extremely rare, the jeweler Lev Leviev has built a name selling some of the biggest in the world since opening his first Leviev store, in London, in 2006. Quickly adding three other stores — in New York, Moscow and Dubai — Mr. Leviev, who controls some of the largest private diamond mines in the world, then turned his eye to the fast-growing Asian market, opening a store in Singapore last year.

Putting the store in the hotel lobby of the Marina Bay Sands, Leviev is targeting international clients, of course, but in particular the wealthy Asians drawn to the hotel’s casino.

Asian clients, particularly the Chinese, have become an important force in the market, both for jewelry stores and in the auction rooms, where they bid enthusiastically for high-grade gemstones and jewelry, especially pieces featuring colored and large colorless diamonds.

Even if they do not always win, Chinese bidders have become regular contenders for the top diamond lots, said Rahul Kadakia, head of the jewelry department at Christie’s New York, “and they’re doing this in a very focused and educated manner.”

“The Chinese like impressive stones and they’re looking for perfection,” he said by telephone. “You can show them a 100-carat yellow diamond that has some imperfection in purity or a 20-carat supervivid yellow flawless diamond. They’ll go for the flawless diamond. They want to buy the best, and they’re very savvy. They have educated themselves sale by sale, and they’re buying very well.”

Still, if vividly colored diamonds appeal to Asian tastes, the colorless whites are by no means neglected. Demand for diamonds in China rose 25 percent last year from a year earlier, according to the diamond producer De Beers, which last month announced an after-tax profit of more than $600 million for 2010, after a loss of more than $30 million in 2009, buoyed by a recovery in diamond prices and strong demand from India and China.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *