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102-carat ‘flawless’ Canadian diamond sells for online record of $15.7M US at auction

A diamond unearthed in Northern Ontario two years ago has sold for a record price in an online auction, to an unnamed buyer who paid $15.7 million for the flawless, colourless gem.

The stone, which was cut from a 271-carat rough diamond found in the now-closed Victor Mine in Northern Ontario in 2018, was highly touted for its D colour and flawless status, which means it is considered to be as close to a perfect, naturally occurring diamond as is possible.

Less than one per cent of all naturally occurring diamonds in the world achieve the stone’s lack of impurities and colour — and there are only seven that are as big as it is that have ever come up for auction.

The bidding on the stone, which is about the size and shape of an egg, began in an online auction last month, culminating with an in-person auction at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong on Monday evening.

After about a month of online bidding, the live portion began at 85 million Hong Kong dollars — just under $11 million US.

Within minutes, the winning bid came in at $15.7 million US at current exchange rates. 

That’s less than some early estimates of the stone’s value, but nonetheless a record-setting amount for a diamond sold via auction that allowed online bidding.

Price of diamonds and gold rising during pandemic

The auction began with the rare distinction of having no reserve price, a minimum bid that sets a floor and often gives a subconscious gauge of what the item is worth.

The seller removed the reserve requirement in an attempt to create a bidding war among well-heeled investors who have shown a strong appetite for alternative investments such as gold, diamonds and art in the current pandemic.

But the bidding didn’t end up being quite as high as some had anticipated.

“I’m disappointed the final price wasn’t higher,” said Tobias Kormind, managing director of London-based jeweller 77 Diamonds.

The play to sell without a reserve price was “a brave decision that has come back to bite them,” Kormind said.

Canadian jeweller Reena Ahluwalia says while the final price may have been lower than some expected, “it is a testament to the market confidence and resilience in ultra-high quality natural diamonds as investments. The diamond belongs to the 100-carat-plus-club — they just don’t come by so often, making them truly rare and coveted.”

Prior to Monday, the most expensive diamond ever sold via an online auction was $2.1 million US in July for a 28.86 carat diamond.

In addition to setting on online record, the diamond is also the most expensive Canadian diamond ever sold, in any form, although numerous diamonds have been larger, including a 552-carat giant found in the North West Territories in 2018, and a 187-carat diamond known as Foxfire that came out of the same mine three years before that.

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