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Sotheby's fails to sell 37-carat diamond as auction falters

[GENEVA] The largest known fancy intense pink diamond went unsold at Sotheby's on Wednesday amid jitters in the final round of the Geneva fall auction season that contrast with the stellar price won by a painting by Leonardo da Vinci.

Sotheby's had estimated the value of the Raj Pink, a 37-carat stone, as high as US$30 million. Other lots unsold in the auction included a vivid blue diamond ring estimated at as much as US$18 million and two yellow diamonds worth as much as US$14 million. The blue diamond was sold privately immediately after the sale, Sotheby's said.

"I'm gutted and I'm worried for the top end of the diamond market," Tobias Kormind, managing director of London-based online jewellery retailer, said.

Just a few hours later in New York, a Da Vinci painting of Jesus Christ fetched US$450 million at Christie's. The Geneva auction season has been volatile, with an Omega timepiece fetching more than US$1 million for the first time, while 83 lots in a Sotheby's watch auction went unsold. In the same Sotheby's jewellery auction, the firm set a record price for a Harry Winston fancy light pink diamond of US$13 million.

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A diamond-and-emerald necklace and earrings that formerly belonged to the Duchess of Berry sold for US$1.7 million. A necklace from the Italian noble family of Odescalchi fetched US$1.1 million.

"Today's results show the strong and continued appetite from international collectors for jewels with aristocratic provenance," David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby's jewellery division, said.

However, that didn't apply to the unsold pair of yellow diamonds that previously belonged to the La Paiva. The 19th-century courtesan charmed and married one of Europe's richest men, Count Guido Henckel von Donnersmarck, and lived on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

Auctions are sometimes seen as a bellwether for investors' exuberance. Stock markets in Asia rebounded on Thursday after a global selloff on Wednesday.

Christie's sold a flawless 163-carat clear diamond for US$34 million in the Swiss city on Tuesday night, a price that some observers called low. Christie's sold 27 lots for more than US$1 million in that auction, though a quarter of the items it offered went unsold.